SDL places focus on customer experience space

Retail technology vendor SDL has unveiled an expanded customer experience management strategy, organisational structure and cloud-based product offering as it looks to ramp up its share of the customer experience management market.

Making the announcement last week, CEO of SDL Mark Lancaster said that, despite the recent market and technology focus on customer experience, companies are still not meeting their customers' needs.

"After several years of investments, we have all of the necessary elements to expand our leadership in this critical space – in 2014 and far beyond," he explained.

During the second half of 2013, SDL introduced several experienced technology executives to the company, including COO Jean-Pierre Dekker and CFO Dominic Lavelle.

Paige O'Neill, a senior marketing executive with nearly 20 years of experience at companies such as Teradata and Oracle, also joined as chief marketing officer in 2013. Below, she answers our questions on the new SDL strategy.

How does the new company structure set SDL up for driving innovation in retail?

The trend for retailers has been to provide a consistent customer experience both in-store and online, but we’re looking to extend this consistency across all channels, all devices, all languages and geographies. We’re trying to bring all relevant customer experience technologies – eCommerce engines, campaign management, social media intelligence, language translation – under one single interface that streamlines companies’ customer experience initiatives and makes them easier to manage.

In practice, this means that a retailer like Clarks (one of our existing customers) has the social intelligence to know that you’re looking for a pair of shoes, hit you with a touchpoint that’s optimized for a tablet – and then provide an equally fast and consistent experience to a buyer in Japan. The retailer has the ability to harness all of those technologies under one roof. 

How are cloud systems driving the retail industry forward?

The cloud provides the ability to deliver technology in an agile and cost-effective fashion. If a retailer has a campaign that it would like to scale to its full roster of stores around the globe, it can get the global campaign up and running in minutes, not months. The retailer also has the ability to access a multitude of new technologies, all through the perspective of a unified dashboard. The cloud also brings the technology buyer upstream and helps to bridge the departmental gaps in providing a consistent experience.

What has been holding retailers back when it comes to innovation?

Retailers have traditionally had siloed buying centres depending on where the customer interacted with the brand; this is consistent with lots of industries. Additionally, on-premise software can be difficult to implement and maintain. On-premise installations require a lot of interaction between retail marketers and IT. The end result is a longer buying process and a slower pace of adoption for technologies retailers know they need (social media analysis, mobile promotion capabilities), but aren’t entirely sure how to best use them effectively.

What’s your top three checklist for retailers who want to use technology to get ahead?

First, think about all aspects of your existing customer experience: The technologies you currently use may be disparate, but that may also be the result of a broader cultural problem where departments don’t always interact correctly with each other. You need to get all of the players on the same page before making a technology investment.

Second, make sure that each one of these systems is working in tandem. Data from your campaign management system needs to interact with the content you’re promoting across channels. Social data from your intelligence platform needs to inform the CMA system when it’s time to reach the right consumer. The unified dashboard is a key part of this process.

Third, make sure that you’re actively monitoring and benchmarking how your tech-driven campaigns are performing. The cloud can give you agility, but it won’t do so automatically. You need to be an active participant in the process to make the technology perform in an optimum fashion.

Explain the importance of personalisation in today’s retail environment?

True personalisation is the Holy Grail for any retail marketer – or any marketer, for that matter. We've seen with new content delivery technologies that, when used incorrectly, targeting people can become useless if the offers they’re receiving are not relevant. Technology hurts the customer experience more than assists, when the content is not personalised.

Also, personalisation is more than just a recommended product in a timely fashion. Personalisation is essential across language and culture. The eCommerce movement has opened the world up to retailers. They need to begin thinking about personalisation with a global perspective, and we believe we’re the right technology provider for retailers looking through that viewpoint.


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