Tech & Gadgets

Use Big Data Analytics to Stop Selling to the Herd

Your customer is changing. Empowered by technology, consumers communicate, seek out information, shop –and even relax –differently than they did just a decade ago. How is your team adapting?

Image courtesy of Venture Beat

As I talk to marketers from around the world, I hear a wide range of answers to that question. The traditional role of marketing is being challenged on virtually all fronts, and yet some firms continue to drag their feet, unwilling to explore new avenues for customer engagement. Other marketers are taking a measured approach, testing new channels and platforms to determine which are the most effective. A few are racing ahead with the bold moves that couple high risk with potentially high reward.

At issue, of course, is that no one has the crystal ball that can forecast with certainty where the age of the “empowered consumer” is leading us. Sure, marketers understand the customer is now in control more than ever before. And yes, we realize our customers now generate a constant torrent of data, rushing in from websites, social platforms and mobile devices. But, how can we turn that flood of digital input into insights? How will those insights, in turn, impact our customer interactions? In the future, how will a positive customer experience be defined?

Those are all thought-provoking questions, and at this point, only one thing is certain: Marketing can no longer be grounded on selling to large, mostly amorphous demographic groups. Or, as author Doc Searls says in his recent article in The Wall Street Journal:

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“Businesses today tend to herd customers as if they were cattle, but a revolution in personal empowerment is under way-and buying will never be the same again.”

In the article, Searls fast-forwards to the year 2022 and envisions a new age of consumerism dominated by vendor relationship management (VRM). It’s a future where consumers are valued as individuals who are simultaneously independent of controlling organizations (sellers and third party agents on the supply side) and better able to engage with them. He writes:

“In the not-too-distant future, you will be able, for example, to change your contact information with many vendors at once, rather than many times, over and over, at many different websites. You will declare your own policies, preferences and terms of engagement—and do it in ways that can be automated both for you and the companies you engage. You will no longer have to “accept” agreements that aren’t worth reading because, as we all know, they cover the other party’s butt but expose yours.

In addition to your personal tool kit, you’ll have software that can knit together your apps with the services offered by companies, saving work for you and creating business for them—all in real time.”

What part will big data analytics play in this future?

Searls seems to predict a diminishing role, as Do Not Track and ad-blocking features gain popularity. But, I disagree. Going forward, our dependence on analytics will grow as we work to better understand the expanding –and increasingly interrelated –global digital ecosystem.

Without question, the relationship between (empowered) buyer and (nosy) seller is evolving dramatically (and rapidly). But, in the future, I see revenue growth depending more –not less –on meeting the needs of our customers with relevant interactions, strategic data-driven engagement that benefits both consumers and the organizations that serve them.

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