MarTech Interview with Ricardas Montvila, Vice President, Global Strategy at Mapp Digital

Experts would agree when we say data on its own is meaningless. Deriving insights from a pile of data is where the marketing magic is at!

All too often marketing decisions are being done based on the results of average A/B tests. If you continue relying on averages you will continue getting average results.

1. Could you share a bit about yourself and your career before Mapp?
I always loved tech, but more importantly the human aspects of technology and how it impacts and changes the way people interact and make decisions. Human behavior is extremely difficult to predict or rationalize and in many ways, I think I find comfort in digital marketing, as it provides a degree of abstraction and a sense of feeling of understanding even when our assumptions about why people behave in certain ways are often flawed.

As my final year university project, I created a browser plugin that analyzed HTML email code and provided improvements such as image size, text-to-image ratio, spam keywords, broken links, and much more. To this day I think most of my tutors thought I would end up as a spammer, as email still had some negative connotations. Presenting my final work felt more like defending the cause and explaining why it was important rather than discussing the technical implementation itself.

By 2008 I knew I wanted to work in the email marketing industry, but creating CVs and applying for hundreds of companies seemed mundane so I came up with a way to get companies to come to me. I launched WhichESP, which was the first unbiased email vendor comparison service. Within the first month, I had over 150 companies (ESPs) register with the service which was pretty impressive for a recent graduate if I can say so myself. Little that I understood back then was that “unbiased” also meant no one was willing to pay money for it, as there was little benefit in being compared to other vendors purely based on features and server locations.

In hindsight, I probably should have gone down the highly blessed and well-paid route, but that was against my core values of helping marketers make the most informed decisions. Struggling to generate any meaningful revenue and after a number of consulting gigs I decided to pick my personal #1 vendor and Europe’s leading email marketing platform Mapp Cloud (eCircle back then) on a permanent basis and have never looked back since.

This year I was at Mapp for a 3rd of my entire life and Mapp has evolved leaps and bounds from delivering billions of messages around the globe to becoming the #1 Insight-led Customer Experience platform. I obviously can’t take all the credit for it, as I am surrounded by the smartest and most talented individuals who have also been on this journey for over 10 years with me.

2. Could you tell us more about Mapp and how has the company evolved over the last couple of years?
Around 3 years ago, like many SaaS businesses, we stood at a crossroads where the business was growing exceptionally well and our investors tasked us to find ways to enhance our proposition by acquiring an additional company.

As a leading cross-channel marketing automation and CDP platform, the most obvious choice would have been acquiring another marketing automation vendor or perhaps one that specializes in an additional channel that we do not support. The problem with that approach was we would simply continue doing the same thing over and over again as opposed to re-evaluating what will continue to provide our customers with thousands of revenue and profit improvement opportunities over and over again.

When the opportunity came up to acquire Germany’s leading Analytics and Customer Insights platform we could not believe our luck. From the day we met their leadership team in Berlin, we knew it was love at first sight. We shared a common vision that no marketing decision should be made based on gut feel or intuition and that every marketing stakeholder no matter their role should have access to deep and actionable customer insights in a way that is easy to understand and apply in day-to-day work.

For the last couple of years, our products have been fully integrated into the wider Mapp Cloud Insight-led Customer Experience suite and we have never looked back since. Today I can safely say that there is not a single vendor in the martech ecosystem that is able to provide the level of insights that are instantly actionable across a wide range of channels. No wonder Forrester in their recent Total Economic Impact study has found that our customers get 540% ROI on their Mapp Cloud spend.

3. What are your perceptions about the evolving Martech landscape considering the importance of customer satisfaction?
Customer satisfaction is a relative term. It is very much related to the competition and your unique customer base. It is paramount that marketers have the ability to measure their individual customer experience performance metrics and more importantly the size of their ability to improve rather than attempting to copy the efforts of other brands including competitors.

4. How important is customer data in shaping the marketing strategy of today’s businesses?
My marketing team is going to hate me for saying this, but the data itself is meaningless. Data is just like money. It has an extremely high value in today’s economy, but in its raw form, it is totally pointless. You can’t make soup with a £20 note. Well technically you can, but it will hardly provide any nutritional value. Same with data. You can’t sustain a business by sitting on a pile of customer data no matter how unified or real-time it is. It is all about your marketing team’s ability to analyze the data, extract insights and operationalize those insights to be able to systematically activate them across varieties of customer experiences.

If I would explain the difference to a five-year-old I would say something like this:
●  Data – is having a box full of toys
●  Analytics – in the box there are 300x lego pieces, 5x dolls, 2x chewing gums, and one pair of keys.
●  Insight – that pair of keys is mum’s car keys and she has an important meeting in 25 minutes.

Although I should probably come up with a better analogy for 5-year-olds that involves Minecraft or Fortnight.

Actionable Insight is the real thing that shapes marketing strategy and yes, you can’t have it without data, but I would argue that the largest problem that businesses face is not a lack of data, but a lack of ability to extract meaningful and actionable insights from that data.

5. Is AI important for businesses to predict the customer’s next move?
It is most certainly extremely advantageous. The most frequent use cases that have proven to deliver results for our customers are predicting the likelihood to convert and the predicted spend threshold for each individual customer. This allows for a wide range of tactics that can be used to increase conversion rates, but even more importantly optimize profit as it avoids excessive blanket discounting and instead allows providing effective nudges that are just enough to tip the customer over through to conversion.

AI can however do so much more for marketers than predict customer behavior or recommend the best product. It can also inform and alert the marketing teams when opportunities emerge, effectively providing you with an extra pair of ears that are constantly listening to the pulse of your marketing performance.

6. What are the Mapp Cloud’s Key Pillars for Insight-Led Experiences?
Mapp Cloud’s solution is built upon 5 key pillars that work together to help deliver insight-led customer experiences. This is the foundation for an optimized cross-channel orchestration and an effective marketing reach.
A.  Unified Customer Data: With a CDP at its core, Mapp Cloud unifies all zero and first-party data into a single customer view, making this data accessible, understandable, and actionable.
B.  Cross-channel Engagement: Our rich cross-channel marketing automation tool allows marketers to create outstanding customer journeys, by delivering the right message, on the right channel, at the right time.
C.  Personalization: Mapp’s automated personalization helps make every touchpoint count in the customer journey by creating tailored and individualized experiences.
D.  Customer Intelligence & AI: Mapp’s enterprise-grade analytics combines data and artificial intelligence to generate actionable insights, act upon them, and predict what customers are going to do next.
E.  Integrations: Our advanced integration options connect the entire marketing ecosystem, including CRM, DSP, eCommerce, POS, CMS, and loyalty programs. With data and tech siloes removed, brands can enrich customer profiles with data from all their sources and activate it in cross-channel campaigns.
7. Can you describe the Mapp Cloud platform benefits from the client’s perspective?
Most brands engage Mapp because they seek to unify their customer data and improve their cross-channel customer experiences through better automation, personalization, and segmentation. However, customers choose us because we allow them to power all their marketing decisions with insights and as a result make the entire marketing organization more data-savvy and insight-driven. Most customers would say “Mapp doesn’t simply deliver experiences, they are informing us about what we should do to achieve a specific goal and even alert our teams when opportunities start to emerge.” In other words, we help brands move from “Action to Analysis” to “Insights to Action”.

But don’t take my word for it. Here is the summary of the key findings from Forrester’s Total Economic Impact of the Mapp Cloud Study. Mapp Cloud has helped marketing teams to:
●   Increase the reach of messaging to customers
●   Improve messaging engagement by 25%
●   Raise conversions by 20%
●   Increase average basket sizes by 10%
●   Increase marketing team productivity by 25%
●   Use Insights and analytics across all marketing efforts
●   Diversify marketing campaigns
●   And my favorite: Grow the maturity of a marketing team

8. You received the “Best Enterprise Marketing Automation Platform” award in 2021. How was your experience then? Can you share some insights on that?
Indeed, back in December 2021, Mapp was awarded as the gold winner for The DMA Awards, alongside Ambition and Varelotteriet (The Danish Lottery), within the ‘Best Use of Marketing Automation’ category. The campaign for which we won the award produced the best results in the 134-year history of Varelotteriet, with a 300% increase in sales across all retailers during the 13-week period. Plus, the retailer who won the Millionaire League competition overall increased lottery ticket sales by a whopping 1000%.
This award was the result of a successful collaboration between Mapp and its partner Ambition to deliver exceptional outcomes for the Danish Lottery based on a combination of strategic support, and advanced technology with an insight-led Mapp solution, Mapp Cloud.
Peter Jørgensen, CMO at Varelotteriet commented: “The combination of leveraging our own data and the digital expertise provided by the strategy team at Ambition along with the amazing capabilities of Mapp Cloud, means that we have been able to gain higher visibility than ever before on our consumer and dealer networks. By reaching this goal, Varelotteriet has turned insights into action, connecting with the right customer, at the right time, on the right channel with the right message – something we’ve never been able to achieve previously. The results speak for themselves, and we couldn’t have chosen a better partnership than Mapp and Ambition to help us on our journey.”
Partner Team at Mapp commented: “It has been an absolute pleasure being a part of the journey with Ambition and Varelotteriet, starting from some initial email strategy 2 years ago, to seeing the advancement of the campaigns and resulting case study, award recognition, and ongoing nominations. We are excited to be a part of the digital strategy that Varelotteriet is continuing to evolve and look forward to supporting the next exciting campaign in association with Ambition. We would like to extend our congratulations to the other finalists in the ‘Best Use of Marketing Automation’ category: McDonald’s with agency Armadillo, The Royal Mint, City University of London with agency Anything is Possible, and Formula 1 with agency Ogilvy UK.”
Matias Valentin, Contact & Automation Manager at Ambition commented: “It’s not an easy task to design and implement the perfect customer journey. This particular journey started with the use of AI to build display advertising audiences. Through a geo-targeted ad campaign and landing pages, the potential new customer was led to the local retailer and all the digital Touchpoints were connected after they made the purchase. It has been truly amazing to work with Mapp Cloud, an integrated platform that supports all the steps and touchpoints in this journey, making our work as a partner so much easier.”

9. Can you give us a sneak peek into Mapp’s development plans?
There is so much and I highly encourage listeners to follow our product release updates. Now I am certainly going to upset some of our Product Managers and Engineers by picking a favorite, but I believe one development that is being worked on by our data science team is truly transformative to the way marketers go about their day-to-day business. It is called Revenue Monitoring.

During this tough economic climate where there is a crisis of consumer confidence, but at the same time also a cost-of-doing-business crisis marketing teams are under pressure to prove how their efforts are driving overall business revenue and ultimately profit. Revenue monitoring by Mapp Cloud flips the revenue analytics upside down. Rather than analyzing revenue retrospectively, Mapp Cloud leverages AI to monitor the revenue in real time. When anomalies in revenue occur we are then able to alert key stakeholders and more importantly provide a correlation analysis on what may be impacting this. For example: “The average basket size has decreased because people add fewer items to the basket”.

If we are unable to establish a reasonable correlation based on all of the data and events that we process then we revert to technical analysis to see if there is a particular technical issue being experienced by a certain user group preventing them from converting. This allows the entire marketing department to keep in mind the most important metric of their success rather than analyzing their performance retrospectively.

The next development of this capability will allow our customers to tap into a library of external events such as changes to the weather, national holidays, or competitor promotions. We expect this capability to save our customers millions in lost opportunities as well as countless hours of the analytics team trying to establish a cause for a dip or spike in revenue.

I bet you did not expect a Marketing Cloud provider to be able to do that.

10. What is the biggest piece of advice you would want to give to company leaders?
You have to fuel all your marketing decisions with insights rather than gut feelings.

All too often marketing decisions are being done based on the results of average A/B tests. If you continue relying on averages you will continue getting average results.

The notion that analytics teams should only be allowed to do analytics and marketing teams should focus on executing campaigns is a myth. A very dangerous one too. Every individual in the marketing team should have the right insights available to them and at their disposal to make data-driven decisions.

Here is an exercise for you: Pick the latest campaign that your team has launched and look at every aspect of the campaign from channels to creatives, CTAs, and audience definitions and investigate how individual team members came up with their conclusions. You will be surprised how many decisions are made based on an A/B test that was done a couple of years ago or a gut feeling, intuition, or even habit. Then think how much better would the campaign have performed if each of those decisions would have been improved even by 5%.

11. How do you stay motivated? What are your key learnings from your career so far?
Let me attempt to match such a deep question with a deep and personal answer.
Motivation and lack of motivation are highly individually based on personal ambitions as well as doubts. The personal battle that I faced was balancing my sustainability and equality values vs helping brands to sell more things to consumers worldwide.

I believe the advertising and marketing industry over decades has helped fuel gender biases as well as racial discrimination and even more recently – political outcomes. What keeps me motivated is the idea that there is no greater force globally than marketing and advertising to bring greater good. There is a lot more work to be done, but we are seeing this already, as many brands are abandoning pure product and sales-driven approach and replacing it with a focus on selling their values and sustainability credentials.

When it comes to other marketers, most of the frustration in 2023 will come from being pushed to deliver far better results with the same or even decreased resources. This can dampen the motivation of even the most positive and resilient marketer. The important thing to remember is that marketing is an investment rather than an expense. Also, a downturn can create a wide range of new opportunities.

As competitors decrease spending there is an opportunity to engage a wider reach of customers at a far lower cost. However, it will be notoriously hard to seize this opportunity unless you have a framework in place to discover valuable customer insights based on their behavior rather than basic demographics. Secondly, marketers need to seize the moment to augment every single customer engagement with their brand values. After all, brand values cut through all segments, and biases and help build tighter brand-consumer relationships that are not based on discounts and promotions.

12. What movie/book has inspired you recently?
“How minds change” by David McRaney. It provided clarity and peace of mind that people who try to persuade others to change their ridiculous ideas and beliefs with their own alternative ridiculous ideas is just a matter of evolution. It also provided the most comprehensive explanation of why it is against human nature to be persuaded to change our beliefs purely based on facts. If anything, it often delivers the opposite result.

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Ricardas Montvila, VP, Global Strategy, Mapp Digital
Ricardas Montvila has been working within the industry for over ten years and is a specialist in data-driven marketing, digital customer activation, analytics, personalization, and automation. In 2010, he started his career at Mapp as an Account Manager and continued to grow through the ranks. As a Senior Global Strategy Director, he orchestrated the strategy behind the acquisition of Webtrekk and shaped the vision for the Insight-led Customer Experience platform that Mapp Cloud is today. Most recently, he launched the international community for marketers, Improve Your Marketing.

Mapp is a leading provider of insight-led customer experiences. Thanks to customer intelligence and marketing analytics, companies can easily and effectively gain data-driven customer insights across all channels in order to trigger highly personalized marketing activities. Customers benefit from AI-supported forecasting models that enable targeted and self-optimizing cross-channel campaigns. Automated messages are sent via the most suitable marketing channel, at the right time, with the optimal contact frequency. Thanks to advanced one-to-one personalization, the highest levels of engagement and long-term customer loyalty are achieved.

Mapp has global offices in six countries. More than 700 companies rely on Mapp, including Ella’s Kitchen, Expert, Freesat, Lloyds Banking Group, MyToys, Pepsico, Quint, The Entertainer and Qantas.

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