Stuck in the middle
As a customer in a coffee shop, have you had the barista know exactly what you planned to order? It’s a good feeling when a business knows you; when they understand what you like and when. There’s a feeling that you’re a part of a community.
It’s the feeling every business should strive to create for its customers.
Technology should help find that deep level of engagement, especially as the number of options available nowadays is staggering. Terminals accept contactless payments from watches and bracelets; CRM platforms using data captured from smartphones and beacons; automated emails triggered by website clicks; and even machines that learn faster than humans.
As marketers try to wrap their heads around the latest technology, the reality is that it’s people we truly need to understand. Specifically, customers. It’s easy to get caught up in adopting, implementing and chasing new technologies, and much harder to use that technology to gain an intimate knowledge of your customers and make it work for them AND your business.
There are three priorities to keep in mind when ensuring your marketing is technology-driven but customer-focused:
1: Learn to predict the future
The coffee shop I mentioned knows my usual order, when to expect me and how I prefer to pay. They might even have it ready for me when I arrive! Because I’ve developed a routine, they’re able to predict my behaviour. Similarly, businesses must invest in predictive analytics capabilities to personalise customer interactions.
Data-driven companies are focused on hiring highly-skilled analytics talent and using predictive analytics to increases the likelihood of marketing success. Predictive analytics reduces the amount of human input required, yet makes your interactions more ‘human’; Offering smarter decisions that add more context and relevance to customers.
It’s important, however, to focus on the data that matters most to your business objectives. It might be critical for the coffee shop to know which type of milk I prefer, but less so that they know what shoes I wear. Not all data is quality data. Prioritise information that enables you to identify future trends and focus on the most important metrics.
2: Build a customer-focused team
A great shop owner is probably also a great listener. They have a knack for names and faces and even remember tiny details you’ve shared about yourself. This insight gives them a more complete picture of the customer. As you build out your marketing analytics resources, remember that numbers aren’t everything. You need a team that can interpret customer analytics in new ways and paint a more complete picture.
Marketers will always find new ways of collecting data, but those analysing it must keep an appreciation for the customer. The impending shift from keywords to voice-based searches is a good example. Instead of a string of words, searches will include context-rich conversations. Making sense of these will be an even bigger challenge.
Marketing teams will also play an important role in ensuring the quality of customer data. One mistimed email or out-of-context interaction can annoy customers or even turn them off for good. The speed at which businesses absorb new data, check its quality and put it to good use will be the key competitive advantage.
3: Personalise and simplify
I’m a loyal customer because my coffee shop consistently makes it easy to get what I want. They offer products that I enjoy (or ‘need’ as in the case of my morning coffee). Businesses that succeed will be the ones that dive into more targeted insights to find what customers want and need.
Consistently delivering personalised experiences requires a long-term approach to customer relationships. Companies that invest in data-driven intelligence to ‘get personal’ are set to reap the rewards. Gartner predicts that by 2018, organizations that excel in personalisation will outsell companies that don’t by 20 per cent.
As my barista knows, coffee orders may change, but people stay the same. So too, for technology. Keeping customers at the centre will ensure your business thrives, regardless of which new channel or technology is served up next.