Chasing shadows: Building a better view of the customer

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customer experience has become the decisive differentiator between brands.

Knowing your customers’ preferences, habits and behaviours needs to be a top priority for every company.

In what Forrester describes as “the age of the customer,” customer experience has become the decisive differentiator between brands. Consumers want fast, easy access to information and personalised experiences unique to them. Knowing your customers’ preferences, habits and behaviours needs to be a top priority for every company.

However, a one-dimensional view of customer intelligence and an unfocused approach to data management are holding businesses back. Many brands describe themselves as customer-first, but few have the capabilities to back it up.

Our research has shown that a majority of companies (84 per cent) are still driven by internal product and sales objectives, and target broad segments instead of individual customers. A great shift, technological and cultural, needs to take place if today’s businesses are to survive.

The shadow rises

Data is the new currency, and analytics the tool that converts it into actionable insight. The use of analytics to make sense of huge quantities of customer data is the main way that brands get to know their consumers. Yet is it enough?

There is a gap in customer intelligence strategies, and large variation in analytical capabilities, between companies. Many rely on historical data pulled from online interactions, but leave offline data mostly untouched.

Through a process called descriptive analytics, our research has shown that 63 per cent of businesses base their understanding on past customer actions to inform their future engagement strategies. However, while this gives a clear picture of customer interests in the past, it tells them little about what they will want in the future.

Very few can collect relevant customer information in a timely manner or apply analytics to it in real time. The result is an inaccurate or blurred understanding of customers. Brands think they are communicating with an individual when they are really only dealing with their digital shadows.

Without a complete, up-to-date customer profile combining online and offline data, businesses can’t achieve personalisation, reach the best decisions or make the most relevant offers.

Know your customer, know the future

To maintain relevance in the digital economy, organisations must be able to calculate new offers in real time, based on customer insight and context. To do this, they need to make the most of both online and offline data.

Customers are not bound to one channel when they navigate the digital landscape, meaning the journey can be hard to trace. In isolation, an online purchase tells you little about a customer.

Online action should be paired with offline insight – such as demographic information and call centre conversations – to get a better understanding of who customers are and what motivates their purchase decisions.

Integrating online and offline data requires sound data management and good data quality. Many businesses need to ensure data is centralised and can be easily transferred across the organisation. Data cleansing techniques will help to weed out unusable data, leaving only information that is relevant and actionable.

Appreciation for offline data is growing. In the next two years, two-thirds of organisations will make it available for improving the customer experience.

Armed with a wider range of better-quality data, companies can use predictive analytics to achieve true personalisation. Predictive analytics enables them to predict a customer’s future wants with a high degree of accuracy. With unrivalled speed, it identifies those customers most likely to respond to an offer, purchase or churn.

Most companies today are still chasing digital shadows. To truly understand customers and achieve intelligent personalisation, businesses must integrate online and offline data and leverage powerful predictive analytics. At present, less than 10 per cent of marketers do this. The customer waits for no one, so it’s up to brands to stay fast and stay relevant.

Businesses must integrate online and offline data and leverage powerful predictive #analytics to truly understand customers and achieve intelligent personalisation. #CustomerIntelligence Click To Tweet

Find out more about the research findings referred to above in our Darkness of Digital Shadows report.

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About Author

Tiffany Carpenter

Head of Customer Intelligence, SAS UK & Ireland

Tiffany has been helping organisations achieve bottom line results from their customer and marketing strategies for over 20 years. She specialises in helping companies gain deeper insight into their customers’ buying habits, preferences and lifestyles, social relationships and influences on purchase behaviour and loyalty - and using this insight to make smarter, data-driven decisions. Every customer journey is unique and every touch point is an opportunity to nurture customer relationships and deepen customer intimacy. Tiffany helps organisations get in sync with each customer's journey – no matter how fragmented for a clear competitive advantage and a bigger, better ROI.

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