Marketing at the Speed of the Customer: A Radical New Approach to the Customer Journey

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Undoubtedly, today’s interconnectedness has put more power at the fingertips of consumers than ever before. The typical buyer decides where, when, and how to research, comparing prices and financing offers before making a major purchase. More than 80 percent of consumers research online before buying in-store, and they take 79 days on average to complete the buying process [GE Capital Retail Bank’s Second Annual Shopper Study]. In the digital age consumers shop confidently, empowered by knowledge constructed through research.

This increased access to data flowing around customers across multiple channels keeps customers’ buying habits in motion, too. Marketers face a steep challenge in keeping up with the ever-shifting loyalties of their customers, whose buying decisions involve both financial considerations and emotional factors [Gallup Business Journal]. People who interact with a company every day through social media are likely to make twice as many purchases from that company as those who engage only monthly. [Forrester] In order to win both the customers’ hearts and wallets, successful brands need to be ever-present, engaging with their customers to deliver what they want, when they want it, wherever they are.

Traditionally, marketers would use siloed database systems to collect and store customer information and segment the market based on the results of previous campaigns. But with each new buying decision the terminus of a unique customer journey, this approach, in isolation, simply isn’t effective anymore. The successful marketer knows that historical data does not, alone, provide a complete, accurate and current market picture. You do need to understand the past, but you also need to listen in the present and identify immediate opportunities for personalized interactions with your customers through their preferred channels. Timely messages that spark a customer’s interest and offer convenience can influence a customer and solidify the position of a winning brand.

So how do you do it? How do you create highly personalized and contextual customer campaigns across multiple channels and give them the flexibility and agility needed to develop and maintain maximum customer engagement, brand loyalty and increased sales? Here is a trio of tactics you can deploy in concert to build dynamic campaigns that can influence the customer journey.

    1.Tap into clean data and sophisticated database technology:
    Big data is growing bigger, and developing accurate actionable customer profiles has become more challenging than ever before. McKinsey reports that in 2012 alone, four exabytes of data were generated from more than one billion computers and one billion smartphones. And while data sets are exploding, NetProspex’s 2014 study found that 84% of marketing databases have bad or missing data.

    To launch a successful campaign, you need fast, easy and personalized customer segmentation. You have to clean up that dirty data, and you need new collection and analysis approaches that combine structured data (from content management systems, customer relationship management systems, web analytics, point of sale systems, commerce, loyalty systems, etc.) with unstructured data gathered from social posts. Only then will you be able to create the most complete customer profiles that will yield precise market segments.

    2. Listen, react and engage customers in real time:
    All the Internet’s a stage, and customers love a spotlight in which to voice their opinions. If you’re not employing new tools designed to listen across digital, social, and mobile channels, you’re certainly not hearing. And if you’re not hearing, you’re missing crucial opportunities to engage your customers and influence their buying decisions (and you’re leaving the door wide open for your competitors to take the lead). In business-to-consumer purchasing, word of mouth is still the primary factor behind 20 to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions, especially when a consumer is buying a product for the first time or when products are relatively expensive [McKinsey (http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/marketing_sales/a_new_way_to_measure_word-of-mouth_marketing)]. When you’re equipped to listen everywhere, all the time, you can pick up on word-of-mouth recommendations, respond to the context of the conversation, and take immediate, appropriate action (extending timely offers, discounts, etc.) to entice your customers at the precise moment when they are most likely to be receptive to your message.

    3. Visualize a holistic customer journey:
    Enhanced databases and augmented engagement strategies are critical, but utilizing these revamped tools and tactics won’t make a difference without also seeing the buying process in a fundamentally new light. While the customer may jump back and forth across Web, social and mobile channels along the way, the successful marketer needs to see the customer’s path to purchase as a single journey down a multi-lane information superhighway. If you visualize the customer journey as a single continuum, you can anticipate these lane shifts and be ready to reach your customers wherever they are, whenever they’re there. And when you’re prepared to see (and hear!) the journey holistically, the complexity of the multi-channel campaign disappears, allowing you to operate at the speed of your customers.

In order to accelerate your marketing, you need tools that provide the agility and flexibility to design perfectly timed and tailored messages. You need to be able to recall historical data instantly, and inject recent or real-time data into the mix to create real context for each customer touch. If you adapt and evolve, you can pivot your marketing approach to match the speed of the customer and win – and so will your brand.

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