New marketing technologies offer new ways to engage customers and provide highly-connected, personalized experiences. But they also bring challenges for marketing leaders such as a proliferation of data sources, which Salesforce’s latest State of Marketing report projects will jump by 50% in two years.
DeLu Jackson, Conagra Brands’ vice president of precision marketing, is well suited to discuss the benefits and challenges of these technologies. Conagra has undertaken a major transformation, changing from a 100-year-old food manufacturing conglomerate into a branded food company with well-known labels like Bird’s Eye®, Healthy Choice®, and Slim Jim®, and adopting new marketing and other customer-facing technologies to lift consumer engagement.
At Salesforce, we help marketers use data to create the personalized experiences that today's customers expect, so we talked to DeLu about the opportunities and challenges involved in that transformation. He explained how the company is managing vast volumes of data to understand consumers better and deliver more engaging and relevant customer experiences.
Q: The nature of commerce is changing, and customer journeys are becoming more complex and fragmented across channels, yet 69% of customers expect connected experiences, according to our research. How is Conagra dealing with the complexities of customer engagement, particularly in more traditional sectors such as yours?
Commerce models continue to evolve. We’re now seeing a wide spectrum — from physical retail grocery stores to suppliers selling direct to consumers to pure dot-coms — and anything in between. Also, it’s not binary or isolated in any of those models. Consumers use them all.
Even our traditional distribution partners are embracing capabilities like real-time delivery, dynamic digital catalogs, and the ability to promote those items through CRM (customer relationship management) and other vehicles. Operating models are really starting to look more like consumer ecommerce than what we call traditional business-to-business (B2B). This creates a great opportunity to provide enhanced services to those providers through technology.
At the same time, consumers are starting to demand real-time availability. It’s not enough to make a great product. It’s critical to tell people you have it and then make it available to them through all channels. If we’re not available, ready, and don’t have what they’re looking for, consumers have so many other options to choose from to fill their stomachs. Our long-term success means getting that “one-second” advantage through technology.
We use data and analytics to understand the demand that consumers have, what's on-trend, and what's in demand in the food they want. We take those insights and respond to customers in near real time. The Salesforce platform has helped us to do that across three critical areas — sales, marketing, and service, all really critical to how we see turning ourselves into a consumer-centric company.
I have a great team of people who focus on everything from package design, to content, advertising, media, CRM, and, again, commerce. We think about that entire customer journey every day and how we move at the speed of the consumer — redefining and optimizing that experience so that it’s seamless is our absolute challenge. Ultimately, customer engagement has to be integrated, it has to be real time, and, most importantly, it has to be relevant to the consumer.
Q: That’s not always easy, is it? How do you ensure your engagement with consumers is always relevant to them?
Our marketing practices have moved from us defining the narrative and channel of communication for the customer to us participating in conversations with them as they tell their story on their platform. What’s most important is listening, bringing together what consumers are asking, what they're telling, and what they're sharing when they’re calling, emailing, texting, and communicating on social. We can see and hear the motivations, drivers, and in many cases, the issues being solved.
Listening and then responding in a meaningful and relevant way — and then doing that at scale — is really, really important. The technology we have makes a lot of that information readily available and accessible. With Salesforce, we can listen to the number of social engagements and conversations around both the businesses or brands themselves. Conversations on topics like lifestyle, health and wellness, or lower sugar and higher protein products happen constantly. And now, those businesses and brands can participate directly in those conversations and provide solutions to those consumers.
Q: Describe some of the ways your marketing team has transformed to be able to operate with speed and scale while not losing focus on the customer. What is the role of data and AI as enablers?
Shifting to a demand-based approach, where we use data to identify consumer demands and wants, has absolutely driven us to a consumer-centric approach in our planning and execution. Our innovations and products are based on that demand, as are our communications and our solutions for accessibility. And that is 100% consumer-driven, based on their behavior and what they're communicating to the marketplace.
Our marketers are operating as product owners and running standups and daily scrums for all their marketing activities. We treat ecommerce as a product. We run media as a product. We run content as a product. For over a year, we have been operating with full agile processes across our marketing, insights and analytics, technology, and supply chain groups, which is just amazing. It goes without saying that the platform for developing and deploying these capabilities has to be agile as well. That's a big shift in an organization that's traditionally worked in more of a waterfall approach.
Our teams create digital fluency, and it’s essential to use technology to bring to life our vision for modern marketing. While everyone is talking about artificial intelligence (AI), we really focus on IA — Intelligence Assistance. Simply put, we don't have to have perfect data. What we have to have is actionable data. It requires advanced technologies to keep track of all the data and, more importantly, the decisions that we make using those data. It is our key to continually understanding consumer demand at scale and to reaching and responding to our consumers in more meaningful ways.
Discover how Conagra Brands digitally transformed its marketing operations for agility and scale, while balancing the needs of its consumers and B-to-B retailers, and learn more about how the Salesforce Customer 360 Platform brings companies and customers together.