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.