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Knowing me, knowing you

Customer intelligence requires humans and machines to work together, writes Hearts & Science’s Dana Sarkis

By Dana Sarkis, head of marketing science and growth strategies at Hearts & Science MENA

The relationship between brands and consumers has reached an inflection point. Advertising is no longer a one-way street, and all brands must quickly adapt to this new reality if they are to survive. The path to purchase used to be simple but this journey is rarely linear today. To cater to increasingly demanding consumers and thrive in a highly competitive environment, brands need to look at every step of their customer experience. It starts with real customer intelligence.

Investing in this customer experience calls for much more than recruiting a “chief customer experience officer”. It is what every company should live and breathe as it affects every single aspect of the business. This includes product development, IT infrastructure, supply chain, marketing, sales and even leadership development. All these units need to work together towards one goal: understanding customer gaps, needs and aspirations. Only then will brands be able to stay relevant in both communication and product in order to create a meaningful, lasting customer experience.

For that, some companies might need to take a step back and assess their development compared with the evolution of technology and rank their maturity on that scale. Do they have the right tech infrastructure to scale their business? Or maybe they need to overhaul their business by embracing digital transformation. Ultimately, any organisation needs to be adaptable. Companies that don’t continuously redefine and revamp themselves – in processes, business models and products – are already falling behind.

VS OR AND?

Embracing digital transformation doesn’t mean automating everything. It doesn’t mean that robots are going to take over all our jobs either. A brand must first digitise the whole customer journey, gathering data and then analysing it. This will help uncover new insights about its customers. Technology plays a structural role in making sure that the connection between the customer and the business is captured from every angle: website interactions, app engagement, in-store experience, call centre, bot messaging and help lines, as well as social chatter. All these need to be monitored, recorded and stored on a cloud-based solution for easier and faster access and manipulation of data sets. Digital adoption in business allows brands to predict customers’ needs, wants and best interests through rich datasets and practical applications.

However, behavioural data does not always show why customers are acting in a certain way. This is where you need a human touch. A strong and diverse analytics team will be able to deploy the relevant type of statistical analysis to connect the dots and make the right inferences from their data. Only then will a brand be able to make the best business decisions. The only way any business can achieve this is by hiring the right talent and using the right technology.

INVESTING IN TECH AND TALENT

The next step is to consider the right tech and tools. Begin with a customer data platform (CDP) and customer relationship management (CRM) system. Businesses need to have fully-integrated CDP and CRM systems that keep track of important data like past purchases or previous service issues, preferential mode of service and customer lifetime value. What makes a CDP different from CRM? CRM solutions typically cannot match customer interactions over different channels. For example, a teenage girl shopping for shoes visits the brand website, clicks a Facebook ad, and then after a few days orders a pair of shoes over the phone. Most CRM systems do not have the machine intelligence to pick up on this customer behaviour and track her purchase journey, which could be crucial information to target that particular audience. This is where a CDP comes in. It tracks customers through their hashed “personally identifiable information” (PII) and uses machine memory to associate them with their particular method of initiating purchases.
A CDP will allow you to precisely extract how teenage girls with a particular demographic shop for shoes, at every customer touchpoint. This helps in creating more personalised, targeted campaigns for a segmented audience.

Having the right talent who are not only knowledgeable about these tech platforms but are also curious and problem-solvers is of utmost importance. They need to understand database management and coding languages as well to properly manage your data. This is critical internally, as well as on the agency side. Every business should insist that their agency partners are investing in tech and talent as well, so that you’re all speaking the same language. It may sound like we’re describing unicorns, but they are out there.

However, it’s not one size fits all. There’s no single solution. It’s not called the Fourth Industrial Revolution for nothing. We’re experiencing deep meaningful changes, the impacts of which are not yet fully identified. Technology is part of the solution but you need the right talent to drive the transformation process.

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