Danone’s Chief Digital Officer Weighs in on Agility and the Future of the Customer Experience

3 things 2020 is teaching us about corporate learning agendas

So far, 2020 has been a highly effective teacher. It has richly rewarded brands that were one step ahead in ecommerce and digital experience and accelerated the decay of those that were not.

At Adweek’s recent NexTech conference, I had the opportunity to interview Domitille Doat, chief digital officer at Danone, in a session about The Future of the Customer Experience. The main topic of conversation was how Doat’s clear learning agenda, informed by a strong data foundation, provided crucial agility early in the pandemic.

Here are three key principles uncovered during our talk:

1. Test ahead of the curve

Many brands have already started moving away from third-party cookies and testing a variety of addressable solutions to reach their audiences. When spending faces scrutiny, it’s more important than ever to know that each penny is reaching a correctly identified audience and that it can be measured on a people-based level.

Going back to the days of direct marketing, even using simple A/B testing can accurately show marketers which solutions and channels are driving true value for the brand. “If you’re not slightly prepared and haven’t run some tests to get ahead of the curve, if you’re not experimenting with something disruptive, you will be caught off guard when the tide comes in,” said Doat. At the beginning of the pandemic, testing helped Danone move traffic for its main brands towards ecommerce channels almost overnight.

2. Learn across the entire customer journey

Especially for consumer brands, understanding the full path to purchase is critical to identifying valuable insights. Danone uses data to innovate around their single view of the customer to offer unique value and improve the customer experience.

With available online and offline retail basket data, Danone lowered its reliance on predictive modeling or deduction. “I know exactly from the grocery basket perspective what’s working. By activating retail data in France and the U.S., we identified which audiences were showing zero intent,” said Doat. This allowed her to identify new audience segments and optimize earned, paid and owned traffic.

She also emphasized the importance of a privacy-first, consent-based approach. “Privacy is the first thing that matters. Especially in the EU, [brands must] respect anonymous identifiers, and respect the right to be forgotten by any type of consumer. If you are unable to show consumers that you can effectively erase their history with you, your brand will be very vulnerable.”

A broader definition of the customer journey also means one that is connected to a brand’s supply chain. At the beginning of the pandemic, when scarcity became a reality, only enterprises that were able to quickly adjust supply based on consumer need fulfilled their brand promise. This requires a high level of data-driven transformation. 

3. Discover new ways to access the right data

Data is the key to great customer experiences. Today’s leading brands are not trying to become data companies, they see data as the way to becoming great consumer companies. It’s clear that strategic data partnerships are no longer optional.

Perhaps the greatest shift in mindset is the acknowledgement that nothing can be done alone. As Doat said, “Isolation is not possible anymore. Data partnerships are what the brands who survive will be focusing on.”

Companies are learning how to safely activate their first-party data across their organizations and with partners and how to leverage neutral environments to access second-party data. With this lesson learned they can then eliminate unnecessary silos to develop and share valuable insights.

The most innovative business leaders today are building robust learning organizations. As the team at consumer insights and strategy firm Kelton Global noted in a recent study, “Whether you call it a learning plan, year-end planning, or something else entirely, a learning agenda simply identifies what your team needs to know about your consumer to make informed decisions.”

If you don’t have a clear learning agenda, there’s a lot you can start doing now. The critical lesson to take away from this pandemic is that a strong, data-driven approach is essential to building organizational agility. It also provides business leaders with the confidence to change course quickly and effectively in challenging times. These three steps can help brands advance their capabilities and drive a win in the recovery. 

Warren Jenson is a global business leader with one of the most unique and diverse sets of leadership experiences in business. He has been at the forefront of the digital revolution having served during critical junctures at Amazon.com, Electronic Arts and Silver Spring Networks.  He also helped shape and successfully navigate digital transformations at NBC, Delta Airlines, Acxiom and now LiveRamp.