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Using digital to truly understand your customers

15th November 2016

Using digital to truly understand your customers“64% of marketing executives “strongly agree” that data-driven marketing is crucial to success in a hypercompetitive global economy”

In recent years we’ve witnessed a revolution in the ways in which digital technologies have been adopted in order to grow market-share, attract new customers and increase engagement with existing customers too. Digital marketing in all its guises has become a mainstay of most business marketing plans and marketing operations. This will include the range of web, social media, e-newsletters, search engine optimisation, and more. Any business which hasn’t already adopted digital to facilitate and improve its marketing activities will surely have been left behind by now?

Digital Marketing magazine published the following comment almost a year ago now:

“In 2015, 74 per cent of brands told the World Federation of Advertisers that they were unprepared to take advantage of the ‘big data opportunity’. 2016 will be the year that the marketing industry finally starts harnessing the vast reservoirs of data generated each second, and exploiting them to really learn about their individual customers.”

How many reading this blog can really say that you’ve stepped up to this challenge in 2016? And how are you developing the opportunity even further in 2017?  If this year was the year to harness and exploit your data, then next year you should be thinking of ways to predict and get ahead of the game using those same (and improved) data sources.

But in addition to digital for direct marketing gain, it also offers us new ways to engage with and truly understand our customers better. Insights which the data and information collected during marketing, communications and transactions becomes of high value in the process. In fact there are hundreds of business now trading exclusively on the collection, sense-making and sale of data and intelligence. And of course there is plenty of illegal activity, including hacking, surrounding this ability, giving rise to another set of new businesses offering service in manging your data and its safe use and protection.

So why is this access and utilisation of customer information so important in the digital age? Well let’s go back a few years to consider one of the early adopters of customer profiling and data-based marketing.

Tesco of course provided us all with those lovely ‘loyalty cards’ to use every time we shopped, purchased petrol or traded with them online. We collected our points with glee looking forward to the discounts which we earned whilst shopping. And in the meantime Tesco collected a massive database of customer information, insights, preferences and purchasing patterns. This provided them with the ability to target special offers at those of us with clear preferences, to entice us to spend more even when we hadn’t intended to, and to engage us in product launches and promotions.

Move forward several years and Amazon set out to achieve the same levels of customer insights through its online shopping experience. What they added to the profile and preferences, was the ability for people to ‘rate’ their purchases and give feedback so that Amazon also had a stocklist which was being constantly moderated by its consumer base. This connection between customer and product using digital process to link the two easily and incentivising various activities with special offers means that Amazon set themselves ahead of their competitors swiftly and on a massive scale.  

Now come right up to date and the types of data and insights which Tesco and Amazon set out to achieve are relatively commonplace, particularly in the online trading environment. And not just for retailers. Increasingly businesses in the service sectors are finding ways to engage customer online and increase the flow of communication and feedback.

Customer profiling for digital experiences is also common, and businesses are encouraged to review their customer personas, to review the customer journey and its digital touchpoints. Being able to zoom-in on the ways in which our customers and potential customers interact with our business gives us opportunity to look at how their experience can be improved. So take time to review your ‘average’ customers – put them into buyer or customer personas which can represent the main types or preferences of your customers, and then use your data sets to enhance your understanding of these customers, and keep on reviewing them with new and updated data and insights coming in all the time. If you don’t really know where to start then this quick video should help to prompt some thinking:

Cosmic are offering the first South West based Digital Leadership Programme, join us for our inspiring and motivating sessions run by our joint CEO’s Julie Hawker and Kate Doodson which will help you to gain a wider understanding of digital leadership, digital operations and give you the chance to network with others within the group.

For more information and to book: www.cosmic.org.uk/leaders.