Digital Marketing

CES marketers panel: Digital acceleration is about delivering a human touch

CES marketers panel: Digital acceleration is about delivering a human touch
Written by Publishing Team

The pandemic may have been a time of digital acceleration, but it has brought with it the tools and persistence to enable brands to find more human connections with customers and employees.

That’s at least the view of marketing and digital leaders from McDonald’s, General Motors, Target US, Instacart and Sales Force, who participated in a panel discussion at CES to discuss the growing relationship between content and commerce in the customer experience, thanks to technology.

The most interesting thing that digital acceleration has done for the retailer is deepening the relationship with guests through omnichannel retail experiences, said Cara Sylvester, chief marketing and digital officer for the United States.

“If you open our app, we know you – and that depends not only on what you bought but who you are as a human,” she said. For example, if you’re a teacher, you get an offer of classroom supplies; if you’re a parent, you get ideas for what to put in the kids’ lunch box this week. Closing this loop is Target Circle’s loyalty program, which now has 100 million members. Guests love being able to find deals as well as contribute to the community.”

Another consequence of digital that opens a deeper connection, according to Sylvester, is moving marketing from an episodic relationship with key guest segments to an always-on approach.

“For example, we previously had a Black History Month campaign for February. We now have a permanent approach to guests that allows them to find and support emerging black-owned and emerging brands throughout the year.” “Digital platforms have allowed us to spur growth in these brands and make them stand out. While DE&I has always been part of or an agenda, digital technology has expanded our reach and driven positive change.”

It’s a similar story at McDonald’s. Head of Marketing and Digital Experience, Tarek Hassan, said the pandemic and the many ongoing supply chain, health and access challenges it has created have forced the giant QSR to focus on “things that really matter to customers.” This was evident during messages directed at digital investments and applications.

“It forced us to remove noise in a number of ways and easy distraction that we might have looked at by expanding, rather than going deeper into things we know are important,” Hassan explained.

“Thanks to our grandparents, we already had a drive-through car. So accessibility wasn’t the immediate challenge. The immediate challenge was how to deliver the things that customers expect – speed, comfort, precision. And in many ways, it required us to step up the importance and remind people of what’s great in our food.

“We have also used digital and engagement to connect with customers in different ways. An example of this is bringing in celebrities to select and make their favorite orders available. Reaching this out with customers was a way to unlock content in a way that attracts customers with the food they love.

“Then it is about extending value to customers with things like the app and the rewards program. So yeah, we focused on the core message and then built around the value we deliver.”

Edward Comer, GM’s chief digital officer, agreed that customers are more educated in all industries than they used to be, including automobiles, and noted the increasing role digital channels are playing in the buying process.

“When you buy a car, you do it in different ways – some go to a dealer and go away, some look for months, some do most of it online or do more in the showroom. Plus, there’s a lot of paperwork that might have to be done. We serve customers the way they want to be served. “People of the future will buy and interact the way they want to be served.”


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