There is a ‘sweet spot’ or ‘moment of truth’ for every customer: the point at which they are most likely to buy if the right offer is presented to them. Determining the ‘moment of truth’ is not necessarily that hard. But responding to it appropriately, and in a timely way, so as to maximise the impact, may be much more difficult.
Responding to moments of truth means being able to provide unique and personalised responses in the moment. This, in turn, means knowing who they are and what they have done before, and understanding how they behave. It also means having information about what they are doing at that moment. It transcends traditional marketing, and spans channels and devices. It is way beyond what we might think of as ‘marketing maturity’, but it is rapidly becoming essential.
Breaking down the concept
Personalisation is relatively easy, and many retailers and others have embraced it. Amazon has been doing it for a while, with its recommendations. Shop Direct — which runs very.co.uk and littlewoods.com — has started to use SAS it’s real time decision engine to ensure that its customers all see a unique offering every time they shop. But personalisation simply requires recognition of the customer, and information about their previous behaviour. It is relatively straightforward compared with responding to a ‘moment of truth’.
Interacting direct with customers is also easy, via social media or apps. The vast majority of brands are now doing this, some better than others. Online chat transcripts generated from the SAS Customer Contact Centre have, for example, been used to understand customer sentiment, and identify areas of the website that may need improvement, or which issues are most difficult for customers. Tesla is using influencer-driven marketing, with users’ own advertisements shown on YouTube. Google Maps is also able to interact in (more or less) real time, thanks to its satellite tracking.
Octo is analyzing car behavior data for insurers to gain better consumer insight, improve CRM, generate more accurate pricing and have a more predictable risk base. For consumers the benefits are likely to be improved individualised pricing, additional value-added services, better prices and potentially improved safety.
One way in which organisations can start gathering data is by mapping the customer journey across all channels, and across time. Applying analytical models that cross the boundaries of different stages of the journey makes it easier to see how particular customers behave and respond appropriately.
Introducing contextual marketing
But none of these are quite the same as being in the moment with the customer: contextual marketing. Contextual marketing means that you are able to respond not just based on past behaviour, but if the customer does something different. They might, for example, use a different channel: mobile, or social, for example. Responding appropriately means that they will stay engaged. Getting it wrong could mean they switch off and go elsewhere.
Getting it right is possible. Increased personalisation, paradoxically, requires much more use of artificial intelligence and machine learning, to help organisations get the response right in real time, and in the moment. The key is to recognise that both relevance and convenience are important.
But while customers want more personalisation in their interactions with companies, they also, increasingly, want to maintain control over their own personal data, and give less away. There are, of course, trade-offs: more data provided means a better response. But companies also have to respect their customers’ privacy, especially with the General Data Protection Regulation looming ever closer.
The ‘perfect’ response
What would the perfect response to a moment of truth look like? Would it actually be the exact offer the customer wants? Or is a little inaccuracy more appealing? Sometimes getting it ‘too’ right could be downright disturbing, in a ‘Big Brother’ sort of way. It might cause your customers to shut down sources of data, and refuse to interact. People do not necessarily want companies to be able to put together everything about them.
In other words, getting the response right to a moment of truth could mean not getting it spot on. Instead, it needs to be ‘just right enough’ to attract the customer in, without being scarily accurate. It might need to be something that the customer had not previously considered. Data-driven decisions are important, but perhaps a little creativity from marketers might also go a long way in setting up the ‘perfect’ response?
The best of both worlds
Machine learning and artificial intelligence may be crucial to getting value from data and responding to customers effectively in real time. But genuine human intelligence and creativity will also be vital in ensuring that responses are appropriate. Having customers remove themselves from all your databases is not going to be a helpful contribution to your personalised marketing efforts.