Accenture Interactive and Microsoft are delivering the future of marketing

As customer experiences become more personalised and contextual, Accenture Interactive and Microsoft are partnering to enable marketeers in the Middle East and Africa to embrace new opportunities using technology

Alex Smith
Alex Smith
By Alex Smith on 19 February 2021
Accenture Interactive and Microsoft are delivering the future of marketing
Unsplash/Keith Fox

The rise in available data about consumers presents marketeers with both new opportunities and challenges.

Brands are beginning to reach people in places and moments that were never previously possible, with greater understanding and insight into their individual needs. These greater capabilities, however, also come with a greater level of expectation. Consumers accustomed to more personalised experiences – such as AI-powered voice assistants, recommendation engines and personalised billboards – have come to value them highly. A report titled The power of me by marketing company Epsilon indicated that 80 per cent of customers would be more likely to do business with a company if it offers personalised experiences. Marketing to the individual therefore promises significant advantages for those organisations who can adapt most quickly to manage the technical challenge. 

Fast-food chain Subway has embarked on a digital transformation program that incorporates personalised marketing.

“Our customers’ expectations are being set by the big giants in the world who are innovators and digitally forward,” said Carissa Ganelli, former chief digital officer of Subway Restaurants, in Accenture’s Future of Marketing report. “When Subway embarked on this digital transformation journey two years ago, we saw the business results. If we customise the image in an email to reflect your prior purchases, such as by showing someone who likes turkey an image of a turkey, we get an 8 per cent lift in orders. You cannot do that without a digital infrastructure and marketing technology to power that.”

Accenture Interactive is using Microsoft technology to deliver personalised customer experiences for its clients. One example is its work with Carnival Corporation to help design the cruise line’s ‘Ocean’ guest experience platform. Supported by Microsoft Azure AI, IoT and cloud technologies, the system centres around the Ocean Medallion, a wearable communication device that each guest is given when they embark. The Ocean Medallion contains their unique digital identity, enabling crew to identify what they like and respond accordingly. Each ship includes over 7,000 sensors, 4,000 portals and a computing stack connected to the cloud by satellite, enabling automatic unlocking of cabin doors, contactless payment and reduced boarding times.

“Accenture is the first call I make,” said John Padgett, chief experience and innovation officer for Carnival Corporation in the Future of Marketing report. “It has a breadth of capabilities spanning the globe. Within 24 hours I can have anyone in any place of any discipline working on the strategy to guarantee success.”

5G is set to kickstart even faster transformation. By significantly increasing download speeds while reducing latency, 5G promises to push forward the use of programmatic marketing. Instead of a 30-second general television ad, for example, advertising will automatically appear at times and places in which it will be the most effective. A billboard could detect a person walking to buy lunch and display a personalised offer for one of their favourite brands. Similarly, as a driver approaches mealtime, their radio might play an advert telling them exactly where they can stop to eat. 

However, the data required to deliver these insights will need to come from different sources to those that have been previously used. Consumer demands for greater privacy have resulted in a move towards the phasing out of third-party cookies, meaning that personalised data will not be available from numerous sources as it currently is. Acquiring this data will therefore be dependent on marketeers working with data providers that can provide digital signals such as location and log-in activity while clearly communicating how they are going to use customer data. Predominantly, companies will need to activate first party data that they capture themselves.

“Someone needs to take ownership of creating a single source of data-driven insights to fuel innovation and inform every touchpoint with the consumer,” says Haydn Townsend, managing director for Africa at Accenture Interactive. “Traditionally, marketing has been the voice of the consumer within the organisation, and – as data insights are the muscle behind increased personalisation – there’s never been a better time for marketing to take control of the data and choreograph insights to improve customer experience.”

With technology already beginning to play such a crucial role in the customer experience, the role of the marketeer will see significant change. Research conducted by Accenture in 2019 showed that 90 per cent of CEOs and CMOs believed that the role would change fundamentally over the next three years. CMOs will be required to adapt to the many new capabilities that will become available to them, with the skills required to leverage them effectively being both technical and creative. 

To help enable this transformation, Microsoft and Accenture are piloting an alliance in South Africa to provide marketeers with data, cloud solutions and technology to enable the transformation. The alliance will use the respective expertise of the two organisations to help businesses develop their customer experiences. While Accenture Interactive develops and deploys the customer-facing marketing experiences, Accenture Technology will provide consultancy on the deployment and implementation of digital technologies, with Microsoft’s Azure platform and business applications underpinning these activities.

“If you imagine customer experience to be like the theatre, front of house is everything the customer experiences,” says Oskar Nilsson, go-to-market lead for global advisories & GSIs in the Middle East and Africa for Microsoft. “But a successful production relies on so much more. The customer may not be aware of what’s going on backstage and behind the scenes, but those activities are essential for the show to go on. Our alliance has front of house, backstage and behind the scenes working together to deliver outstanding customer experiences.”

This future of this cooperation can be illustrated by a scenario in which a person is returning to their apartment after a day at work. When parking their vehicle, Microsoft Azure IoT Hub could enable a message to be sent automatically from a sensor to an elevator, so that it is open when they arrive. When they enter their apartment, the TV will play an advertisement featuring their favourite pizza from a local delivery company, with Azure Cognitive Services having selected the most appropriate ad content based on the time. Their streaming device can then ask if they would like to order, with Cognitive Services again taking the response and communicating with the vendor’s app to bring up the payment confirmation screen on their phone. If the person then orders the pizza, Microsoft Stream Analytics will collect the anonymised data of their behaviour for analysis.

“Customers expect a personalised approach, and they buy into products and services that meet and exceed their expectations,” says Townsend. “Data-driven insights hold the key to more empathetic, relevant and nimble communications, and organisations with their fingers on the data pulse will be those that rise above the competition and succeed in the future. Ambitious marketeers will seize this opportunity to raise their game, embrace the potential of new technologies and champion data-driven insights across their organisation. They’ll work with trusted partners to ensure that they have the skills and tools they need to innovate and delight the customer at every touchpoint.”

This article was originally published in the Winter 2020 issue of The Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.

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