As marketers, we love to talk about consumers as if they are another species — unique, complicated, demanding and fickle creatures we spend our days (and budgets) trying to understand, engage and delight.
But, hey, we’re all human. We all shop. We all have experiences with brands — and when we view those experiences through the eyes of customers, we realize they’re not that good. In fact, a just-released report found that 87 percent of marketers believe they deliver engaging consumer experiences — yet 79 percent of these same marketers are disappointed with their own experiences as customers of brands they love.
Now, you could argue that marketers are our profession’s worst critics. But I think there’s a better case to be made for stepping into the shoes of customers, understanding their journeys and knowing what they need now and what they may desire next.
Putting on my consumer shoes — but still wearing my marketing hat — here are three ways marketers can do a better job of leveraging customer data to make more impactful customer experiences.
1. Think “game on” — and off
When I visit a physical store, it’s not because I want to see aisles and aisles of products within a confined space. It’s because I’ve already engaged with a particular brand online and now wish to see an item in person, get help, find a better price or skip the cashier line with the product in hand. And I’m not alone: Brick and mortar still accounts for 86 percent of all U.S. retail sales — more than half of which are digitally influenced.
In other words, bricks and clicks work better together.
This is why dozens of leading digital retailers are opening offline presences, a trend projected to add 850 physical stores over the next five years. It’s also why big-box giants like Target and Walmart continue acquiring online natives and direct-to-consumer startups.
To compete in today’s experience-driven marketplace, brands need to stop pitting bricks against clicks and strategize how physical and digital best co-exist. By integrating and analyzing all of their offline and online customer data, marketers can determine what consumers want, as well as where, when and how to more effectively fulfill their desires.
2. Make consumer trust a must
As a marketer, understanding the value and responsibility of customer data comes with the job. But even if I weren’t in the biz, my consumer self would be taking a closer look at what brands are actually doing with my data, thanks to an endless news cycle of corporate data breaches and hotly debated legislation like the California Privacy Act. A recent survey reveals that 82 percent of U.S. consumers think it’s important that brands be transparent about how data is collected and used, and more than half claim trusting a company is key for them to share data.
If brands can get past the intimidating legalese of data privacy regulation, they’ll realize that being completely transparent about how customer data is collected, stored and used is a great opportunity to build consumer trust and foster long-term loyalty. Letting customers know what they are getting in return for sharing their data builds the trust essential for any good relationship.
Sure, there will be some people who pass on the value exchange. But customers that do choose to share their data become actively engaged with a brand, equipping it with unique insights that power more relevant, personalized engagements and drive high lifetime values.
3. Give data onboarding some love
I bet you didn’t see this one coming. But think about it. Seriously, think about why you use a data onboarder — to upload your offline data to the online environment and match it with digital identifiers — and how well your current solution is doing it. As the recipient of far too many irrelevant digital ads, my marketing self speculates that your current data onboarder’s not doing so well.
To recognize and relate to customers in real time across touchpoints, an onboarding solution must continuously ingest, refresh and persist customer data for in-the-moment insights and activation. This is not possible with first-generation onboarding solutions that still process customer data files via individual batches — a process that takes up to a week! — leaving brands with outdated and incomplete data assets.
Keep your shoes (and hat) on
As marketers, we operate in a marketplace where everyone and everything is connected. But by taking advantage of the myriad of data customers leave behind, we discover what makes them tick and innovate more impactful consumer experiences.
Of course, doing this involves the strategic use of data, technology and marketing tactics, but that’s what our marketing selves were put on this earth to do. Besides, if we don’t evolve with customers, we risk making our brands extinct.
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