Marketing and business executives gathered at the SAS Marketing Trends Summit in Parktown, Johannesburg, last week to hear top local and international marketing experts discuss approaches to attracting and retaining the new ‘empowered’ consumer of today.
This has become increasingly difficult amid a rising number of customer touch-points, a wide array of media channels, and pressure from the CEO to show proven return on investment.
Online behavioural information
Fortunately, the same technology empowering consumers today also has the potential to empower marketers. “One of the benefits of a growing online consumer base is the online footprints and fingerprints they leave behind”, says Retha Keyser, global specialist in R&D at the SAS Institute. “These allow companies to gather data and make more relevant and complete offers to existing and potential customers.
“Demographic information, once thought to be so vital to marketing strategies, is now looked at as being superficial and not very useful at all because marketers now have access to something far more telling: behavioural information. After all, two people living on the same street, earning the same amount of money, can be poles apart when it comes to their attitude to spending money,” Keyser says.
With the right tools, marketers can, for example, tell which online products a potential customer has been exploring on their site, how long they spent on the site and what specific product features they are particularly interested in. This gives them insight into how they can personalise an offer, as well as other useful information like what complementary products the consumer might need in the near future.
Online behavioural information should be combined with other customer information and continually added to overtime so as to create a more complete customer profile.
Employee empowerment key to personalisation
Once a single view of each customer has been built, it should be shared across the organisation – from marketing, to customer service, to sales. Access to this information at every touch-point empowers employees to provide a more personalised and seamless customer experience.
“It’s so easy to get frustrated with the customer service staff at a bank who can’t help you with other banking queries, or don’t know what your complete portfolio looks like. Most of the time, they simply don’t have access to the right information to make real-time decisions about what they can do for you,” says Keyser.
The role of analytics
Collecting relevant customer data is one thing, but without analytics, that information can’t be turned into intelligence to help companies make personalised offers in real-time to consumers. Predictive analytics takes information collected about a customer over time, pulls out patterns, and aligns an individual’s profile against business goals and real-time contextual information.
Authenticity and collaboration
One point that was agreed on by all of the speakers and panelists was that companies need to realise that the marketing department can no longer just ‘do’ marketing on its own.
First of all, businesses need to back up their marketing strategies with the necessary level of authenticity to deliver on promises across the organisation and at every customer touch-point. “You can’t treat a customer one way on Twitter and then completely differently when they walk into the store,” says Mandie Herzfeld, senior solutions manager of integrated marketing management at SAS.
And secondly, companies can’t deliver a seamless customer experience alone- they need to collaborate with specialist third parties on a sustained basis.
Gordon Cook, co-founder and school navigator for Vega School of brand leadership, noted that this would entail disclosing sensitive customer information, and that “to minimise the risk of the collaborative model, companies need to relook at service level agreements and staff contracts”.
Marketers must prepare for 2013
According to South Africa’s leading independent technology research and strategy organisation, World Wide Worx, South Africa reached the 10 million internet user mark last month. It is no surprise that because the majority of the country is not yet online, many marketers have not had to worry too much about the challenges a large online consumer base brings.
But, according to Arthur Goldstuck, head of World Wide Worx, this is all about to change. In 2013, he expects several significant developments relating to increased broadband availability and smartphone uptake to turn the current marketing landscape on its head.
In a nutshell, this means that the challenges facing marketers in first world countries are about to become very real to the local marketing industry.