The Knowledge Exchange / Customer Intelligence / Will your customers choose you or lose you?

Will your customers choose you or lose you?

It’s no secret that traditional forms of marketing like direct mail, print and broadcast are becoming less effective. They remind me of an outdated classroom with an old blackboard and broken pieces of chalk lying about. Sure, you can still draw on the board and get your message across to the class, but is it the best way?

Now picture a modern classroom equipped with the latest technology, like SMART Boards and high-end laptops. If you were a teacher and you had the option of choosing between the two, wouldn’t you select the digitally advanced learning environment for your students? Likewise, today’s marketers need to evolve their campaigns to stay relevant and engage their customers like a teacher engages her students.

“Consumers are demanding faster, better interactions from the brands they choose to engage with, and that’s changing the way businesses need to think about their marketing and technology strategies,” said Lori Bieda, Executive Lead of Customer Intelligence at SAS. “Today’s consumers have unparalleled choice, with the power of mobility in the palm of their hands,” she elaborated, during the marketing panel discussion at the SAS Global Forum Executive Conference.

Armed with their mobile phones and tablets, consumers have access to more information about price and products than ever before, which they can use to make savvy buying decisions. With a plethora of information at their fingertips, they now have an expectation in today’s always-on world that they can get anything, anytime, anywhere.

To test this claim, I pulled out my iPhone, went online and found a cute pair of sandals. I did a quick price comparison between retailers, scanned through some customer reviews and picked the company that had the best offer for me. In seconds the sandals were mine. (Or they will be tomorrow: free overnight shipping for preferred customers – score!) It appears that Bieda was right … much to the dismay of my husband, who can expect a visit from the UPS man with the latest addition to my shoe collection.

Jim Davis, SAS

When it comes to marketing, “we’ve got to look at how we can do things differently, how we can monetize and use new data sources,” said Jim Davis, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Office at SAS. “It’s not just about being good enough, it’s about being much better than your competition and making sure that the experience you provide your customer exceeds that of your competition.”

Today, 46 percent of people around the world use social media to make purchase decisions. That’s a staggering number, and it’s only expected to rise. As the social network shapes consumers’ beliefs around brand perception, it’s also shaping their buying preferences. The result – it’s increasingly hard for traditional marketing to work. So what’s a marketer to do? Use social media to your advantage.

Social media is opening new avenues for marketers to learn about how their companies, products and services are perceived. “Social media represents the new focus group,” continued Davis. “You no longer need to pay a group of people to come in and tell you what they think about a new concept. Instead, you can just tap into social media and find out things in real time.”

Bieda explained that the key to marketing is about being relevant down to the second. Marketers around the globe are using analytics to reach the “moment of truth,” when customers receive their offers. “Creating a superior client experience starts with innovative marketing management,” she said. “Take connections a step farther in the social network.” For example, marketers can use analytics to understand contagious churn, influencers and detractors of the brand.

One powerful tool for a marketer’s arsenal is SAS Customer Link Analytics, which equips marketers with the know-how to create more cost-effective campaigns to reduce customer attrition and improve cross-sell and up-sell rates. With this solution, marketers can recognize social communities based on relationships between customers, and measure and segment them on social influence. Ultimately, customers get more personalized offers they’ll actually care about.

John Strain, CIO of Williams-Sonoma, explained that the key to his company’s marketing strategy for their brands (Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn and West Elm)  is finding ways to make all the various channels – stores, mail order and e-commerce – work together. As he put it, “Brands are the intersection of lifestyle merchandizing and analytics.”

“We have point of view embedded in everything we do,” Strain continued. “When you take a look at our catalog and the inspirational images, all of those really define who we are and what we do. It reflects our point of view around lifestyle merchandising. And those images really become a huge competitive advantage.”

And Williams-Sonoma doesn’t stop there. Images of its products in idyllic settings aren’t just used in the context of stores, catalogs and websites. They’re also playing a key role in social networking channels, like YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook.

“The more channels we see, the more we like, because it’s a way for us to be different from a competitor,” explained Strain. “We can take that customer insight and market to them in an integrated way, so when you bring this all together, it enables us to provide a personalized experience via different channels that is very much cohesive.”

Marketers have the power to shape the lifestyle aspect of a brand and create a greater experience for the customer. After all, today’s customer expects the best. And if you don’t give it to them, they’ll find it somewhere else.

Learn more about the new SAS Customer Intelligence. 

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