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Putting people first in 2016

10th Feb 2016
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Customer-centricity is hardly a new concept. However, I believe this will become a core theme in marketing for 2016, as this will be the year brands start digging down into what it actually means and acting accordingly. Remembering the individuals behind the data is more important than ever in this complex digital world. This is now less about the techniques and more about the goals and brand responsibility. All business decisions should be made with the impact on the customer in mind.

Putting the customer at the centre of your business is not about how you can get them to spend more money on products and services. It is about giving them as good an experience as possible because you value them and want them to have a positive interaction. In a recent Experian survey, it revealed that 69% of consumers receive emails from retailers every single day, therefore it is vital for marketers to understand what is meant by value and what the customer sees as precious to them.

Discovering value
To become truly customer-centric, brands need to focus on what customers’ value most and why they are customers to start with. If they have had a negative experience - perhaps a delayed order - giving them a money off voucher on a future purchase may not be of value to them in that particular moment. They may appreciate an apology and evidence that their order was treated as a priority. In other circumstances, offering a discount or voucher may give your communications greater clout. The key is knowing what is suitable for that particular customer in that particular situation.

Achieving the right approach, for each individual, at the correct time, marketers need to have a thorough understanding of their customer and take a flexible approach to interacting with them. The ability to take that approach, and be successful with it, relies on having accurate customer data and having that data compiled to show a comprehensive and robust view of each customer.

The Experian survey also asked consumers how they felt about brands using their personal data for this exact purpose. When asked what acceptable uses of data were, top responses from consumers in all instances were when brands are added value for customers. In addition, 27% of respondents said they were happy for their data to be used to provide information on products similar to past purchases and 21% saying they’d be happy for their data to be used for prompts for items that may need to be purchased on a regular basis.

The power of data
Brands now collect more data on their customers than ever before, however brands still fall into the trap of forgetting the actual individuals behind the numbers. This is something that needs to change this year. Many use the old tried and tested method of segmenting and selecting particular groups or types of people to ensure their messages are getting through. But this blanket method involves thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people at a time and therefore the individual gets lost. Just because they’re ‘similar’ in some aspects to others in the segment group, that does not necessarily mean they are the same.

The very word ‘consumer’ (used at will in business) implies an element of ‘commoditisation’. Do we think these people - everyday people like us and our families - like being considered, discussed and treated as a commodity, a number? In a world where customer experience is quickly becoming everything it makes little sense. There is the potential for a backlash against marketing if customers feel they are being targeted with unwanted and irrelevant content which is not personal to them.

It is vital for marketers to get personalisation right and make sure they have the individual customer in mind when interacting with them. Get it wrong, and it could have disastrous effects for not only the particular campaign, but also on that person’s perception of your brand. For example, it is a bit embarrassing if you call someone by the wrong name or send them information on something they would never buy.

The abundance of noise in today’s marketplace and increasing demands from customers’ means it is essential for marketers to get the customer experience right. That is why this year I believe we will see brands step up and be responsible for their actions and the way they use data to communicate with people as individuals. Focusing on the experience is key. Marketing is about relationships and trust – remembering the people behind the numbers and doing your utmost to treat them as you would wish to be treated yourself creates a loyal customer base who will continue to come back to you for the positive experience.

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