Making the digital world personal

Featured in Digital Marketing Magazine.

The online environment has transformed the way we engage with businesses, and made us far more demanding. For consumers today it is not just about what they want, but about when, where and how they want it. For any business looking to engage with consumers, the challenge is daunting. However, if we take a step back into a world before E-commerce was born, we might find that it’s not what has changed that might strike us but what has not.

It is true that before the rise of the digital environment, people had a very different shopping experience. We purchased the majority of our goods from local businesses who knew what we wanted, when we wanted it and how frequently we shopped. They knew that our buying behavior was influenced by a number of different factors enabling shopkeepers to anticipate what regular customers might need at any given time, enhancing their experience and increasing customer loyalty.

By focusing on the things that haven’t changed – namely the need for personalisation – brands today can still compete on experience. If, for example, I have recently bought an item that is very much an occasional purchase, like a camera lens, I don’t want to receive email promotions every month from Amazon about camera lenses. I may however be interested in related products and information – for example books on photography.

It’s not news to most marketers that customers want to receive relevant content – content that engages them and matches their interests and buying behaviour. They also expect a consistent experience across all channels and increasingly, in addition to relevance and consistency, consumers also expect proactivity.

Increasingly consumers are finding there are big benefits to letting brands get to know them. Instead of going out and searching for information, effective use of personal data means companies can create and deliver personalised marketing campaigns that offer up relevant products and content at the right time. This is when the power of data and the insight that it can deliver really comes into its own.

Harnessing technology

While marketers understand the value of data analytics and CRM systems they may not be fully aware of what is technically possible. Analytics tools are evolving constantly and in this fast moving field it is hard to keep up. Likewise, IT will understand what the tools are capable of, however they may struggle to see things from a ‘value to the business’ perspective. It is therefore essential that if you want to extract real value from your data and deliver a truly excellent customer experience, the two must work in harmony.

One of the biggest changes we have seen in recent years is the breaking down of the boundaries between data that customers are happy to share and the data that organisations hold about their customers. This has created a new world of information management, where the consumer is in control of their data and whom they share that with. Businesses have to bring together their data with the information that consumers are sharing about themselves, across a multitude of different channels.

Now companies have far more data than ever before, on far more channels and in many more forms. This has led to a plethora of Cloud services companies springing up offering a wide range of solutions to help organisations get on top of, and make sense of, the information it now has available. Each company will have a different approach – some building on existing tech and others starting from scratch, some proprietary and some open source. For most organisations in an ideal world, they could bring together the best bits from this market into a tailored solution that solves their particular problem.

To stand any chance of delivering this, IT departments need an independent partner, one not wedded to any particular technology, that has the business knowledge to weigh up all the options and the technical expertise to knit the best technology together to deliver the right solution.

Such a solution needs to consider in the following areas:

Identity and insight

Initial customer engagement must be flawless: no friction in check out process, easy registration and understanding multiple identities. The first step in the process is getting that basic knowledge about each individual customer based on bringing together all the available data.

Engaging through integration

Information is spread across multiple applications and is often spread out across different parts of the business. Simply having this data is not enough. The most valuable insight into customers comes when this data is visible in one place so you can begin to understand the relationships that exist between different sets. To maximise the value of customer data, businesses need to integrate their systems. This builds on the basic customer knowledge to get a deeper understanding.

Targeting and improved experience

This integration informs decision-making and allows you to target more effectively. It makes your marketing activity more focused and increases revenue from existing customers; which products to suggest they buy, what articles they might find interesting. This equates to a superior customer experience and elevates your brand to another level.

To achieve maximum return on investment, digital businesses should look to vendor agnostic experts who can help design a tailored digital strategy based on a broad understanding of data and the cloud services market. Taking a more strategic approach will help businesses deliver the personalised and consistent online experience that today’s consumer demands.

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