Why customer intelligence technology is the new king of online marketing

Jeremy Glass

Jeremy Glass
Jeremy Glass is the managing director of Permission, a digital marketing agency that unlocks the value in customer databases to generate higher sales conversion and repeat purchase. Since 2000, Permission has delivered targeted digital campaigns for some of Australia's leading brands, helping them attain higher levels of customer permission to deliver enduring customer relationships and value.

Customer intelligence technology is a game changer in the history of marketing, not least because of consumers’ inexorable move to online, social and digital. Here, it is much easier to track, understand and match customer needs, wants and – perhaps most important of all – expectations. The technology enables marketers to deliver highly relevant and successful marketing.

It easily and rapidly cross-references large amounts of customer data based on purchase behaviour, spend amount, product preference and many other forms of engagement – digital, call centre, in store, apps etc.

With this information, marketers are creating not just highly-targeted segments, but marketing communication targeted to specific individuals. This enables the right personalised messages and offers to be sent to the customers who are most likely to respond. The results are compelling. Those who use customer intelligence report upwards of 30% increases to their email campaign open rates and up to a 60% increase in conversion rates. The outcomes are profitability, stronger customer relationships and brand loyalty.

Extracting meaning from data

Customer intelligence is an over-arching strategy that places customer needs, preferences and lives at the centre of a brand. One dimension of customer intelligence is it identifies the most effective means of relaying information to customers, be it email, social media, in-store experiences or more. It can do this because the technology harnesses the vast amount of information brands collect on their customers into a form marketers can easily assimilate to arm their campaigns.

Modern marketers cannot rely on data from one channel alone to successfully target customers. For example, a customer may have shifted their shopping behaviour from browsing in store followed by buying on the website, to browsing online and buying in store. The marketer will need access to browsing data from the ecommerce store as well as purchase data from both store and online to recognise and respond to this change.

Other interactions that can be tracked to help understand customers include opening an email and click throughs, sending a tweet or liking a brand on Facebook. Typically, this data exists in disassociated databases accessed only by analysts and developers, thus disconnecting marketers from the raw behavioural data underpinning their brand.

Customer intelligence technology helps brands organise and understand this data and, to paraphrase Seth Godin, transform it into actionable information. This, in turn, feeds the generation of insights shaping marketing campaigns that deliver optimum results.

The role of marketers in the new customer intelligence paradigm

With both the plethora of data they have and, now, the ability to use it in a manner which benefits each individual consumer, marketers need to act as consumer advocates more than ever before. Spam is not just a regulation, it is an (un)ethical and business mindset. Marketers have a choice to make between supplying content customers will find relevant, or blindly firing off hopeful salvos of hit and miss content.

Armed with customer intelligence, marketers are pivotal in delivering and managing a customer-centric brand. One manifestation of this mindset is brands matching customer expectations, not the other way around. Education of customers is part of the journey a brand takes them on, but this is secondary to delivering to a customer what they want and, importantly, in a way they want it. This includes all sales and marketing activity.

The customer must feel brands bring value when they engage with them. Fail in that and the relationship will be severed.

Behaviour is the critical metric

Understanding customers through their behaviour is more powerful than asking questions through an opt-in process or by going down the customer survey path. It is more powerful because it is accurate, current and doesn’t rely on self-perception. It is behaviour pure and simple – the inarguable upshot.

As an example, the online travel group Orbitz tracks which device customers use as one data point in determining relevant offers. Here’s an interesting insight: did you know Mac users reserve a higher and more expensive class of hotel?

Capitalising on data for enhanced personalisation = sales

Customer intelligence technology looks at customers both as a group and as individuals. By comparing behaviour between the two, predictions can be made around what is most suited to the individual and likely to influence behaviour based on how the group has behaved in the past. Based on data, experiences can be adapted in real time, and individually personalised for each customer, using the standard building blocks of content including product recommendations, images, text and layout information.

Personalisation technology enables the dynamic insertion, customisation or suggestion of content in any format that’s relevant to the individual user, based on the user’s behaviour and explicitly given details:

  • Marketers can use proactive and personalised trigger emails to drive sales and guide customers through their purchase decision,
  • mobile apps and sites can be personalised to the individual as they browse, and
  • social network data can be used to profile users in real time to create more relevant social and onsite experiences.

As well as connecting onsite, email, mobile and social data in a consistent multichannel experience, more advanced personalisation systems can also become centralised behaviour databases, linking together data from all business touch points such as in-store systems including loyalty card, POS and digital displays.

Multichannel data helps brands make better decisions to improve all customer experiences, against every touch point and in any format. Increased relevance helps cut through the fragmented and noisy marketing landscape that consumers experience every day.

Marketers beat boffins in taking charge of data

Compiling the sort of data customer intelligence draws on is not new. What is new, however, are the opportunities customer intelligence tools offer when placed in the hands of the smart marketer. This new technology is rapid, scalable and intuitive enough for a non-boffin to quickly be able to test an hypothesis, assess its impact, then either roll out a campaign or take a thoroughly educated approach if instigating a deeper research program.

What was previously beyond the capability of marketers is now well and truly in their hands, the resulting speed assisting in implementing flexible, market-responsive campaigns.

The king is dead – long live the king!

With abundant choice, consumers are more demanding and they expect brands to converse with them in a manner which suits them, not vice versa (ie. customer-centric). If they are not being provided with the right offers, value and relationship they are more likely to switch to another brand. The key to success for marketers is not in the old king, content, it is in the new king, customer intelligence technology – enabling the delivery of sales-stimulating behaviour derived from organised, insight-providing customer data. Long live the new king!

 

Comments

  1. Robin Ooi Robin Ooi says:

    Interesting article Jeremy. I think you would still need content to attract traffic before you even have data to start deploying any sort of customer intelligence technology.

    I would say that customer intelligence technology (CIT) is like the “wingman” to content. Modern marketers will have to incorporate CIT into their marketing mix to fully maximise their budget.

    The more marketers understand about their target audience, the better they can craft the messages to them.

    A great online marketing campaign comprises of good marketing skills + data intelligence. What separates a remarkable marketer than an ordinary marketer is the ability for one to get into the mind of their customers and sell the idea to them emotionally rather than logically with all the benefits & features.

    People buy with emotions & later justify it with logic – every marketers should know that!