Qubit Helps Digital Marketers Shift Gears on the Road to a 1-to-1 Future


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If you’re an avid cyclist looking for components, clothing, or even a shiny new set of wheels, online searches will eventually take you to ChainReactionCyles.com. A business that started as a local bike shop in Northern Ireland in 1984 now runs the world’s biggest online bike store.

According to e-commerce head Mark Lilley, the site presents over 500 brands with 70K SKUs. Since they sell globally, they have to support multiple languages and present different products to different regions of the world. In short, very big and very complicated.

The challenge has been trying to get a deeper understanding of their customers, so they could provide a better online experience to shoppers and improve conversion rates. That led them to look for a “better tool set,” says Lilley, to provide real-time customization to their repeat customers, while working collaboratively with their existing Oracle e-commerce platform.

Qubit Adaptive Targeting (Source: Qubit)
Qubit Adaptive Targeting (click to enlarge)

Enter Qubit, a relatively new MarTec player focused on real-time personalization. Founded in London in 2010, Graham Cooke (now CEO) and three other ex-Googlers saw an opportunity for a customer-centric fusion of marketing and commerce. After the initial launch of a survey tool, Qubit turned its sights to what it how calls “adaptive targeting,” a key feature of its recently upgraded Digital Experience Management (DXM) platform.

I was happy to see Qubit using the term DXM, an acronym I suggested three years ago in a post about SDL, a Web Content Management (WCM) promoting itself as a complete Customer Experience Management (CXM) provider. With the CXM market so diverse (and not just about tech, BTW), those focused on digital experiences would be wise to differentiate, as Qubit has done, using “DXM.”

In any case, Qubit has identified a weakness in the current crop of monolithic content-oriented vendors — including Adobe, Oracle, Sitecore, etc. — to provide a real-time personalization layer that can be easily implemented. Prominent VCs want in, including Goldman Sachs which led a $40m “C” round in February.

1:1 Marketing, Finally?

It’s been 20 years since Peppers and Rogers published their seminal book The One to One Future, where they proposed a simple and powerful idea. Instead of organizing marketing around products, why not build relationships around customers, one at a time?

Personalization was off and running, but progress has been slow due to a number of number of issues including: getting senior execs on board with the strategy, having the right systems in place, collecting the right data in a form that was usable, and dealing with customer privacy concerns. Oh, and of course, is the payoff worth the effort?

A recent CustomerThink webinar poll found that 7 out of 10 believed personalization was “very important” to delivering a great customer experience. Yet a full 50% said they were doing no personalization at all. Wow. Of a whole host of obstacles, technology-related issues was tied for No. 1.

A 2016 study with marketing execs (The path to 2020: Marketers seize the customer experience) by The Economist Intelligence Unit found that “top marketing channels are those that
lend themselves to personalising the customer experience,” such has social, web, and mobile. But marketing complexity is a big concern, due to the “accelerating pace of technology change, mobile lifestyles and an explosion of potential marketing channels.”

So it seems to me that, while improved technology is not the only answer, it’s one key element to help marketers that want to personalize digital experiences, but lack the time to get it done using existing tools. Qubit’s ability to fit into a MarTech ecosystem is key, as is its ability to quickly define segments and put them to use.

To shift gears and increase your pace towards a 1:1 marketing future, take the advice of Mark Lilley: “Ask your data the right questions, and start experimenting.” Your customers are waiting.

Disclosure: This post is part of my independent coverage of technology industry developments. No endorsement is implied for any companies mentioned in this post.


  1. Bob: QuBit and other companies will continue to progress because automation has proved adequate (and in many cases, superior) for:

    1. Transmission of content and product-related information
    2. Content analysis (making product recommendations)
    3. Answering data-dependent buyer questions
    4. Adhering to steps or process rules

    Unfortunately, the hype-cycle around marketing automation has created inflated expectations. Along the way, some companies and their customers have become victims. Companies that struggle or fail with automation often begin with the wrong intentions. In some cases, executives are singularly motivated to replace human labor. Others see automation as the only way to “scale” their business model, so – right or wrong – they inject it into the buying experience. These misguided intentions create great risks for an entire value chain.

    The companies that succeed with the automation you describe have usually done it with the intent of augmenting human effort toward the goals of providing and preserving great buying experiences. In those instances, automation removes much of the tedium associated with day-to-day sales interactions, makes customers happier and more self-sufficient, and provides employees the opportunity to engage with customers on more challenging matters – usually, those that require judgement and empathy.

  2. Andy, my article was about personalizing digital experiences — like web sites and mobile. I don’t understand how your point about marketing automation really applies. Or how customers have become victims.

    People have a choice to go to the web or go to a store. Or talk to a rep. This is the buyer’s choice, not something foisted on them by the seller.

    For those that decide to interact digitally (which is the norm for e-commerce sites), they expect the digital seller to personalize their experience to present more relevant options. Whether this is exactly how a human would do it is immaterial, because no human could handle millions of visitors searching for 10s of thousands of SKUs.

    On the other hand, when buyers decide to talk to a human seller, they expect that person to know them (based on available information), be knowledgeable, helpful etc. And not to be robotic.

    I think both sides have challenges these days. In B2B, your point about tech augmenting humans is probably right. For some B2C companies, it’s the opposite. The extreme case is Amazon, where human interaction is clearly the last option buyers expect to use.

    Every company must set its own strategy, and root it in the reality of what its customers want, not just what managers find convenient to do.

  3. I realize I did not fully ‘connect the dots’ in my previous comment . . . . Personalization of content happens through marketing automation. In many instances, I think personalization is a vestige of traditional face-to-face selling, and some companies view the “Hi Andrew” (or worse, “Hi Arudin”) greeting at the beginning of an email or buying process as an acceptable proxy for what used to be a friendly human behind the counter asking, “How can I help you?”

    I’m glad to see DXM become more rigorous, and I think the challenge is made more complex by how people of different generations regard online personalization. As someone who is not a digital native, I find certain types personalization downright helpful, certain types lame, and in rare instances, creepy (e.g. “How did they figure that out?)

    In any case, online personalization owes its heritage to face-to-face selling. The best personalization designs must, at the very least, consider how people might interact and respond in person.


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