Like most of marketers, I find myself reflecting on the evolution of brands. In an increasingly digital world, what is the role of the brand and how can marketers drive more effective customer engagement through Customer Analytics? The last edition of BRANDY16 in Milan brought together diverse speakers and attendees, and generated plenty for consideration. Key for me was the increasing tendency for customers in the B2B environment to emulate consumer behavior and buying patterns.
Shocker: there is no separate ‘digital’ channel
Customers today do not recognize a distinction between ‘digital’ and ‘non-digital’. Their life and work styles blend the two seamlessly. Sometimes they operate online, and sometimes off, but they expect the experience to be connected, and for brands to recognise them whether they are interacting digitally, or face-to-face. This is a challenge for brands who are still thinking in terms of a separation between digital and non-digital.
So where does the brand live? Does location and, for that matter, design, matter ? Good design affects how we feel, and therefore how we behave and interact with others. Where the brand lives will affect its success. In an increasingly experience-oriented buying landscape, design will need to encompass service as well as physical and digital spaces.
Further, customer experience requires brands to develop relationships with customers. In some ways, digital retail is quite old-fashioned in style. Think of traditional relationships between shopkeepers and their customers: retailers knew what individual customers liked, and would make sure it was available, earning loyalty from customers. Similarly, brands need to build relationships with customers to find out what they like, and then deliver it to earn brand loyalty.
The Cluetrain Manifesto got it right when it proclaimed that markets are conversations. First you need to develop the story, and then you have to tell it. We all like stories: they draw us in, and keep us interested, even as adults. And stories are an essential part of brand marketing, because they attract customers. Done right, customers behavior become part of the story, and contribute to it.
But to develop stories, you need to have insights, and these need analytics. You need to find the right story to draw in customers, which means the one that chimes with them. They have to want to know more as a result of the story. And to work out which story will have this effect, you need insights into your customers: what interests them, what they need, and what they want. Those insights require good customer analytics. There is a huge amount of data now available, and it is up to marketers to take that ‘explosion’ of data and make something useful from it.
Digital—and analytics—should not be an afterthought. Too often, digital is treated tactically, and is often an emotional reaction, or delegated to the most junior member of the team. But it is too important for this. Instead, it needs to be managed strategically and logically, as part of the overall offer to customers. It needs to make interactions seamless across channels, and should concentrate on the three ‘Cs’: content, commerce and community.
The core of good customer intelligence is data management
Managing data may not have been why you went into marketing. But it is at the heart of understanding your customer, or developing good customer intelligence, which in turn is vital for personalisation and genuine creativity. And only by using data wisely to generate customer intelligence can you monetise your offer to customers.
Customer intelligence enables marketers to determine the magic moment. Knowing your customers is vital if you are to take advantage of the ‘moment of truth’: the ideal point at which to make them an offer or, more strictly, the point at which they are most likely to accept the right offer. You need to know both what offer to make, and when to make it, because if you get either of those wrong, you will lose your customer to another provider who gets it right.
First impressions still matter. Your potential customer’s first ‘sight’ of you is likely to be your digital interface. It needs to be attractive enough that they ‘fall in love’ with it, and through that, with you. If its appearance does not appeal, you may never get a chance to wow them with your products or services. Increasingly, digital first impressions depend on how personal you can make it.
Extreme personalisation does not have to mean human-to-human interaction. The rise of ‘chatbots’ and cognitive computing means that messaging can be personalised by these bots. Instead of broadcasting to the world, you can have a conversation with an individual, and it can be highly tailored.