Interview: Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams
Global Innovation Marketing & Analytics Leader

Marni: Hi, this is Marni Edelhart, Senior Director of the Business Innovation Portfolio for Momentum Events and Producer of the DMA’s Marketing Analytics Conference, on the line with Jessica Williams, Global Innovation Marketing Analytics Leader with Visa. Hi, Jessica.


Jessica: Hi, thanks for having me.


Marni: Thanks for joining us today. I am excited to speak with you. To start, could you please just share a bit about your background and experience?


Jessica: Absolutely. I have been at Visa about four years in a variety of different roles. Most of my career has been spent in analytics, digital analytics in particular. So building measurement programs and delivering platforms that will help a big brand or an agency, really be able to measure all of their digital marketing and report up to executives on how that is exactly driving revenue or other KPIs. My role at Visa was very similar when I started. I started on the analytics team putting together measurement programs and implementing different data platforms to be able to measure our end consumer. Now, I work on the innovation marketing team which is kind of a mixture of both analytics and marketing. We focus on rolling out our digital products globally, and understanding for every marketing dollar that we put into our marketing in our different markets, what is the return on investment we should be getting back, whether it be from revenue or use of a product.


Marni: Great. I would like to start by talking a little bit about your biggest challenges. What are some of the challenges that you face when you are looking at data and trying to get meaningful insights and then actually helping coach people on the kinds of actions to take based on those insights.


Jessica: Generally what I see across the industry with the challenges is two things. Really, I think the biggest one for all marketers right now is just that we are so inundated with data from all of the different platforms that we are all using, so that kind of exploding data that we have from all the traditional platforms like display ads and our web pages and our email databases but then you add in all the different metrics from Facebook and Twitter and Snapchat and Instagram and it just becomes analysis paralysis, there’s too much data and not enough time to track it manually anymore. So I feel like one of the things that we’ve done at Visa and what I see is a lot of other big brands moving to is the automated collection of all of this data into one platform which in and of itself is a huge challenge to get everything into a unified platform. I think once you are there, it becomes much easier to actually derive insights from the data and then to take actions on those insights. I feel like the challenge is both in the automation of kind of getting all the data into one place and then the visualization and how you are actually deriving the insights from the data, it really can’t be done manually anymore, you need a platform to help you do that.


Marni: Just a follow-up question, but is the platform at Visa one that you guys are creating internally or are you looking to outside partners for help with that?


Jessica: Yeah, we actually look to outside partners. I always feel like it’s really difficult to create these systems internally. I know many IT teams think that they can do it, but when you think about having to stay on top of the API changes, at Facebook weekly or having to include a new metric every time Twitter comes out with a new metric, it’s not really something that’s feasible for an internal IT or data platform system to do. We actually use two different partners, Origami Logic and Domo, both do both of these things. We have used both of them and they are wonderful. Basically, what happens is we plug in APIs from all of our different platforms that we use for digital marketing, including some of our own internal data, some of the payments data, and then they are able to standardize all the data and then a visualization platform where we can look at all the data together in one place.


Marni: When you think about the Visa customer, which behaviors or which channels do you look to for the most information, which are the most relevant for your customer?


Jessica: Yeah, it’s really interesting because we kind of fit in an interesting position between finance and technology. Most of our end consumers think about Visa as the card in their wallet or the payment system on their phone, but we also are one of the biggest brand marketers out there in the world. We definitely look for a lot of different data sources. I mean, the richest data for us is our first party data, of course, on where people are spending, what they are spending on, kind of spending patterns, but really marrying that with what we are seeing across all of our different channels internally. So what are they doing when they coming to a Visa website, are they looking for offers, are they interested in new payment types, are they reading about Apple Pay, and Samsung Pay.

Then of course we work with a lot of partners to understand also like when they go to our partner sites, what are they doing there. And so really being able to marry all of this data together has become really informational for us and it not only allows us to personalize a customer’s experience with us, it also allows us to kind of push them through a funnel to trying a new product in a way that’s really relevant to their daily life. We know if you are an early technology adopter we are going to want you to be some of the first to know about, when we roll out new features for Visa Checkout or when we have a new product with Samsung Pay. If you are a deal seeker, you are going to be the first to know when we are running a great offer with Pizza Hut or when we are doing something cool with Uber where you will get free rides. It’s really a mixture of first party and third party data and I feel like any marketer will give you that same answer, but I do think that we’ve done a great job of actually being able to marry our internal data, specifically our payments data with what someone is doing across the web so that we can really kind of give them the best experience they can have when interacting with Visa.


Marni: When you are reporting about these practices to your senior leadership, talking about analytics in particular, what kind of questions do they have for you? What do they see as the primary directive for your department?


Jessica: Yeah, I mean, I think – well, there’s a bunch of different questions that they have. I think the typical question is kind of how are we doing today or this week, this quarter, this year. As a direct response and brand marketer, our leaders are looking for two things – how’s our brand doing and how are we driving the KPIs that come from our direct response channels. We both need to continue to hammer home with an end consumer who Visa is and what we do and how secure your payments are with us and how we allow you to be free to spend and travel wherever you are. We also have more immediate KPIs like we want you to sign up with Visa Checkout right now, we want you to use Samsung Pay right now. I think there’s kind of two different areas that they are always asking about, like how’s our long term brand doing and how are we aligning to KPIs right now. Then I think as any good leader would want to know, a lot of the questions that we get is should we go into these new platforms, are they ready for us – meaning is Snapchat ready for a big brand marketer, because we need to understand what’s our return on investment when we do activations, large activations with Snapchat, how can we actually measure that kind of stuff and even how are we doing, so i.e. is their ads API open for us to be able to track and measure that.

Our senior leadership luckily enough is really, really savvy in digital marketing, so they ask the right questions and it’s not just, how much revenue are we generating from Facebook, which I feel like we could also answer potentially, but it’s more about are we measuring the right thing, do we have the right measurements in place, how are we doing on our KPIs, and then really where’s the next place we should go. For us it’s WeChat in China or WhatsApp or whatever the platform that people are just starting to get into and do we belong there, does it make sense for our brand and what should we think about that.


Marni: It’s very lucky that you got a savvy leadership team, not everybody has that for sure.


Jessica: I know. I feel very lucky.


Marni: I would like to wrap up with some practical advice for our listeners. We always like to give them something to take away. Could you share maybe three steps you would suggest for digital marketers to effectively engage with their audience on social channels?


Jessica: Yeah. I think the first one would be like don’t try to please everyone. We focus particularly on our first party audiences and audiences that look like those people, so who are our best customers and who are those people out there that look just like them. We really focus our effort to create experiences and share creative with those people in mind in particular, so that – we are really focused on our end user and not just kind of throwing things up there that we hope everyone will like. It’s a really focused audience that we are targeting.

I would say really understand your brand and know what to align your brand with. I am sure everyone has talked about this with you guys recently but did Pepsi really belong in that space that they took a chance with Kendall Jenner and the protest video. I think it was clear to most people that they didn’t belong there and that it was a really empty message, and so we at Visa are really focused on what is at the core of our brand and how do we use our marketing to align to that. From the beginning we’ve talked about us really caring about diversity and caring about all members of society and everyone belonging and our Olympics creative that focused on the refugee team and on the first woman to wear a hijab while fencing – those kinds of things is what we brought out in our creative and there was no question on if it’s really aligned with who we are as a brand, because it absolutely laddered up to everything that we’ve been talking about for years and years.

Then the last thing I would say is know the channels that you are really effective on and stick to those. We do a lot of test of learns with new platforms but once we learn that we are not good in one, we just leave it. We’ve learned that Facebook is where our consumer is and right hand rails are the best for conversion and carousel ads are the best for new products and Instagram is best for our influencers, so we stick to that versus doing a lot of everything everywhere, because then I feel like your marketing becomes really diluted and no one is really listening to you because you are in too many places.


Marni: That is awesome. Excellent advice. Thank you so much Jessica. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you and having your input as we develop the Marketing and Analytics Conference taking place this June in Austin.


Jessica: Awesome. Thank you so much for having me, looking forward to being there.