Opinion: Understanding the Important Role of Data in Personalizing Marketing Experiences

The following is a guest contributed post from Kym Reynolds, a senior marketing advisor for SmartFocus. 

Your customers are engaging with your business across an increasing number of touchpoints – websites, social media, in-store, mobile and tablets. But regardless of how they engage, they expect a customized, personalized, and consistent experience.

This expectation continues to be a challenge for businesses, which have to manipulate enormous amounts of data to try to understand how to effectively engage each individual. In this landscape, data needs to be collected and analyzed in real-time, and any data needs to be instantly actionable, preferably in a predictive way.

Without these capabilities, marketing messages are less compelling and response rates fall. Conversely, those brands that embrace real-time contextualization through powerful and flexible big data see huge uplifts in campaign responses.

Marketers are now recognizing the imperative of these omni-channel, contextualized communications with their prospects and customers. The more personalized the experience, the happier the customer. And a happy customer isn’t just a customer who wishes to purchase more, it’s a customer that is retained, upsold and – perhaps most importantly – the customer who becomes an advocate for your brand.

Even so, how many times have you heard your peers and colleagues complain that they don’t have proper analytics capabilities, which means that they are limited in ROI view, optimization and progressing the digital experience?

Or that connecting all the activity and data across multiple channels and departments, and unifying them for monitoring measurement, evaluation and future marketing activity is challenging? And how about that disparate systems and data make it hard or impossible to personalize campaigns and gather, test and analyze customer data?

In my mind those are pretty flimsy excuses. There are powerful customer and marketing analytics tools out there, and many will enable marketers to understand their customer’s behavior not just by answering questions, but by asking ‘what can I do with this information?’

How well do you know your customers?

  • Do you know how many people visited your stores, purchased, or left without buying?
  • Do you know how long it takes for a customer to make a return purchase, and then another?
  • Do you know when a customer becomes inactive or lapsed?
  • Do you know what your most loyal customers look like and how to find more of them?
  • Do you know how to apply what you learn about your customers – what when where – and turn that into personalized conversations?
  • Do you know how to monitor changes in consumer behavior and act on this quickly?
  • Do you know how to use affinity reports to not only determine ‘the knowns’, ie. people who buy this also buy that, but also ‘the unknowns’ – affinities which don’t conform to a set behavior, but proffer new marketing opportunities, through those affinities, brand, product or otherwise?
  • Do you know how to shadow customers to determine when the right time is to contact them – learning their propensity to buy?
  • Do you know how to track trending behaviors, such as identifying ‘repeat refunders’ or repeat returners – for example customers that buy three items online and return two in-store?

Marketers need to be able to act on data, not just pore over numbers in spreadsheets – there is a difference between a data question and a data driven insight targeted call to action.

In my mind marketers need guidance about what is relevant, what their customer indicators, what are churn indicators and how to action all of this in an automated fashion. Basic reporting, such as how many customers shopped online, how many abandoned a sale etc arguably add to the volume of data out there, but it just adds to the information that marketers struggle with.

As a marketer, you should ask yourself the question – if for example you knew that 40% of customers who shopped in the last 3 months were new to your brand, and out of those, 10% have bought again and most within 2 weeks of their initial purchase – would that be a valuable insight?

And if you could then use a tool that identifies all those new customers who have not repurchased by 2 weeks and automatically re-engage with them leveraging relevant content using your marketing cloud software, would that be beneficial to your business?

If the answer is yes, you need to consider using the technology that is out there, to help move you towards the ultimate goal of providing only relevant and timely content and marketing messages to each of your prospects and customers. Remember that building your marketing strategy on a solid customer data foundation will pay dividends for years to come.