Analytics for buyer centric commerce

MyCustomer.com

It has been argued by some that “CRM Analytics” represent the most important foundation and component of CRM, that its principal elements, CIM (Interaction) and CEM (Experience) depend on the data created through analytics. No such argument appears to have been made relative to BCC. In fact, there seems to have been little or no discussion of analytics relative to BCC, perhaps because it represents an entirely different model for consumer customer relationships.

CRM analytics involves collecting, analyzing, storing and accessing data about consumers that will help sellers:

  • increase the efficiency of their sales, marketing, and customer service/support functions (CIM)
  • improve their ability to acquire, retain, and “develop” (exploit?) more profitable customers more profitably, while reducing costs of serving, and numbers of those served who are only marginal or “losers” (CEM)
  • achieve desired levels of individual, segment, and overall customer lifetime value (CLV) success, and thereby, desired levels of shareholder value and executive
  • compensation

Challenges in CRM Analytics include creating and maintaining trust among consumers, and their willingness to disclose desired data, purchasing or developing software and systems for storage, analysis and use of the data, and motivating/enabling staff to use the right data at the right time in the right way on the right customer. The volume of information published about CRM analytics, and of vendor “solutions” offered to sellers, suggest that these challenges are difficult, complicated, and that success is not often achieved.

BCC has such a different focus -- i.e. enabling consumers to maximize the value they gain from sellers, where CRM aims at enabling sellers to maximize the value they gain from consumers – that its “analytics” would clearly be different. But this does not mean there is no BCC counterpart to CRM analytics – BCC analytics can serve any of the three main mechanisms for achieving its purpose:

1. Empowering consumers to become so expert at and powerful in dealing with sellers that they are able to optimize the value they gain therefrom
2. Employing consumer-advocate intermediaries and agents to support or substitute for consumer empowerment by being expert and powerful on their behalf
3. Creating new or modifying existing sellers’ policies and practices so they become committed to optimizing consumer value along with gaining enough of their own value to succeed and survive in their business

1. Empowering Consumer Analytics

There are two kinds of “analytics” essential for empowering consumers to become self-sufficient in optimizing the value they gain from sellers. The first type is information about sellers – information that is often hidden by sellers from consumers, or not easily available, or so esoteric that consumers find it impossible to use to their full advantage. Such information may be made available by sellers as part of their marketing strategies, by third party consumer protection organizations, public or private, or collected and shared by “consumer communities, typically on web sites for online access.

The second type is information about consumers that they may never have made explicit for their own or others’ use in optimizing the value they gain. In order to optimize their value gained, consumers have to know what their values are, and connect current and potential seller offerings to what they most value, whether “needs”, wants, or wishes. Some may do well, in some, most, even all seller transactions and relationships by relying on intuitive self insights, while others may do better by explicitly identifying the values that are “engaged” in such transactions and relationships.

Consumers are generally unfamiliar with their own values, except when forced to apply them in making choices. Just as it helps sellers to know what consumers value, so it may help consumers to create explicit lists of their values, even priority rankings or ratings across multiple values that may compete or conflict in given transaction or relationship situations. And consumers may find the same marketing techniques that sellers use to uncover their values useful in discovering their own.

One of the most useful techniques is one called the “Reportorial Grid” or “Laddering” approach.[ J. Myers “Positioning Based on Laddering” Ch.11 in his Segmentation and Positioning for Strategic Marketing Decisions Chicago, IL, American Marketing Association 1996 263-282] Consumers can employ this technique in particular situations by asking themselves what are the key criteria, desired features and attributes for the product, service or seller they are looking for in a particular situation. Once they have identified specific desired elements, they then should ask themselves why each is important, what makes it valuable to them.

Such probing questions are to be posed by consumers for their own answering, until the questions become silly, i.e. until it is self-evident why they are valued. At this stage, the answers tend to be basic human values, such as Maslow’s five human needs of survival, safety/security, belonging, self-esteem and self-actualization. Others have suggested values such as fun/excitement/entertainment, power/autonomy, even revenge as major motivating values. Whatever consumers identify as involved in and likely to be affected by a given transaction or relationship can be used by these consumers in making empowering decisions.

An alternative approach is possible when the transactions or relationships involve “life assets”, which, for most people, include:

- Competency – knowledge/skills/confidence/self-efficacy related to work/career/profession, to relationships with friends and loved ones, to activities, sports and hobbies, whatever will help consumers succeed in and enjoy their lives
- Health – physical, mental/emotional/psychological/behavioral, social and spiritual dimensions of well-being, whose status and levels greatly affect one’s quality of life, abilities and enjoyment
- Time – how much is discretionary vs. committed, and how well it is used, including how much of one’s time can be freed up for other purposes by “outsourcing” regular or onerous responsibilities to “concierge service” providers, or thanks to various “utility” services
- Wealth – net worth, property and financial assets necessary for survival, for enjoyment, for carrying out responsibilities and achieving one’s dreams

When consumers deal with transaction and relationship choices affecting such life assets, they can identify precisely which assets are involved in and will be affected by their decisions, and how the foreseeable effects on such assets will affect their values, dreams, and overall life quality. By explicitly identifying both life asset and life quality problems, aspirations, opportunities, and threats, consumers can create useful frameworks for planning and managing transactions and relationships so as to optimize and monitor their value gains.

2. Consumer Intermediary/Agent Analytics

Intermediaries who serve to support and assist consumers in making choices have different BCC analytics challenges, depending on how general vs. specific they are committed to being in serving their function. Their challenge is essentially the same as that of consumers themselves, and the methods usable by consumers, indeed by sellers as well, can be employed by intermediaries to learn what consumers value, and to translate such knowledge into the kinds of information consumers need in order to optimize their value gains.

The “laddering” technique described for consumers’ own use is equally appropriate for intermediaries. They are likely to employ it on samples of the consumer populations they serve to discover basic human values that determine what information would prove most helpful to consumers in making which transaction or relationship choices. They may break down their service populations into segments, based on demographic, psychographic or behavioral differences, in order to enable individual consumer differences, including value differences, to be reflected in the information and assistance provided.

For consumer agents, the same techniques are appropriate, though they should normally be applied to individual consumers, rather than applied in a “one-size-fits-all” manner to entire populations or segments. Depending on the transaction/relationship options applicable to the particular needs or desires that consumers present with when contacting their agents, the breadth of values and criteria involved may be modest or great. As with consumer self-empowerment, approaches based on basic human needs, or life assets may prove more useful, depending on the situation.

Agents should maintain dossiers on their consumer clients, so that values and life asset information on each need only to be updated periodically, rather than created from scratch for every transaction or relationship decision challenge that arises. Some added insights may be needed when new challenges arise, or circumstances may alter the applicability or priority of previously identified values information relative to ongoing services, such as concierge or life asset service providers. For example, consumer agents may specialize in the wealth life asset, and shift focus when clients’ shift from worrying about sending their children to college to planning for retirement.
3. Buyer-Centric Sellers

For any sellers who choose to shift from a seller-centric to a buyer-centric mode of operation, their BCC analytics challenges are essentially the same as those for self-empowering consumers or their intermediaries/agents. Instead of traditional market research aimed at learning just enough about consumers to get them to buy more of what sellers have to offer, buyer-centric sellers would look for information, insights and understanding of what basic human values, or life asset needs and aspirations they can address.

They may approach the analytics challenge from a mass/population, segment-specific, differentiated or customized-to-individual basis, depending on their assessments of what is feasible and likely to work best. Buyer-centric financial service providers may conduct customized analytics as the foundation for personalized services to “high-rollers” with investment assets of $1 million or more, for example, and rely on sample analytics for consumer segments based on age, life situation, and lower levels of investment assets.

As with intermediaries and agents, buyer-centric sellers will need to verify and update their analytics for repeated transactions, and for continuing relationships. Consumers, and certainly their life situations may change, and with such changes, their original human value insights or life asset goals may be altered. Checking on presumed values and preferences before repeated transactions will enable sellers to modify their treatment of consumers proactively, rather than waiting for an unsatisfying experience to trigger complaints that will prompt modification of the individual consumers’ dossier.

Using and Sharing BCC Analytics

The application of BCC analytics would be essentially the same as is the case for CRM analytics, except for its ultimate aim. Ideally, insights into consumer values and life asset goals would be available to individual “account managers” responsible for relationships with individuals, and to front-line contact personnel engaged in transactions with them. Such insights should promote greater efficiency and effectiveness in consumers’ own efforts, as well as those by intermediaries/agents and buyer-centric sellers, aimed at enabling consumers to maximize their value gains.

In contrast to CRM analytics, which are typically kept secret from consumers by sellers, BCC analytics should logically be shared with them. One of the easiest ways to reduce the incidence of errors in BCC analytics would be to invite consumers to read their own personal records, when first created, or periodically when changes might have occurred, and to update or modify such records rather than wait for a new transaction to do so. Having access to life asset “accounts” will help agents and buyer-centric sellers keep track of progress, as well as serve in reminding consumers, themselves, or how transactions and relationships are helping them progress toward goals.

Wealth accounts, for example, are legally required to be open to consumer clients. Personal medical and health records are increasingly being opened to consumers for their own reading, and occasionally, for their modification or additions. Competency records generally do not exist, though purveyors of “lifelong learning” relationships may create such records as foundations for such relationships, rather than simply selling discrete competency-building “products”. Time management coaches, concierge service providers, or agents may find that working with consumers to create and maintain a time-management/work-life balance account is a great marketing device to plan and track continuous relationship impacts, and thereby promote customer retention.

While BCC discussions tend to focus primarily on different processes that apply and differentiate buyer-centric from seller-centric commerce, it is the different outcome aims that most significantly differentiate the two, not the mechanisms. To ensure that the outcomes of each of the three main BCC mechanisms reflect the differences, BCC analytics must ensure that what does and will constitute optimal consumer value is made explicit, and is used by consumers, intermediaries/agents, and buyer-centric sellers to plan, manage, and evaluate their efforts, and to achieve their success.

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