As someone whose career has focused on loyalty marketing, it’s interesting to note the 30-year anniversary of AAdvantage, the landmark loyalty program American Airlines launched in 1981. A fixture at virtually any grocery store or hotel property now, it’s easy to forget that establishing a loyalty program was virgin territory back in the early 80s.
It could be argued that much of the innovation associated with loyalty schemes hasn’t come from insights about those customers, but rather from more efficiently understanding the channels through which marketers reach their customers.
One illustration of this comes from email marketing, which, of course, got its kick start when businesses like CompuServe and AOL made phrases like “email,” “chat rooms” and “you’ve got mail” mainstream. Companies had to then deal with the new problems of managing white lists, dynamically rendering emails, automating delivery, opt-outs and the countless other logistics that exist to get offers into the hands of consumers.
On email’s heels came the online channel, with the dot-com boom/bust of the late 90s. This brought us new entities like Amazon and eBay that forever changed the landscape of how consumers consider and purchase products. As share of revenue became more and more significant online, more innovations were born and created to understand where customers were coming from, which pages attracted the most attention and the number of clicks any given online ad generated.
Now you can’t attend a marketing conference and not hear the word “social.” Sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Flickr didn’t exist a few years ago. They’re now consuming marketers who struggle to better listen, understand and react to customer sentiment.
Today’s marketers have an abundance of mediums through which to engage consumers. Coupled with each of those channels is an abundance of technologies that can help deliver and measure the impact of communications within each medium. That’s the root of a number of problems facing marketers today, including the following:
- The systems managing online, social and mobile insights are separated from customer intelligence infrastructures, making it impossible to leverage behavioral history when customers are considering a product in any given channel.
- The marketing silos that place demand for skilled staffing to consolidate and merge data sources, rather than leveraging insights to better optimize marketing campaigns.
- The skills required to capture and transform data collected from the mobile, social and Web channels isn’t inherent in most organizations, thus it’s outsourced, effectively relinquishing control of customer insights in exchange for simplified, channel-specific reporting.
- The disconnect between social media analytics, measurement and alignment in relationship to strategies governing the rest of your business.
These challenges are causing issues in maintaining a positive and consistent customer experience. Companies that excel in responding to Twitter do so without understanding the value of the consumers with whom they interact. Companies that have a profound understanding of in-store customer purchase behavior have no idea what those same customers viewed on their websites an hour before arriving in-store. Companies that are proficient in email marketing aren’t leveraging customer insights to better craft compelling messages.
As you begin to think about what’s needed to align your marketing efforts around maximizing the customer experience, consider these four tips:
- Create a single view of the customer. Every time you touch a consumer — online, in-store, email — and every response, click and comment should be seamlessly integrated.
- Develop customer insights to drive decision making. Leverage analytics to uncover the customers most likely to defect, predict those most likely to engage in new products or services, and identify the most profitable customers.
- Provide transparent results. Marketers should be the stewards, not the wardens, of customer data across the rest of your business.
- Efficiently manage competing priorities. Embrace optimization as a set of levers you can pull to get the best possible return on campaigns while better managing competing channel priorities, budgets and contact policies.
Until marketers start to take steps such as these, they’ll continue to miss the boat on understanding and anticipating customers’ needs, failing to realize the full potential of harnessing a deeper customer understanding to drive sales.