How to turn customer data into customer intelligence

AdvertisingCustomer ExperienceTechnology

What am I sup­posed to do with all this data?”

It’s a sim­ple ques­tion we mar­keters ask our­selves almost dai­ly. We col­lect huge vol­umes of data on how cus­tomers inter­act with our web­sites, con­tent, social han­dles, and even with third par­ty plat­forms, not to men­tion our prod­ucts and ser­vices them­selves, which makes the prospect of man­ag­ing all this infor­ma­tion increas­ing­ly daunting.

One of the biggest chal­lenges for brands is to bring con­text to all their data, espe­cial­ly because it comes from so many dif­fer­ent sources in so many dif­fer­ent for­mats. This is the key to draw­ing out the insights com­pa­nies need to cre­ate per­son­alised expe­ri­ences at scale, a goal that still feels out of reach for many marketers.

There’s a rea­son why it’s become so dif­fi­cult to mea­sure the effec­tive­ness of a cam­paign, why more than one-third of ban­ner ads in Europe weren’t even seen last quar­ter, and why we still find our­selves get­ting tar­get­ed with rec­om­men­da­tions for prod­ucts we’ve already bought. Brands spend more than ever on dig­i­tal adver­tis­ing, but a large per­cent­age of their invest­ment is going to waste.

Instead of deliv­er­ing per­son­al­i­sa­tion at scale, com­pa­nies are rely­ing on min­i­mal data and rudi­men­ta­ry tar­get­ing to seg­ment audi­ences. The dif­fi­cul­ty is that a sin­gle cus­tomer is not just a sin­gle touch point. Their dig­i­tal per­sona includes a large, com­plex, and con­stant­ly-shift­ing web of activ­i­ty and inter­ac­tions. And while this gives brands more oppor­tu­ni­ties to reach their audi­ence, it also means they need to cut through more noise and degrees of sep­a­ra­tion to engage the right peo­ple or build a loy­al following.

Which brings us to the dis­tinc­tion between cus­tomer data and cus­tomer intel­li­gence. Cus­tomer data is an asset, the fuel brands feed into their ana­lyt­ics to bet­ter under­stand their audi­ence. Cus­tomer intel­li­gence is the insight they draw from this data, enhanced by the all-impor­tant con­text that makes this insight accu­rate and relevant.

Horst Stipp, EVP of research and inno­va­tion at America’s Adver­tis­ing Research Foun­da­tion (ARF) said in a recent paper: “Adver­tis­ers have been quite suc­cess­ful with endem­ic align­ments, such as com­mer­cials fea­tur­ing an ath­lete shown dur­ing a foot­ball game or food adver­tise­ments on a cook­ing web­site”, adding that “Align­ing ads with con­tent can boost adver­tise­ment per­for­mance sig­nif­i­cant­ly and dimin­ish adver­tise­ment avoidance”.

In oth­er words, the con­text a mes­sage is deliv­ered, along with your his­toric under­stand­ing of the customer’s needs and behav­iours can help deter­mine whether some­one will engage with it, so make sure your cre­ative approach and con­tent are informed by a sol­id under­stand­ing of what your audi­ence wants.

To gain this under­stand­ing, brands need to rethink the way they devel­op cus­tomer pro­files. In many com­pa­nies, indi­vid­ual depart­ments still cre­ate their own pro­files in siloes based on the lim­it­ed of range of data they have access to. This one dimen­sion­al approach might seem log­i­cal to a team tasked with meet­ing a spe­cif­ic set of KPIs, but noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth. Every depart­ment ulti­mate­ly wants the same thing, which is to help dri­ve sales, and the idea that dis­joint­ed strate­gies will moti­vate cus­tomers to engage with your con­tent and make a pur­chase is fun­da­men­tal­ly flawed.

Encour­ag­ing­ly, we’re see­ing more com­pa­nies come around to change and mov­ing away from super­fi­cial KPIs like impres­sions, which do lit­tle to dri­ve val­ue. See­ing such a high per­cent­age of their adverts go unno­ticed has made it clear that a siloed approach to con­tent and cus­tomer data is no longer fit for purpose.

Lead­ing brands are now bridg­ing the bar­ri­ers that have tra­di­tion­al­ly kept their teams iso­lat­ed and uni­fy­ing all their data onto a sin­gle, uni­fied plat­form. With every depart­ment work­ing off a com­plete pro­file that takes into account all rel­e­vant data about each cus­tomer, com­pa­nies have all the con­text they need to deliv­er high­ly-tar­get­ed expe­ri­ences that res­onate and dri­ve real engagement.

What does this look like in practice?

Let’s begin with the trav­el indus­try, where chang­ing cus­tomer habits have com­plete­ly reshaped the process of plan­ning trips and book­ing hol­i­day expe­ri­ences. This is the fast-mov­ing envi­ron­ment in which Hostel­world oper­ates, a com­pa­ny that con­tin­ues to enjoy a loy­al fol­low­ing but whose young tech-savvy audi­ence is con­stant­ly look­ing for more per­son­alised, more con­ve­nient dig­i­tal experiences.

To keep up, Hostel­world realised it needs to col­lect, analyse and act on cus­tomer data in real-time, which is why it imple­ment­ed Adobe Ana­lyt­ics as the foun­da­tion of its dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy. With a real-time view of how peo­ple engage with its dig­i­tal prop­er­ties, the com­pa­ny has tak­en its under­stand­ing to a whole new lev­el and seen a 500% increase in engage­ment for its dig­i­tal communications.

The world of B2B adver­tis­ing is evolv­ing just as quick­ly as the con­sumer space. In fact, because B2B busi­ness­es often need to serve a two-tiered cus­tomer base of both direct buy­ers (i.e. pro­cure­ment man­agers) and end-users, one could argue their job is more chal­leng­ing. These brands must find a way to tar­get two dif­fer­ent groups who have vast­ly dif­fer­ent pri­or­i­ties and speak with them in dif­fer­ent lan­guages, all while show­ing a con­sis­tent face for their brand.

This was the chal­lenge fac­ing RS Com­po­nents, the world’s largest elec­tron­ics dis­trib­u­tor. To quote Head of Dig­i­tal Insight, Andrew Mor­ris, the com­pa­ny has to “look at the wider cus­tomer base rather than indi­vid­u­als, which is very dif­fer­ent com­pared to a B2C envi­ron­ment. When you also fac­tor in the need to engage with them in dif­fer­ent lan­guages, and the chang­ing land­scape of our mar­ket, which is attract­ing com­pe­ti­tion from estab­lished B2C online retail­ers, mar­ket­ing becomes very complex.”

The answer for RS com­po­nents was to gain a deep­er under­stand­ing of its dig­i­tal data and take con­trol of its cus­tomer ana­lyt­ics, which began with the imple­men­ta­tion of an analy­sis work­space. The work­space pro­vides teams across the busi­ness with a place where they can share and analyse data col­lect­ed through­out the cus­tomer jour­ney. This gives stake­hold­ers a 360-degree view of each cus­tomer across every dig­i­tal chan­nel and, cru­cial­ly, makes it easy for teams to share insights that will help them devel­op more impact­ful and rel­e­vant content.

The next fron­tier for cus­tomer under­stand­ing is Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence. Our recent Dig­i­tal Trends report with Econ­sul­tan­cy found that 28% of brands are already using AI and a fur­ther 29% plan to do so by the end of 2018. The tech­nol­o­gy promis­es to bring even more con­text to data ana­lyt­ics, strip­ping away many of the chal­lenges com­pa­nies face around attri­bu­tion and mass per­son­al­i­sa­tion, while also bring­ing an added lay­er of secu­ri­ty to their data man­age­ment. In essence, AI allows brands to bake cus­tomer intel­li­gence direct­ly into the sys­tems they use to under­stand their audience.

Revert­ing back to our ini­tial ques­tion – “What am I sup­posed to do with all this data?” – the answer is sim­ple enough. Organ­ise this infor­ma­tion, remove any irrel­e­vant data, and extract the gold­en insights that will help you under­stand exact­ly what cus­tomers want. Then deliv­er on those expectations.

The premise is straight­for­ward enough, but the dig­i­tal adver­tis­ing ecosys­tem is not. With so many touch points to serve and such a dis­persed tar­get audi­ence, it would be sim­plis­tic to call this an easy job, espe­cial­ly for brands that con­tin­ue to keep their teams and data in siloes. If there is one thing to learn from brands like Hostel­world, RS Com­po­nents, and oth­er estab­lished play­ers con­tin­u­ing to dom­i­nate their mar­ket, it’s that an evo­lu­tion is nec­es­sary, one that will ele­vate your cus­tomer data into gen­uine cus­tomer intelligence.

Learn how Adobe Ana­lyt­ics and Adobe Adver­tis­ing Cloud can help you deliv­er more adapt­able and per­son­alised cus­tomer expe­ri­ences across every channel.

And see how we’re help­ing brands make the most of their cus­tomer data by here.

Advertising, Customer Experience, Technology
Jamie Brighton

Posted on 10-23-2018

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