When crunch time calls for real-time responsiveness

Financial goals are best reached with long-term planning - be it savings plans, carefully arranged financing, or any and all forms of insurance coverage.  When it's part of a plan and all goes well, the results intended are the ones achieved. All very good, right?

A real crunch calls for a real-time response.

No time to dither. A real crunch calls for a real-time response.

But even the best laid plans at some point go awry. Or things simply happen ("it happens') - it's a part of life.

Those can be known as "crunch times," especially when the solution is a financially-driven one that calls for getting a short-term loan. That crunch time can be caused by an accident, a natural disaster, or even a great opportunity that can't be passed up, and in that moment the last thing the customer wants to hear is that you can't help them.

That's the scenario that plays out for most customers of Advance America, a leading provider of short-term loans for people in situations not normally served by banks or other traditional lenders. They can be payday loans, online loans, installment loans, title loans and more. The one critical common denominator to all those scenarios is that they call for real-time responses. So in order to keep their business viable, Advance America needed to find a way to respond effectively in real-time to their customers' crunch times.

In order to do that, Advance America uses analytically-driven real-time decisioning with the goal of being consistently fair, thorough, and most of all, fast. On any given day, they process approximately 20,000 decisions and average about 15-20 milliseconds per decision. They also process about 1,300 new customers each day, averaging about 3 seconds per decision in those cases. Read More »

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Analytics produces better foresight in retail

Retailers love to forecast a busy Black Friday.Black Friday might seem like a long time ago now, but the impact of this new phenomenon in the UK still ripples. Retailers such as Dixons Carphone embraced the shopping day and once the results were tallied, that turned out to be a good move. The retailer attributes the success to careful planning around promotions and supply chain in anticipation of Black Friday, which contrasts with press reports of other retailers not faring so well for the opposite reason - a lack of planning.

With all indications showing that Black Friday is in the UK to stay, it puts the pressure on for retailers to improve their planning. And considering the complexity of today's operating environment, effective planning means being able to balance multiple constraints and business goals simultaneously to consistently get the best result.

That process begins with better demand forecasting and builds from there into sensible decisions about how much of each product to have in stock and on the shelves.

The so-called ‘casualties’ of the UK’s Black Friday will need to be planning at a much more granular level. When it comes to the detail, it’s the unpredictability of the season that is proving a challenge. For example, Argos Chief Executive John Walden talks about being more strategic about what is put on sale - "balancing the things that make money versus the things that may not." Read More »

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Understanding loyalty dynamics amid non-stop promotions

‘These shoppers ain’t loyal’: The sentiment expressed in "Loyal," a song by American singer Chris Brown, struck a cord with me, particularly around consumer behaviour. Whilst Brown may be decrying the erosion of loyalty in a very different setting, it's not a stretch to imagine how his lyrics might ring true for many retailers. Consider how retailers try to lure shoppers via shiny promotions and special offers in face of a daunting reality - increasingly fickle shoppers are their big share of the market - as can be seen in this Infographic by MarketTrack showing that 80 per cent of shoppers are willing to switch brands or stores because of a promotion.

Customer experience matters most for loyalty.Some of my co-workers may object to my playing ‘Loyal’ on repeat as I write this blog, but I’m trying to make a bigger point. Shoppers, much like my erstwhile colleagues, are experiencing loyalty fatigue. And, I don’t blame them.

Customer loyalty programmes are now the norm. The wallets of shoppers are bursting with loyalty cards and their phones flashing with promotional apps, increasingly in real time. This information overload diminishes the value that these incentives once had. The loyalty wars, just like the supermarket bread wars, are leaving CMOs sweating.

Today, the power and safety of a committed relationship is even more sought after. We know from our own experiences that loyalty can be borne out of many things: habit, fear, love, and convenience. So, what is it that makes shoppers return, bring others with them or be prepared to enter into an interactive marketing experience? Read More »

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Three tips for rethinking your current customer relationship strategy

Scene: My living room. After a long day, nothing sounds better than an evening spent enjoying a beverage and scanning my favorite news magazine while nestled in a deep-backed chair. A few pages in, I notice oddly-specific advertisements with somewhat personal messages. Since when did news magazines start advertising wedding invitations? And why would they assume I’d want to see these ads in a news magazine?

Your customers' personal data is out there. How you use it (and protect it) is up to you.Let’s be real, your personal data is out there and it is not really a question of whether you can control it or get it back. And the subsequent fact is that we don’t get to choose the degree of intimacy we have with a company. As a vendor, you may want customer-vendor intimacy, but if I as a consumer don’t willingly share my data, you probably shouldn’t flaunt that you have it—not without a supporting purpose or process .

What else can you do? Here are three tips. You need at least one of the two to manage your customer relationships.

  1. (Re)Define relationship criteria

It seems natural to classify and categorize customer-vendor relationships according to what we think we know about our customers. What we can’t assume is that we classified this relationship based on the right criteria. Jill Avery of Harvard Business School, Susan Fournier of Boston University and John Wittenbraker of the market-research firm GfK,co-authored, “Unlock the Mysteries of Your Customer Relationshipsin which they found most companies lack relational intelligence. They felt companies didn’t understand the multi-faceted nature of their customers’ relationships based on the finding of 29 distinct types of relationships (both positive and negative) ranging from strangers to friends.

The key is figuring out what kind of relationship your customer wants to have with you. Read More »

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Why forecasting is the next frontier in retail

Many retailers do not engage in effective forecasting.Retailers are always trying to get closer to customers. But it’s not just about improving service to those customers – it’s about understand more about what products they are demanding so as to make better forecasting decisions around, for example, how much of a particular item is needed in stock.

As this video reminded me, knowing your customers really well means you can easily know what products they will want, when and how, perhaps better than they do. Today, that knowledge is gleaned from a complex assessment of lots of online and offline data which contributes to every single buying decision by your customers.

The online element means it’s not just about attracting customers into the store. Visiting New York for the annual retail conference NRF a few weeks ago, I thought about how the value of retail space has changed. Retail giants that have been there for years, as well as the new retailers on the block, are continuing to transform the experience in-store to stay ahead of customer demand. We are enticed in-store with Wi-Fi, coffee, beer, or live DJs. But this only gets a retailer so far if they cannot capture key data about customers coming in to their stores.

The main problem, however, is not one of getting hold of data; it’s being able to forecast using that data. Read More »

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Mobile best practices: alignment around mobile-first strategy

CMO Council Report: Getting in Sync with Mobile Customers, Best Practices in Engaging Mobile Customers.Today's customers want consistent interactions and experiences with your organization, and increasingly they expect personalization and real-time relevance. A major catalyst behind those customer dynamics is mobile devices. The sheer size of the mobile market is enough to take notice, but an increasingly important factor is the proportion of smartphones & tablets and the interaction of those devices with wearables and how that's impacting the purchase process. Consider how:

The order of magnitude and the potential of mobile was the impetus behind our recent collaboration with the CMO Council to explore how organizations are getting in sync with mobile customers. That research surfaced many best practices in approaching mobile, and perhaps the most powerful was showing how taking a mobile-first approach to marketing enables companies to capitalize on the full potential of mobile, which I explore in this final post in my series on mobile best practices. Read More »

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Using customer data to deliver meaningful experiences

“Welcome to Panera! What can I get for you today?” the eager associate asks. “A bowl of chicken noodle soup with a side of bread, please. Oh! And a large ice tea. For here.” She swipes my Panera card and looks up smiling, “Happy birthday, Analise! For your birthday you can pick out a free bakery item today through October 17th.” A quick glance over at the display of tasty treats is all it takes to convince me that I want dessert.

Use analytics to know what a meaningful experiences is

Shopping cart success: reminding her how much she likes stripes.

The sunny disposition of the associate and the inevitable joyous sugar rush placated my uneasiness with Panera knowing it was my birthday.

I probably gave them my birthdate when I registered my reward card, but this experience reminded me of something far more important – I have a customer relationship with Panera – if they knew or revealed any more personal information about me, I would be upset.

Panera demonstrated a very clear sense of what it takes to manage a customer relationship using customer data. Not every experience ends in a free cookie.

“On demand” data used in direct interactions with customers can be beneficial yet challenging for companies. For example, Qantas Airlines armed their flight attendants with iPads to give them up-to-date information on loyalty and elite customers. When it came time to interact with these customers, they fell flat – unable to translate the data into an engaging conversation or successful outcome. The communication breakdown isn’t [entirely] a data privacy issue. It is a data delivery issue – one that can adversely affect how you engage and interact with customers.

Here are three things you can do to optimize your customer relationships: Read More »

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Beyond the buzzwords at NRF

The SAS Booth at Retail's Big Show

The SAS Booth at Retail's Big Show

Omnichannel, Internet of Things and customer loyalty were just three of the terms you heard over and over again on the conference floor and in presentations at retail's biggest conference last month. If you had to miss the Retail Big Show in New York City, the article "Retail's Omnichannel, Data-Driven Revolution is Here" from CMSwire nicely sums up the main themes of the conference. Here's an excerpt:

“Praise the Lord,” that was our response when Alan Lipson, the global industry marketing manager for retail at SAS, said, “Smart retailers see that not every touch needs to lead to a sale. Sometimes the customer’s goals are more related to utility or convenience, and using data to help them accomplish those goals will increase customer loyalty in the long run."

We’re going to literally make note of it and hand it to the next salesperson or pop-up window that stalks us.

“The value is in the visit, not just the sale,” insisted Lipson. And if anyone has the analytics to prove it, it’s SAS.

Virginia Gibbons, the author of the article, reached out to Lipson after the conference to get his thoughts on the energy, topics and freebies at the SAS booth. Keep reading for the full interview between Gibbons and Lipson. Read More »

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Mobile best practices: engagement and the customer experience

CMO Council Report: Getting in Sync with Mobile Customers, Best Practices in Engaging Mobile Customers.Recent CMO Council research on getting in sync with mobile customers surfaced several key findings with enough significance that I wanted to explore each on in its own blog post. As was the case with objectives & context, and challenges & metrics, the idea of engagement and the customer experience is of pivotal importance to marketers as they consider the implications of mobile in how they approach their work as marketers.

It’s undeniable that mobile is changing in how consumers engage with organizations and brands because mobile is changing how they think, feel and behave as they go about their lives. It’s been well documented in this blog and elsewhere that consumers are now empowered – that idea formed initially around the advent of social media. And since mobile is intertwined with social media, mobile has deepened and magnified that empowerment (tablets and smartphones in particular).

Now, as connected devices grow in popularity (the “Internet of Things”), the catalyzing role of mobile in how it’s impacting marketing is only accelerating. And it doesn’t spell doomsday for marketing, but it does mean changes in customer engagement that compel marketing to evolve their mindset and making use of data and analytics to personalize engagements. The CMO Council research provided glimpses into best practices forming around those ideas.

What’s happening with customer engagement
Let’s begin with the notion of engagement and what it means to marketers. I’ll cut to the chase, and put this thought out there:

Consumers are now customer-centered. Read More »

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SAS again a leader in Gartner Marketing Resource Management Magic Quadrant

The Gartner Magic Quadrant for Marketing Resource Managment shows SAS as a leader.Gartner just recently released its Magic Quadrant for Marketing Resource Management (MRM) report –where SAS was named a leader. SAS attains this "Leader" distinction by quantitatively outpacing 15 out of 16 other vendors on both our completeness of vision and ability to execute. The graph to the right shows SAS' continued movement toward the upper-right-hand portion of the Leaders quadrant.

This result is great validation for SAS and comes on the heels of a string of other equally strong rankings from industry analyst firms, such as Forrester and Gartner in categories such as cross channel campaign management, campaign management, enterprise marketing software suites, and integrated marketing management.

This specific announcement is a strong endorsement by Gartner of our leadership in software that assists companies in the management of marketing resources, operations and processes. SAS continues to distinguish itself as one of the only vendors in the market rated as a Leader across the full range of customer intelligence disciplines, including: marketing planning, customer analytics, and campaign management & optimization.

 
“SAS is a Leader in MRM
for its broad and robust set of MRM capabilities across the five competencies, and
for its vision for next-generation MRM capabilities.”
Read More »

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