Charter’s Henshaw Sees ‘Insight + Action’ As Key To The Future
In most companies, the creation and management of an end-to-end digital platform happens in one part of the marketing organization while a different group figures out how to act on the intelligence the platform produces. But at Charter Communications, which last month acquired Time Warner Cable, Jeff Henshaw has a foot in both worlds.
Building an end-to-end digital platform that enables personalized, cross-channel customer interactions is marketers’ Holy Grail. In most companies, the creation and management of that system happens in one part of the marketing organization while a different group figures out how to act on the intelligence the platform produces.
But at Charter Communications, which late last month acquired Time Warner Cable, Jeff Henshaw, senior director of digital analytics and campaign marketing, has a foot in both worlds.
“In the past we used to simply kick information over the fence to marketers and say, ‘Look at this neat insight!’ And it was up to them to figure out what to do with it—how to put it into the marketing engine in order to pull the right levers on the customer experience,” said Henshaw, in an interview with CMO.com. “Now we’re taking that a step further to figure out how to package this deep level of customer insight into consumable, bite-size pieces that we can integrate into the platforms that drive our marketing efforts.”
Creating a compelling, one-on-one experience is no easy task. And the industry itself is not known for its rave customer reviews. But by understanding individual customers and better targeting digital content and offers to them, Henshaw, previously director of Web analytics and business intelligence, wants to set a new tone, thereby improving engagement and revenues. The company replaced its disparate analytics, targeting, and audience management systems with a single platform that will serve as a foundation for omnichannel customization in the future.
CMO.com talked to Henshaw about the benefits of uniting insight and action, the challenges of integrating analytics with storytelling, the keys to wrangling customer data, and the emerging technologies he has his eye on.
CMO.com: Why was this role of combining Web analytics and campaign marketing created?
Henshaw: We’ve been doubling down on digital and needed a strong analytics function to inform the business, road maps, and personalization. This positions us to bridge the gap between insights and execution.
It also means working across swim lanes to understand the digital marketer’s campaign and targeting strategies and how that dovetails into data-driven execution platforms. Essentially, we attempt to design analytics solutions that both inform and, more importantly, serve as a conduit into our personalization platforms.
CMO.com: What did you anticipate the biggest challenges and opportunities of this position would be?
Henshaw: Much of it is about delivering analytics platforms that drive personalization. In the past, analytics functions were focused on providing insights to marketers—and the work stopped there. That’s important, but in todays’ world of trying to deliver pertinent content, insights alone are not enough. Accuracy and relevancy in targeting requires bridging the gap between insights and the digital experience.
CMO.com: How difficult is it to connect those dots?
Henshaw: It’s challenging. Our approach has been to build what I call a ‘marketing intelligence hub’ that informs campaign marketing and personalization platforms. The marketing intelligence hub enables rich analysis and modeling and, in effect, becomes a data-enrichment layer. That enriched data is now delivered into the campaign marketing and personalization platforms to enable more robust targeting.
CMO.com: Where does personalization fall in terms of marketing priorities right now?
Henshaw: The digital experience is top-of-mind. I would go one step further than digital and say the overall customer experience and cohesive cross-channel experience is a top priority. But sticking with digital for a second, personalization is a big part of our overarching digital strategy. There are lots of different ways to personalize. Cracking the code on personalizing the right content at the right time and delivering a unified message across channels is the key.
CMO.com: Your industry is not typically known for great customer experience. Can personalization improve customer sentiment?
Henshaw: Our executives are very clear about the importance of the overall customer experience and have made it a top priority regardless of where one sits in the organization. First, there’s a recognition that we can improve. Second, there are clear objectives that enable everyone, from the execute suite to the front lines, to operate against a common service-centric agenda. We’re moving the needle, but there is more work to be done.
CMO.com: What are your biggest data headaches?
Henshaw: Data wrangling is often a challenge, no matter the project or goal. Thankfully, I have oversight for analytics platform delivery, which helps because one foot is in the business side trying to execute while the other is in the data analysis and delivery side. One informs the other. Practically speaking, it’s about working backward from use cases to determine segments needed to execute them. From there, it’s about evaluating and identifying the most appropriate data sources, onboarding the data, and integrating them into the analytics environment.
CMO.com: How successful have you been in integrating the digital and offline customer data?
Henshaw: Historically, cross-channel data, and Web data specifically, has been relatively siloed. Yet the desire has always been to understand how online behaviors correlate to customer actions in the offline world, such as call-center activity. We now have the ability to follow the customer journey across these boundaries, which unlocks new and interesting insights and facilitates a more robust customer profile.
CMO.com: What was the first-party data integration process like?
Henshaw: It wasn’t easy. First we determined the right technology solutions to break down those data silos. Then we partnered with teams that have historical and institutional knowledge to define and understand the data. From there we had to figure out how to onboard this disparate data, normalize it, and make it available to our analytics and modeling platforms. We have an abundance of rich first-party data throughout the enterprise. However, that doesn’t mean it’s readily available or easy to ingest and integrate. There are always nuances to stitching it together. But if you can pull it off, it enables deep customer intelligence.
CMO.com: How do you walk the line between personalization and intrusion?
Henshaw: It’s all about having a well-thought-out, consolidated, cross-channel personalization strategy. This should enable a synthesized user experience, regardless of the touch point, and minimize intrusion. Technology can help. For example, campaign management platforms have cross-channel business logic workflows that help the marketer provide timely, relevant content and even avoid bombarding users by capping touch points or prohibiting information the user has demonstrated an aversion to.
CMO.com: Is it difficult to measure the impact of your personalization efforts?
Henshaw: It can be challenging, but not impossible, if done the right way. One of the best scenarios is using the native targeting capabilities of the A/B platform—testing a control group against various segments. Sometimes, however, this might not be feasible. Then it becomes more challenging because you’re dealing with multiple outside variables that may influence results. Regardless, we go to market with a very specific business objective in mind—for example, increasing the e-commerce entry rate—and measure segment performance against that set of criteria.
CMO.com: What has been most surprising since you’ve taken on this job?
Henshaw: Mainly how much our roles have changed as we attempt to keep pace with the digital landscape. Digital marketing is a pretty complex ecosystem. When I look at where we are now relative to where we started, it’s amazing to think of the advancements in technology and capabilities and the level of sophistication in measurement and marketing.
CMO.com: What has been your biggest win so far?
Henshaw: Probably successfully navigating the analytics platform delivery and storytelling worlds in parallel. Typically those are two very different teams. I’ve been fortunate enough to have both. Platform-delivery successes often live in the shadows. The business doesn’t care what platform enabled you to answer the question. They only care that you answered the question and helped them pull the right levers. But it’s the platform delivery, sitting in the shadows, that enables and drives new and deeper insights.
CMO.com: With this unified platform in place, what will you be focusing on over the next several years?
Henshaw: Digital marketing seems to reinvent itself so rapidly that we have to be nimble and do the same. Customers and prospects are interacting with brands in new ways and leaving their fingerprints in new places, some of which didn’t exist all that long ago. We certainly need to be poised to absorb those new data touch points and bring them into the fold.
CMO.com: Any emerging technologies or processes you’re excited about?
Henshaw: Audience-profile cooperatives; growing customer profiles and audience sharing is an industry topic that’s gaining a lot of momentum. It can expand the marketer’s reach and content relevance. Beyond co-ops, enterprise-grade marketing cloud providers are launching new capabilities for stitching profiles across devices, which enables more accurate and targeted marketing.