Following the successes of last year’s Analytics and Conversion conference, 27th June saw the return of the event to Bath’s Apex Hotel. This time around we explored a wide variety of topics, including fundamental changes to analytics tracking, crucial to all marketers, as well as upcoming innovations transforming the marketing industry.

SearchStar’s own Conversion and Analytics Director, Ryan Webb, opened the conference with a recap on the importance of optimisation activity and why it’s fundamental to the measurement and positive performance of digital marketing.

Alongside the presentations, collaborative peer-discussion sessions on both conversion and analytics provided delegates with the opportunity to share knowledge and debate common issues. With helpful advice on-hand from the SearchStar team, these sessions proved to be an excellent way of bringing the topics of the day to life.

But, without further ado, here’s our summary of the afternoon with presentations included in the accompanying links.

Three Steps to Consistent, Cross-Channel Customer Experience

Alan Colville, CX Consultant, Colville CX

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Alan kicked off the afternoon by addressing a challenge facing all businesses; the increasing expectations set by customers when interacting with businesses and brands. He explained that the only companies able to thrive in this new world are those able to ‘cross the digital divide,’ and see digital not as a single entity, but as part of an end-to-end customer experience (CX).

The audience was asked to partake in a questionnaire - was CX at the heart of their businesses, or simply ad hoc, or not considered at all? For those of you now looking for the eject buttons on your seats, stop! There’s no need to fear. Alan went on to explain his three proven steps designed to enable businesses to align with CX expectations.

You won’t be able to deliver great CX unless you are set up for it, and with 81% of CX initiatives failing within the first two years it’s crucial you knock down any barriers within your organisational structure. We need to bridge the digital skills gap, building multidisciplinary teams across our businesses, where CX is discussed at board level and informs business strategy.

The next step is your approach to research - we need to build shared understanding of our customers. This can be achieved through iterative research, including a mixture of hypothesis-driven quant and qual methods.It’s crucial this research is focused on the end-to-end journey of your customers, with results shared widely throughout the organisation.

Finally, Alan explained that this needs to be brought together and focused through the lens of the customer journey. Start by bringing your insight to life with a customer journey map to visually uncover the barriers you currently face and highlight opportunities to optimise customer interactions.

Alan finished with a final reminder of the importance of CX - ‘it will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by 2020’.

Google Marketing Platform: More Than a Rebrand?

Jon Boon, Lead Analytics Consultant, SearchStar

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Jon delved into his specialist subject; the Google Marketing Platform (GMP), to enlighten us all about what has changed and what’s to come.

In a nutshell, GMP has brought a variety of analytics and advertising platforms together. The focus has been on bundling together the premium products, enabling users to plan, measure and optimise digital media. This does however come with a premium price tag ($100,000 p/a).

Jon then explored changes across the Google marketing landscape and introduced the first official Google Analytics (GA) integration with the GA 360 partnership with Salesforce. This is exciting news for digital marketers who will now be able to import sales pipeline data from Salesforce directly into GA 360, connecting offline and online data.

Another exciting introduction to GA is the Store Visits feature. This is still in Beta, but will link physical store visits with those who have visited the website. This will further contribute to the efforts being made to support attribution calculations, enabling marketers to align revenue spent in store with previous visits online.

Jon concluded by discussing what we can expect next from GA, describing the continued investment into machine learning. GA’s Single Search feature combines natural language search capabilities, report navigation and help search to deliver content to the user – it gets to know you and serves you content based on previous preferences.

Personalisation & Recommender Systems: Perspective and Challenges

Dr Iván Palomares Carrascosa, Lecturer in Data Science & AI, University of Bristol

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Iván offered his audience an insight into the revolutionary world of recommender systems and the role it will play in consumer choice in the future. Iván started by presenting the audience with a problem – ‘you want to buy a new book.’ Twenty years ago, we would have gone to a neighbourhood bookshop to ask for a recommendation. Nowadays, with the same question, we turn to the internet and are instantly overwhelmed by an extensive amount of results.

What’s the solution? Personalistion through recommender systems. These are evolutionary algorithms designed to provide tailored content to the user, by extracting knowledge about your preferences from previous choices and choices of similar users. If you’ve ever listened to songs on Spotify or bought from Amazon, then these recorded decisions are used to inform these systems about your preferences.

There are many techniques used to tailor these recommendations; you could either be served results based on your demographic, where you are at a certain time and the opening hours of the shops around you (context-aware), or choosing a selection of restaurants based on the reasoning that people with similar interests to you also enjoyed those restaurants (collaborative filtering).

There are challenges to this approach, specifically when they come across a ‘cold user,’ where they lack information on their preferences, or the essential requirement to combine multiple views and sources of user data.

We also had a significant question from the audience regarding data privacy, however Iván responded that all data used to make the recommendations are information that the user has provided either explicitly or implicitly, and it is on the usage of implicit user data where privacy and ethics concerns really come into scene.

Conversational Commerce: What is it & Why is it Important?

Lauren Hale, Business Partner Manager, LivePerson

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LivePerson is a company dedicated to innovating brand-to-consumer communications. Lauren focused her presentation around the growth of conversational commerce within the marketing industry, and how it will shape the future of customer interactions with brands and businesses.

How many of us use Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger? Consumers are already using these apps on a daily basis, yet many businesses are still not using these methods to communicate. Instead, websites are built, IVR systems put in place and ‘revolutionary’ apps designed to make communication easier, may actually be making the process more inconvenient. Lauren referred to this as businesses building their ‘Digital Fortresses.’

Enter Conversational Commerce, creating seamless user experiences. She described a customer about to take a flight; they receive their fight details and boarding passes through Facebook Messenger before they get to the airport, a reminder of essentials to pack on Instagram, and if their flight is delayed or cancelled, a scannable voucher code redeemable on food and drink at the airport sent through WhatsApp.

Conversational Commerce is about using the communicational channels customers are already using, making their interaction with brands as easy as talking with friends. The information is pushed to the customer when required – the right information, at the right time, through the right channel. T-Mobile were the first to move to messaging with LivePerson and saw an uplift in Net Promoter Score (from 43 to 67) and drop in customer churn (25%).

By using Conversational Commerce, you are not only providing a seamless journey for your customers where interaction is easy, but also making that journey in actionable and ecommerce driven. For more insight into how this is already being used, see how Tamara Mellon are using it to drive sales from their social platforms.

Latest Successes in Conversion Optimisation

Ryan Webb, Conversion & Analytics Director, SearchStar

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Ryan closed the afternoon by reiterating the importance of conversion optimisation and its ability to uncover actionable insights. Echoing the techniques explored by Alan at the start, Ryan pulled both successful and not so successful case studies to further drill home the significance of a structured approach to research.

There is currently a culture of quantity over quality when it comes to testing, as well as a tendency to misinterpret results, without understanding the reasoning behind the correlations. Technological advances in analytical tools should help by spotting anomalies, however there is still the necessity of conducting further research to uncover the ‘why?’.

But what’s next in conversion optimisation?

Personalisation (!), sorry... We mean Intelligent segmentation.

Ryan ended his talk by highlighting the confusion many businesses face between segmentation and personalisation. Personalisation can sometimes be seen as something they feel unachievable and complex.

Segmentation, on the other hand, is more attainable and can be gained by using straightforward visitor signals to tailor experience. Further to that, data driven creative is on the top of Google’s mind and advertisers are starting to take advantage of this.

But, it’s still early days and the most high-profile example is still a very basic one: Olay found that people who watched the Super Bowl also enjoyed horror movies. So they created an ad based around this preference to run during the Super Bowl advertising break. Watch it here. It’s an amusing result, but the segmentation involved is minimal.