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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Digital Customers : The Success Of Relevance

In this consumer era, the power of the consumer is such that they tend to make no practical between the digital and the real, the online and the offline. The current age is characterized by the fact that digital is simply part of our daily lives, from working and shopping to sleeping and eating—even finding a partner. This has led to the situation where the boundaries between channels are virtually non-existent but customers need unique experiences.. The expectation is for the brands and the entities to provide exceptional experiences. Any evolving idea/concept/framework soon becomes outdated with the galloping customer expectations and the innumerable choices that parade before them. This means, on a standalone basis, the device, platform or location don’t so much count as the defining edge that would persuade a customer to buy a product/service. The overall experience counts more powered by engaging content and the superior value offered by service/product.

To provide such an edge in every transaction with the customer it becomes important to satisfy customer demands and expectations, technology, process and business alignment across service and marketing becomes highly critical. It’s now part of the established folklore - technology can get companies only that far, cross functional processes aligned to business performance leveraging state of the art technology implemented in a disciplined manner are essentially needed to provide an enriching customer experience. In this digital age, for an enterprise, the ability to connect real time business and social interactions across business units - say social media monitoring cell (part of marketing) tracing a customer remark on a service and business response to such remarks enables enterprises to provide the digital experience in real time delivered in a personalized way in a channel of customer’s choice. From the role of anchoring promotion, marketing today walks almost the entire path in a customer’s journey and they can be effective only if they are real time integrated with the business units, to provide the customer right set of responses.

The reality is that customer interaction is a treasured moment for every enterprise. Every interaction could have a varied purpose ranging from selling to needing a service or a potential cancellation. The interaction may or may not be attributed to company’s campaigns or promotions Being aware and in a state of readiness to interact with customers –known or new with a variety of expectations is fast becoming a basic expectation that every modern enterprise need to have. If done well, by empowering frontline employees, there is an enormous opportunity to maximize the value of each interaction Empirical evidence suggest that if executed properly, optimizing customer interactions can effectively sell 20x more offers – leading to anywhere from a 30% to 100% increase in conversions.

With all the technology options and opportunities that business has today, where do we start and what do we focus on is a standard question that would come to one’s mind. The hard fact is that , it is in this moment that your strategy will earn its success. Without proportionate investments with customer behavior in the moments of truth and aligning everything with business outcomes, thestrategy may come as a cropper. Let’s now look some of the critical blocks that need to be set in place for enterprises to get to this level of maturity and sophistication. The customer data is very important for any enterprise. The data sources can be varied – CRM, Self Service Application, Marketing Automation etc. These data have untapped value and are highly relevant in finding value over the customer’s lifetime. The data gets a life of its own with contextual integration done in real time or near real time. The marketing folks would be well focused to create strategic insights out of these data. The hard reality is that these customer data sets are going to explode in volume, variety and the speed at which these get captured. As business grows, your company succeeds, business needs to manage more data – calling for new capabilities to process these data in real time/near real time and find patterns. Reliability of the data, speed of processing matters in making the outcomes more relevant to business needs.

Customer data should be made available to all inside the enterprise dealing with them. Not just in raw form – but the processed data sets – segmented and amenable for targeting and other actions, in easily accessible ways. Such data ought to provide direct , measurable and meaningful l insights into customers and provide an easy path to defining and delivering a relevant set of products/information/services to them. If enterprises were to leverage this effectively, the net result would be a very significant mechanism in action that can provide enhanced meaning and value in every possible interaction with the customer. In many places this can be automated data that acts programmatically or with some moderated manual overrides, where necessary. The outcomes of such initiatives are highly alluring – it’s seen that, successful data-driven marketers realize a 40% competitive advantage over the customer.Again the cardinal principles kick in here – the data sources and data set are only relevant based on the efficacy of integration and processing of the raw data available with the business. Remember Garbage In, Garbage out – except that the outcome can substantially vary based on the means emp0loyed to integrate and process the basic data. The cost of inefficiency and cost of quality here could be very high – essentially taking off substantial money out of the table that could have come from possible business revenue. . Any business generating initiative starting from segmentation to targeting to running campaigns are like recipes in real world – all portions need to come together in sequence with appropriate levels of gradations to get the perfect accolade from the consumers. Needless to say, mismatched and uncoordinated recipe mix or inefficient cooking process could lead to a catastrophe – the analogy holds good for the business marketing world as well.

Next, the role of analytics, a pillar in the marketing and customer world. First off, analytics provides the global view of the status if various campaigns and the net results driven thereof. The best part of analytics is the ability to zoom in and zoom out – look from the prism of micro and macro at the same time. In real life, the customer data can be made available to business in various forms – micro data or macro data. The beauty of analytics kicks in with its variety in being able to process/handle individual interactions and entire set of campaigns as the need may be. With deeper insights pertaining to specific customers, the business team/ system can bring forth more efficiency in dealing with them. An early judgment of the customer needs and expected outcomes makes the process lot more efficient and result oriented. The superior insight that analytics can drive towards specific customer needs can provide awesome experience to customers and deliver disproportionate results to business. Once data transforms to actionable insights, the results can be of very high value to the business.

Data driven companies find that their advantage lay across the marketing spectrum from customer loyalty to retention to gaining customers and increasing revenues and enhanced profitability. This is a hard won state – how to get to that state and be competitive? Being data driven inherently means the value comes from integrating the basic data coming from various streams within the organization and finding a relevant meaning in their combine. The insight gathered out of such a process would be able to provide actionable insights, helping the frontline staff and the system to provide meaning to every interaction. Remember Burberry started their journey with the stated mission of being able to be totally connected with everyone who touches the brand, a strategy that got them very handsome returns. Many times business teams are confronted with massive set of data with very high potential value associated with them. This is going to increase across the board and business need to gear up to handling such vast amounts of data. Would there be more value or would be it be like finding a needle in the haystack, The verdict is coming out from various sources. Analyst firms believe that a larger proportion of such data in the digital universe would carry substantial value for business. The means employed to harness such data would also having a bearing in the expected outcomes of such initiatives.

What can not be overemphasized is the fact that every interaction matters. Every time a customer visits your digital or physical property, there is a footprint left –these carry great value. The more footprints that enterprises are able to collect and bring them together for analysis and real time action, the customer experience is going to be that much better. The opportunity to cross sell, up sell increases manifold and additional interactions out of such efforts, provide disproportionate returns . The good marketer recognized such efforts and the executives need to recognize the upside here. The savvy marketer powers customer interactions with analytics, empowering representatives to maximize the value of that interaction and delight your customers. This journey needs to be repeated across channels to get great returns, over the lifetime of the customer. As they say, digital is a battle of relevance versus irrelevance and then it’s a game of the survival of the fittest.

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