Four Questions For: Sara Spivey

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In what ways is technology changing marketing today?

In every way. I can’t think of an area in marketing that technology hasn’t changed in some way. From research to social media to everything in between, technology is omnipresent and essential to today’s marketers. Technology has enabled marketers to better identify our target audiences, track their behavior across the spectrum of touch points, provide customized offerings to our clients, work faster to move our audiences through the sales funnel, build better products based on real-time feedback, engage with customers on their preferred medium and much more. However, for all its benefits, I think technology can also be a crutch that we rely on too much at times. Like any tool, it should be used for a specific purpose, but not over relied upon to do everything for us. The human element still provides the competitive advantage to take all the benefits and insights technology offers and decide how and when they should be used.


How do you see big data influencing marketing in 2017? Any trends that you expect to see?

Big data has already played a tremendous role in helping marketers provide personalized offerings for their clients and respond quickly to changes in the industry. Yet I think it has also led to a loss of creativity in marketing. In today’s world, marketers are measuring every single thing with tools and systems trying to find an underlying analytical theme. This is leading to an abundance of data that doesn’t necessarily have any meaning or practical application. With a profusion of automated services collecting information, I think marketers have reached a point of saturation. For instance, we don’t need 25,000 data points about a consumer; we need the 12 that matter in their purchase journey. I think marketers will soon realize the need to distill the most important insights from data being collected and to use it to develop thoughtful, actionable, creative strategies to engage and reach their target audiences more effectively.


What role do you believe artificial intelligence will play in marketing?

Let’s take chatbots as an example of artificial intelligence in marketing. While there will still be a place for chatbots, companies will be much more selective about using them. Many companies have implemented these AI programs, but in some areas, they hurt the customer experience. Though automation technologies will still be used in marketing, I don’t think chatbots will be applied unilaterally. Companies are realizing that human interaction is still crucial to engaging consumers and sustaining relationships with the ones they already have. As far as virtual reality goes, it definitely has made a major splash, but I’m not sure how it leads to sales conversion, particularly in retail. For example, when consumers use Oculus devices in-store, they might be interested in purchasing that specific VR device, but it rarely leads to lateral purchases for clothes, electronics, etc. There’s a gap between correlating the VR experience between general interest and purchase intent. It’s also an incredibly expensive marketing tactic to employ.


How can marketers better incorporate data analytics into their strategies? Are consumers still as willing to share personal facts about themselves in hopes of receiving more personalized experiences?

Marketers must go the extra mile to provide more value to their companies by using their data to reach the customer when it matters most. I believe the industry will only continue to build and sharpen its data focus. The more marketers can learn about their consumers through data, the easier it is to personalize the outreach for a customized experience. That’s how they go the ‘last mile’ with consumers – by reaching them when they are actually in-market with personalized offers.

I am amazed by consumers’ continued willingness to share data, even with growing concerns around privacy. Consumers are sharing personalized facts about themselves at a much higher rate, and while they know companies are using this data to market to them, they are hoping that it will lead to more personalized experiences. It is crucial for companies, brands and retailers to take the data customers are sharing and apply it in a meaningful way that leads to better, more personalized experiences. Whether these organizations offer coupons based on consumers’ past purchases or exclusive access to certain products due to brand loyalty, these little factors can make a significant difference. Our recent study found that more than 70 percent of US internet users said their purchase decisions were influenced by coupons and discounts. What’s more is that 54 percent of consumers claim to have made a purchase as a result of brand outreach regarding abandoned shopper cart items or recommendations based on past purchases. When we have so many tools and data at our disposal, we owe it to our customers to get it right when reaching out to them and providing content that matters to them.

As Chief Marketing Officer, Sara Spivey is responsible for overall leadership of Bazaarvoice’s global marketing programs, including demand generation, solutions marketing, brand strategy, and communications. Sara has more than 30 years of marketing, strategy, and leadership experience with industry-leading organizations.