How many choices do you think you make each day?

Accord­ing to Sheena Iyenga, author of The Art of Choos­ing and researcher at Colum­bia Busi­ness School, “The typ­i­cal Amer­i­can reports mak­ing about 70 choices in a typ­i­cal day.” Iyen­gar says most peo­ple have a “choice over­load prob­lem.” Today’s con­sumer is faced with end­less options. How should orga­ni­za­tions respond? If you were asked to explain your con­sumers’ pref­er­ences, would you know what they are? Do you have the right tech­nol­ogy in place to give you the insights you need?

Con­sumers not only have the time to be choosy, but they now have the tools to help them choose. The choosy just got choosier. Today’s con­sumers are sophis­ti­cated, smart, and look­ing for the best deal pos­si­ble. They have mul­ti­ple devices avail­able at their fin­ger­tips. The per­pet­u­ally con­nected con­sumer is every­where. In “Use Behav­ioral Mar­ket­ing To Up The Ante In The Age Of The Cus­tomer,” For­rester Research explains,

We have entered the age of the cus­tomer. Mar­keters must evolve to meet the expec­ta­tions and demands of empow­ered cus­tomers. If you have not already trans­formed your cus­tomer engage­ment processes into inte­grated, customer-centric processes, you are behind the vanguard.”

Today’s mul­ti­chan­nel mar­keters must not only be cre­ative and strate­gic, but they must also under­stand prin­ci­ples of data sci­ence and the “art of choos­ing.” In today’s blog, we will heed Forrester’s warn­ing and begin to look at mar­ket­ing automa­tion, one way in which lead­ing orga­ni­za­tions are lever­ag­ing cus­tomer data to cre­ate opti­mal expe­ri­ences for their choosiest customers.

Do You Under­stand the Con­text of Your Choosiest Customers?

Today’s mul­ti­chan­nel dig­i­tal ecosys­tem has cre­ated the need for mar­keters to under­stand a customer’s “set­ting” or con­text in which they choose to inter­act with orga­ni­za­tions. This requires patience, study, and data. What are their pat­terns and habits? What are their pre­ferred chan­nels of com­mu­ni­ca­tion? Do you under­stand how con­text clues can unlock greater under­stand­ing that lead to bet­ter choices placed before your customers?

For­rester explains how a “cul­ture of cus­tomer obses­sion” can be cre­ated when mar­ket­ing teams become aware of cus­tomer inter­ac­tions in the past and the present. They go on to note that aggre­gat­ing dif­fer­ent types of data “for col­lec­tive insight” is essen­tial to effec­tive con­text mar­ket­ing. How will you glean insight about cus­tomer behav­ior and con­text? For today’s lead­ing mar­keters, the answer is tech­no­log­i­cal or Big Data solu­tions. McK­in­sey Global Insti­tute (MGI) esti­mates that retail­ers could improve oper­at­ing mar­gins by 60 per­cent “by bet­ter lever­ag­ing their cus­tomer data.” The 2013 Big Data Plan­ning Guide for Mar­keters explains that all of today’s mar­keters face the same data growth “conundrum”:

It enables com­bi­na­tions never before pos­si­ble, but it also makes the process of bring­ing it together much more com­plex, or at least labo­ri­ous and tax­ing to anti­quated tech­nol­ogy stacks. To cre­ate a true 360-degree view, data-driven mar­keters will learn to link the streams of data from all sources, such as Cus­tomer Rela­tion­ship Man­age­ment sys­tems, cus­tomer data­bases, point-of-sale sys­tems, call cen­ters, cus­tomer response, social media net­works and other online data aggregators.”

The basic prin­ci­ple here is this: using tech­nol­ogy to unlock data, you can deliver the “right mes­sage, at the right time, via the right media” to your choosiest cus­tomers. They will be thrilled that you have the insight and the fore­sight to com­mu­ni­cate with them in such a way that wins their fur­ther loy­alty and trust.

Where Is Your Mar­ket­ing Team on a Scale from Man­ual to Automated?

Iyengar’s research, which has informed best-selling authors and thought lead­ers such as Mal­colm Glad­well, notes that there are four ways to mit­i­gate the choice over­load chal­lenge: 1) get rid of extra­ne­ous alter­na­tives, 2) make it real or con­crete, 3) cre­ate cat­e­gories, and 4) con­di­tion for com­plex­ity or grad­u­ally increase the decision-making complexity.

One high tech solu­tion that is help­ing orga­ni­za­tions mit­i­gate the choice over­load chal­lenge is mar­ket­ing automa­tion. For­rester defines it this way: “Tool­ing and processes that help gen­er­ate new busi­ness oppor­tu­ni­ties, improve poten­tial buy­ers’ propen­sity to pur­chase, man­age cus­tomer loy­alty, and increase align­ment between mar­ket­ing activ­ity and revenue.”

Ear­lier this year, For­rester sur­veyed 157 mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als to deter­mine “how mar­keters are lever­ag­ing automa­tion in their cus­tomer engage­ment processes.” Their study yielded some inter­est­ing results. Mar­ket­ing out­comes included “oper­a­tional effi­ciency, scal­a­bil­ity, and qual­ity.” For­rester con­cluded, “Automa­tion makes the mar­ket­ing team more pro­duc­tive, more effec­tive, and improves the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence through con­sis­tent execution.”

Two Sim­ple Steps to Mit­i­gate Choice Overload

Here are two steps that orga­ni­za­tions can take toward cre­at­ing opti­mal choice for their choosiest customers:

1 | Adopt More Technology

The right tech­nol­ogy can lead to greater return on mar­ket­ing invest­ment (ROMI).

The For­rester study found that although automa­tion is hap­pen­ing across the board in most orga­ni­za­tions to man­age core mar­ket­ing processes, “top per­form­ers seem to be lever­ag­ing their tech invest­ments dif­fer­ently, exe­cut­ing a higher num­ber of more focused cam­paigns and set­ting higher tar­gets.” So the top orga­ni­za­tions are lever­ag­ing their tech­nol­ogy dif­fer­ently and set­ting higher bench­marks for their teams.

2 | Fig­ure Out How to Make Mar­ket­ing and Tech­nol­ogy Bet­ter Friends

Mar­ket­ing is — and should be — inex­orably bound up in tech­nol­ogy, as the major­ity of cus­tomer touch­points are dig­i­tally enabled and the dig­i­tal land­scape of cus­tomer expe­ri­ences is evolv­ing at a break­neck pace.” There’s really no way around this. Con­ver­sa­tions and orga­ni­za­tional change in the areas of IT and mar­ket­ing gov­er­nance must con­tinue to take place as these two areas come into a closer and more har­mo­nious work­ing relationship.

Tar­get Is on Tar­get with Automation

Tar­get is a great exam­ple of an orga­ni­za­tion that is har­ness­ing automa­tion. They have the right tech­nol­ogy in place to refine their audi­ence seg­ments. They under­stand who’s on their web­site. They then use the right tech­nol­ogy tools to place dynamic and cre­ative ads tar­geted to that spe­cific audi­ence. The ads are dynamic (as opposed to sta­tic) in the sense that the tech­nol­ogy assem­bles them at the moment of cus­tomer vis­i­ta­tion to par­tic­u­lar pages. Essen­tially, the ads respond to the cus­tomer and, in turn, hope­fully result in a favor­able cus­tomer response such as a click through.

Will the Choosiest Choose You?

Remem­ber, the choosiest cus­tomers have even more refined tastes and pref­er­ences than your aver­age cus­tomer. It’s impor­tant that you use data-driven results to opti­mize your audi­ence, lever­ag­ing their iden­ti­fied pref­er­ences, not your own. With the right strate­gies in place, the choosiest con­sumers will begin to repeat­edly choose your organization.