How big data can build better customer relationships

“Big Data” is a phrase that strikes fear into the heart of any business owner. Like navigating a boat through a storm, the incoming tidal wave of customer data can overwhelm company bosses. They may feel like their ‘small, leaky boat’ of a business will capsize in the endless sea of customer insight data, allowing their competition to go on ‘full steam ahead’ and conquer new markets before them.

It can be all too tempting for business owners to ‘stay on dry land’ and ignore the call of the sea of big data entirely. But take note, as the tides of demand take hold of customers who are increasingly becoming more expectant of personalization, and as the sheer volume of data increases exponentially, business owners who ignore the signals will find themselves in a rapidly shrinking marketplace.

In beginning to utilize big data within a small to medium-sized business, company bosses should grab a ‘life jacket’ and start thinking of ways they can build better relationships with their existing customers. Here are some points to consider for company bosses who are ready to ‘test the waters’ of utilizing big data.

Business intelligence & customer experience

Where previously a company may have used customer focus groups and surveys to gather all their market data, the resulting insights amounted to little more than ‘anecdotal evidence’ that could prove to be contradictory to what the majority of customers really wanted from a product. Nowadays, brands need to rely on hard consumer data like engagement metrics and predictive analytics that are constantly being fed back in an infinite loop of data.

By utilizing big data for business intelligence and customer insights, an element of ‘dangerous guesswork’ is eliminated. Instead of hunches, benchmarked metrics help corroborate findings and guide marketing decision-making and idea formulation. Landing pages, launch ideas, social media campaigns — all these can be sent out en-masse, with the incoming data analyzed for effectiveness and ROI. At the same time, real-time data also compels businesses to be able to change their minds and pull back from campaigns quickly if initial feedback is negative.

From a customer experience point of view, data is all about joining up the dots between a business’s disparate channels and services. With evidence-based segmentation and reporting in place, adjustments further down the line can justified and implemented easily, providing a more fluid and user-driven customer experience.

Personalization

In getting to grips with big data, the next ‘port of call’ would be personalization. On the face of it, providing a tailored customer experience can seem like a daunting prospect. However, for those looking to ‘dip their toes’ into the big data waves of personalization, focusing on these main areas can help companies find their footing:

  • Determine the levels of demand by zeroing-in on the most profitable audience demographics
  • Examine data from abandoned carts, customer lifetime values and other insights which could highlight signals of customers leaving before making a purchase from your site
  • Provide and test models that present a smoother transaction flow
  • Look at other customer acquisition channels, find out where your customers are coming from, and build on their preferences for content and interaction platforms

Amazon has made full use of personalization to drive more than 35% of its customers to make purchases through their clever recommendations algorithm. And since its introduction, similar models have become increasingly straightforward to implement within any online store, no matter how small your audience or product range may be.

Personalization should always aim to help, serve, and engage customers — you need to find balance in order not to come across as too pushy or forward.

Big Data & Brand Narratives Geo-targeting and use of RFID Tags (short radio frequency identification) can help brands create compelling customer narratives that draw customers into highly immersive marketing experiences.

As an example, Burberry introduced RFID tags to provide product details and aspirational imagery to customers trying on clothes in their fitting rooms. Through the use of tags, customers could view product details and videos of clothing as they appeared on Burberry’s catwalks, directly from the changing room mirrors.

This technique served to increase their customer’s average purchase value (through recommendations of complementary clothing styles), as well as build on customer brand loyalty.

Think about how emerging technology could help your brand tell better digital stories. Visual content and immersive experiences are fast becoming marketing mainstays, and won’t just be the privilege of mega-brands as tech like VR becomes increasingly affordable.

Tech & data governance

Technology and data governance will be crucial for maintaining ‘ship-shape’ status to make the best use of big data in business. Cloud computing, as well as online big data analytics tools, can ensure that not only your customers reap the benefits of big data, but employees do too.

The cost of automating aspects of the supply chain has been brought down dramatically in recent years thanks to low-cost POS technologies, allowing staff to supply a better level of customer service to enhance the retailer/customer relationship. Through the use of online ecommerce subscription services, it has never been easier create an online store from scratch and ensure that all staff has access to maintaining online stock levels from mobile their devices, as well as providing customers will personalized recommendations in-store.

Alternatively, chatbots rely on big data to help guide consumers in making purchases through automated responses. Mall of America introduced an A.I Chat Bot known as E.L.F to help shoppers create experiential wish list recommendations to help them make the most of their trip to the mall over the festive season. Over time, chatbots can collect customer responses and analyze them, providing actionable insights to help improve customer service.

As an important side note, establishing the protocol for how customer data will be used by your company will also be crucial in successfully building trust and brand loyalty amongst customers.

Take a look at this previous post for more on creating a data ethics strategy.

In conclusion, businesses of all sizes can access and utilize powerful data insights tools to drive more sales and build better relationships with their existing customers. For businesses approaching big data for the first time, overcoming ‘analysis paralysis’ can be achieved relatively easily and most importantly, cost-effectively, as the number of ‘ports’ in the ‘big data storm’ steadily increases.

This article was written by Victoria Greene from Information Management and was licensed by Bloomberg.

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