We are living in the ‘Age of the Customer’ which means consumers are now shaping business strategy. Customers expect consistent and immediate high-value in-person and digital experiences and will go elsewhere if this is not provided.
South African born James McCormick, principal analyst at Forrester, a leading research and advisory firm, was in South Africa to advise business and technology leaders on achieving growth.
This growth would be achieved through customer-centric, insights-driven strategies.
According to Forrester, we’re living in ‘The Age of the Customer’ and businesses that develop “customer-obsessed strategy” will lead the way with “customer-obsessed transformation”.
The implication for business is that empowered customers are shaping the business strategy. Customers expect consistent and immediate high-value in-person and digital experiences and will go elsewhere if this is not provided.
“Customer-centric focus means delivering great personalised experiences at relevant times and that depends on understanding the customer through digital intelligence,” says McCormick.
“There needs to be a customer-centric strategy in place; a strategic initiative around understanding the customer that needs to drive all these things – the technologists need to bring the tech, the integrations and the data to present a holistic view of the customer. And then we need the applications, the business intelligence and usability capabilities to allow the marketing people to make use of this technology to make their jobs more effective and deliver on those customer needs,” he says.
The vision for companies is to be able to use all their data about their customer, from all their various channels, and bring it together at the point of interaction to recognise customer needs and deliver on them to improve the customer experience.
McCormick stressed the need for a more strategic, organisational and collaborative approach to achieve a customer-centric operational framework.
Marketing departments are struggling with taking back their access to the customer as customer data sits within the IT/tech department. The challenge presented to business is the need for marketing, e-commerce and product development teams to understand the customer.
“A customer-centric strategy can only be driven by leadership that brings technologists and marketers together. There’s a lot happening around Big Data, usability and AI (Artificial Intelligence) that they need to take advantage of so that they can work together, but it’s got to be driven from the top down,” says McCormick.
“There’s been a channel approach to marketing, whether you’re a loyalty marketer or in acquisition, or whether you’re trying to improve your products, there’s still no holistic customer-centric view,” he says.
McCormick advised business to put customer-profiling systems in place that are able to link the various channels and keep up with the changing needs and profiles of the individual customer.
“At the moment customers are treated like a segment and not as individuals, which in turn also brings up security and privacy issues that need to be addressed,” he says.
McCormick believes that giving up personal data is not a technology problem, it’s a relationship issue. “It’s up to the brand to create a relationship of value exchange, trust and transparency.”
“In order to know the customer, the company needs to understand them, and we need to ask them for information about themselves. In order to get their information we need to provide a fundamental value exchange,” he says.
Customer communication strategy
“Any good customer-communication strategy needs to create a value exchange. If a business wants the customer to give up their information, they’ve got to deliver value in return, as well as delivering trust through the use of security and privacy systems. This all needs to be delivered with transparency, which means not on some detailed form right at the bottom of the page with terms and conditions, but right upfront and easily accessible.“
McCormick stressed the importance of using data to create customer recognition vs. identity, which means recognising the customer, recognising what they want and recognising when to deliver it. Companies need to look at their customers’ digital behaviour. They need to define the types of customers they want to do business with and to recognise them on the various digital platforms where they’re engaging.
Currently the businesses with the biggest digital analytics and intelligence spend are in retail, travel and leisure, pharma and financial services, with the fastest and largest growth coming from the financial services sector.
“The winner in the data race will be those businesses that can use data to have personal, trusting, value-added relationships with the customer,” says McCormick.
Forrester principal analyst James McCormick’s Top 3 recommendations for brands (video here)
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