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Actionability At the Speed of the Customer

actionMarketers often struggle with low return on marketing investment (ROMI) due to a lack of operational inefficiency in gathering, interpreting, and applying data-driven insights.

The fundamental issue can be summarized in one word: “Actionability.” Action is the ultimate goal of marketing data. We need to decipher the volumes of customer data, from numerous channels and interactions – and use the data to create engaging customer experiences.  Most urgently, we must do all this data-driven and insightful marketing as fast as customers interact.  Often, the speed of the customer is ahead of the marketing organization.

Actionability is a lot simpler when the data is contained in one technology solution and addresses one channel.  Unfortunately, that is not keeping pace with the modern digital lifestyle. Brands are often unable to tap into all of their rich customer-centric data, as most optimization tools do not yet support sophisticated data exchange mechanisms. Likewise, most ad retargeting solutions leverage limited sets of onsite data to personalize their offsite display ads.

In actual practice, most organizations don’t have staff to monitor and act on data as it streams across digital platforms.  It can be hard to manage and prioritize.  However, large media companies and e-commerce firms are acting on real-time data and offer content personalization at the customer level.  Hospitality marketers have smaller audiences, but base their business on earning loyalty and influence.

  1. Media:  Advertising dollars depend on maximizing audience size, so publishers are motivated to dynamically adjust content and article placements.  Personalized content creates stickiness (there is a great 1999 term coming back to haunt us!)
  2. Retail/eCommerce:    Retailers use customer data – not just merchandise differentiation – to create personalized experiences.  Data from customer engagement across websites, mobile devices, social media, and even call centers is starting to be brought together to create omnichannel customer pro?les.  Macy’s is a great example of a retailer using customer data to create custom experiences across channels.
  3. Hospitality:  Loyalty programs abound in this marketplace, and high value customers have high expectations.  One mis-step at any level – even if it’s at a partner or franchise property – will create a social snafu or caustic complaint.  Understanding the value of different customers and recognizing them across channels is an imperative, so most firms use a combination of technology and human resources to ensure

While actionability at the speed of consumers is still at its infancy, the companies that get this right are doing these things right:

  • Data:  The ability to consolidate and integrate data from multiple sources at the individual level, including historical data,  and to associate that data with a recognizable person, is fundamental to creating the rich customer profiles required for 1:1 marketing.
  • Analytics: Personalization is only as good as the quality and timeliness of the underlying data and the strength of supporting analytics.  Taking action on a set of business rules is a good start, but attribution, predictive behavior or seasonal forecasting are all powerful analytics models that can significantly improve actionability – and ROI.
  • Automation:  Brands need to appear human, and personalize the experience, but they also need to be responsive to thousands or hundred of thousands of iterations and combinations of customer behavior.  Automation must go hand-in-hand with quality data and analytics to ensure it is adding value at each level.
  • Action: Most personalized marketing participation is reactive – we respond to clues that are provided through behavior, persona, scoring or hashtag targeting.  Predictive analytics is creating opportunities for engagement across devices and platforms, and giving marketers confidence to participate in a more active way.

Actionability at the speed of the customer will continue to rely on two imperatives:  CREATIVITY and CREDIBILITY.  For CMOs or marketing directors, this may require reallocating resources to analytics, automation or operations in order to tap the potential, keep up with customers and continue to innovate at the #TopRight corner of the market.

(This post is a summary of part of a presentation I made last week at the DMA Marketing Analytics Conference 2015.)

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