At the speed of marketing

How to make the right marketing decisions in real time

By Lori C. Bieda, SAS

With the prevalence of social media, the explosion of marketing mediums, and the rapid changes in the way people consume information, the world of marketing has become increasingly complex. Marketers are struggling to cobble together an increasingly fragmented view of the customer amidst an environment of dwindling response rates, stricter contact regulations, burgeoning "do not solicit" lists and stiffer competition.

Traditional business models are no longer working. What's needed is a new level of customer intelligence, marketing nimbleness and a more strategic way of managing the client experience. And that requires an integrated marketing ecosystem that supports the fluidity of today's consumer and allows marketers to capitalize on every client interaction in real time or right time.

Whether you're a financial services firm, retail store, telecom provider, insurer, hotel chain, entertainment outlet, health plan or utilities provider, the average customer interacts with your brand dozens – sometimes hundreds – of times per year. From making purchases, browsing online, reviewing statements, calling in, emailing inquiries, Googling products and services, to proclaiming likes and dislikes on Facebook – the consumer's voice is prominent.

What marketers do in the seconds leading up to each customer interaction, and during the live interaction itself, directly shapes the client experience, contains business risk and drives corporate profitability. In order to make the optimal decision and truly maximize the client opportunity, marketers must bring to bear the power of everything they know about a customer – combined with the nimbleness to adjust their course of action based on crucial new intelligence.

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The marketing ecosystem

Today's consumers – with their tablets, iPods® and all things mobile – demand fluidity and speed across all channels and geographies. Their worlds have become borderless and loyalty is now earned by the millisecond. All marketers (whether mass, direct, online or social) need to step out of their predefined channel strategies and reshape their approach based on the shifting patterns of customers and prospects.

But to do so requires a customer information strategy and infrastructure that delivers rich information across touch points. That strategy must also support a dynamic, real-time flow of data across on- and offline channels. This is more than multichannel marketing. It's not about scoring 2 million customer records with a series of product cross-sell models where the highest score wins and the identical offer gets appended to every possible channel. It's not about sending out a static offer based on customer history. It's about initiating and being prepared for a dialogue in real time. It's about integrated, optimal and dynamic decision making with SAS for integrated marketing management.

Integrated because all channels operate in sync with one another – both online and offline. Each has the ability to receive and act on new information while using existing insight. For example, if a customer is on your site viewing line of credit product information when you've just emailed them a credit card offer, you recognize the relevance of that action. So when they call to inquire, your customer service representative is armed with real-time information that helps facilitate an unsecured line of credit application, based on the customer's needs, up-to-date credit profile and value.

Dynamic and optimal because it's possible to act in real time to incoming information – however it's received – and take prompt action. Optimal because a marketer can isolate the best offer across all possible products, services and price points through best-in-class SAS Marketing Optimization. They can use all existing analytical models and business rules, as well as recognize and act on new and emerging patterns in the data. So, as business changes occur, business rules don't need to be rewritten; models don't need to be created or rebuilt. Rather than managing a library of hundreds of propensity models and business rules, marketers can rely on dynamic, analytical intelligence to find emerging patterns in data that they've not yet seen.

In action

What does integrated, optimal and dynamic marketing decision making look like in real life? If you're a retailer, and a customer visits your website to comment on your new line of tween fashions and asks a question about a recent order, you know who the customer is, her social influence, number of followers and purchase history. You reply to her question, address the issue and follow up with an offer commensurate to her value and influence.

If you're a telco and your customers come to your website or visit your kiosk to inquire about their mobile phone rate plans, you can detect the emerging pattern, recognize that a competitor has recently launched a promotion, and quickly counter with a retention offer to stave off impending churn.

Supporting this vision requires a marketing ecosystem that binds together not only what we know about customers (data and analytic insight), but also what we do with what we know – and how fast we act on it. Just as customers flow freely between channels, products, services and competitors, so too should marketers as they create a marketing intelligence infrastructure that can keep up with those customers, know them whenever and wherever they show up – and make the most of every interaction.

Bio: Lori C. Bieda leads the CI Management Team for SAS Americas.

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All marketers, whether mass, direct, online or social, need to step out of their predefined channel strategies and reshape their approach based on the shifting patterns of customers and prospects.

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