Igniting customer connections demands a data strategy

The age of digital has made the marketer’s task of connecting with today’s consumer somewhat akin to herding cats.

Our attention-deficit, mobile-toting audience has more content, entertainment, games and options than they could ever consume. Often this is available for free or a nominal fee. As marketers, one of our goals is to create that thread of connection that brings our brands closer to consumers.  As such, it’s vital that we make every effort to get to know our customers and create a valuable and sustainable relationship that benefits both us (marketers) and more importantly them (customers).

Data is the key to making this happen. Beyond knowing what transactions consumers made with us, we need to take the time to learn what is important to them as well as their interests, the preferred mode of communication and content that will resonate with them the most. Creating a more meaningful and emotional connection with our customers upfront is the key to building a rewarding, long term relationship.

Tectonic shifts in the marketing, consumer and business landscape

Brands have more choices than ever and it takes the right partner or set of partners to achieve success. The marketing landscape has also grown complicated with various media channels serving consumers on multiple devices. While the landscape is growing more diverse, the opportunities are endless. In the digital age, even a tiny web store can generate multi-million dollar revenue. Larger companies now can more efficiently apply scales – as their infrastructure goes global, they can further reach out and connect with customers in different parts of the world. The digital age also brings a never-ending data deluge of impressions, views, clicks, downloads, likes, shares, etc. And let’s not forget about the plethora of data and content generated from user sentiment on social media. Intelligently and diligently applied, these data could yield great insight that will allow marketers to better connect with their consumers. For example, a hardware retailer uses website browsing behavior to algorithmically select offers to be targeted to its email subscriber base. Any ensuing response is further used to determine the next best action, be it a follow-up phone call or a targeted banner ad for a consistent experience across channels.

How to do better? A tried-and-true case

Creating a robust, engaging customer experience is a significant but achievable challenge, one best attempted in small steps guided by a larger omni channel strategy as evident in our work with a home-shopping retailer to develop its blueprint for a data strategy. We started by investigating its data assets to uncover business opportunities. In the process, we found that 4.5% of this retailer’s customer base drove 64% of 2013 revenue. But 82% of these premium customers were underperforming in second quarter of 2014. Most of these were one-time buyers and the imperative to re-engage this group was obvious. Through this investigative exercise, we also discovered that while different functional teams within the organization had the common goal of using data better, there were hurdles such as data siloes, different definitions of data and customer value, inefficient operational processes that produced duplication of customer accounts which all needed to be addressed to clear the path for success.

At the same time, we also discovered a wealth of customer data and existing tools that would make building a single customer view very possible. The Epsilon team set out to design a data strategy that would produce quick wins for the retailer while building a foundation for sustainable data-driven marketing.

We took the first step of bringing together readily available offline and online data sets to create a holistic view of their customers’ shopping habits. It was necessary to start with data that we could easily access so we could show quick results. By marrying offline and online purchase data plus customer profile data, we were able to evolve the retailer’s segmentation scheme away from a product-based model to a value-centric model. In line with the business opportunity identified, we further segmented the customer base by likelihood to buy again. With the new set of segments, we developed a pilot campaign to test customer response to a repeat purchase offer delivered through direct mail and email.  The campaign drove an uplift of 36% in purchase rate and email was the clear winner in producing strong ROI.

Ignite and spark your marketing efforts

Igniting customer connections is easier than you think. It often starts with a single spark – it could be a new idea, or simply the willingness to take the first step to change. Change could happen within your brand, your organization, your strategy or elsewhere. Here are some ideas to ignite that fire:

  • Data strategy is not an IT-only function

As marketers, we are creators and consumers of data. Develop your data strategy and collaborate with IT to own that strategy which you will harness for actionable insights. Pace yourself and go for quick wins to garner buy-in and budget.

  • Integrate: Data, systems, teams

Integration is the name of the game in this new age of marketing. You probably have data stored in various systems – ecommerce, shipping, returns, marketing campaigns, call center. Bring them together. But it’s more than the data. Your technology ecosystem should be integrated for seamless exchange of data thereby enabling an equally seamless customer experience. And it is a team effort as all groups must collaborate to develop a compelling customer experience across all touch points

  • Content is your spark

If data is your fuel and technology your vehicle, then content is surely your spark plug for the emotional connection marketers are tasked with creating. Yes, content creation requires heavy investment but with data insights and technology, your relationship-building effort would be more cost-efficient and effective. Tag and track your content well. Ensure content is designed not just to render well on a mobile device but to capture implicit data about customer preferences. Use dynamic content delivery capabilities that are mainstream to most marketing solutions in the market today.

  • Embrace test and learn

Sometimes common sense could be deceiving – don’t second guess your audience. Instead, always test and find out what works and what does not.

The world is moving faster than ever. Savvy marketers need to rethink their approach to keep current with trends and technology to drive profitability and foster brand awareness.  Invest in a data strategy would go a long way. Start with a data audit. Work on organizing and analyzing data, together with a rigorous testing plan - it is fundamental to a successful data strategy.

The writer is Janet Low, VP of client services, APAC, Epsilon

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