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MSI Scholars and Companies Identify Six Critical Challenges for Managing Digitized Customers

Beyond “digital marketing”, new technologies are rapidly changing the way customers interact with companies, brands, products, services, and other customers in the physical and virtual worlds.

In a new report, “Understanding Digitized Customers in Digitized Market Environments,” a taskforce of MSI members and academics has identified six research priorities for academic-industry collaboration on this critical marketing challenge. As they write in their introduction, “It’s time for the marketing community to think about new and important issues within the realm of digitized (as opposed to digital) marketing.”

“Everyone and everything is becoming digitized, and we really don’t know how this is changing fundamental aspects of marketing and decision making,” noted Executive Director Kay Lemon. “The research agenda is a wonderful step forward and represents substantial progress on an issue that our members care deeply about.”

“The research agenda is a wonderful step forward and represents substantial progress on an issue that our members care deeply about.”

The MSI initiative is cochaired by Cait Lamberton, University of Pittsburgh, and Andrew Stephen, University of Oxford. In May 2016, they convened a group of academics and practitioners to discuss the challenges and opportunities emerging from rapidly advancing technologies and changes in the ways customers use technology. With the shared thinking of academic researchers as well as B2B, B2C, financial services, services, and pharmaceutical firms, they outlined six questions that are relevant to marketers across industries:

  • How “frictionless” should technology-enabled customer experiences be and how “personalized” should technology-enabled marketing actions become?
  • How do marketers steward their brands through social media conversations and find new, value-enhancing uses for social media?
  • How does the digitized customer experience and digitized market environment relate to basic models of consumer information processing and decision making?
  • What is the optimal balance between human and non-human touchpoints in a customer journey?
  • What are the best approaches for gathering and using data from digitized customers, and for ensuring that customers understand how their data are being used?
  • How should marketing and IT work together, from the C-suite down, and within companies, and with partners?

“Over our two-day meeting, it became clear that these are big, messy problems that will be critical to the future of marketing,” Stephen noted. “The scope and complexity of these themes will require not just cooperation among academics and practitioners, but a unique level of direct collaboration,” said Lamberton.

"These are big, messy problems that will be critical to the future of marketing.”

Several academic-industry collaborations are already underway among taskforce members, including one project to develop field experiment capabilities and another to broaden knowledge of digital platforms. “MSI is uniquely able to facilitate this type of new knowledge creation that can drive successful strategy,” noted Research Director Gordon Wyner. “It’s the heart of MSI’s mission.  Applying academic insight and creativity to members’ key challenges often results in the identification of innovative and differentiating marketing approaches that solve significant problems.”

Download full paper

Member companies interested in more information about research collaborations should contact Gordon Wyner at gordon@msi.org.

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