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Personal relationships require empathy and understanding. They’re made up of thousands of decisions—some big, some not so big—that will decide the future course of the relationship. Fortunately for us, healthy personal relationships also come with a heap of patience and forgiveness. Make the wrong decision, and it becomes a teachable moment that will ultimately (hopefully) bring two people closer.
Customer relationships share many of the characteristics of a personal relationship. They too require empathy and understanding, for example. And, through metrics and analysis, there are teachable moments as well. But customer relationships can’t presume upon patience and forgiveness. A single bad decision can be a relationship breaker: send one too many emails, recommend the wrong content or target a customer with irrelevant offers and the relationship could be over with the cold click of an “unsubscribe” button.
In marketing, good decisions are the glue that hold relationships together. And the best marketing decisions are those that meet your customers wherever they are at that moment in time. Decisioning isn’t just about who is the best match for which offer, although that’s a part of it. It’s about caring what your customers care about, understanding what drives their buying behavior and knowing where they are not only on their customer journey but on their broader life journey.
For many customers, their relationship with your brand is only as good as their last experience. That’s why it’s so important for marketers to think about the next best experience. What does it look like for each customer? Is it an email with a highly relevant offer? A coupon with 20% off their next purchase delivered through social media? A journey involves movement, and marketers need to be moving in synchrony with their customers or risk being out of step.
Decisioning is the most difficult part of marketing to get right. As Lytics CEO James McDermott pointed out in a recent article from CustomerThink, “How Data and Decisioning Technology Help Marketers Deliver What Consumers Really Want,” marketing departments are rich in data but poor in decisioning. They lack actionable data, omnichannel awareness, and insight into what the next best experience looks like for each customer. Instead, most marketers struggle to make meaningful connections with their customers because they’re still using ineffectual customer segmentation models to create their marketing campaigns. And segmentation isn’t personalization, it’s generalization.
What can marketers do to bridge the gap between data and decisioning? They can start by shortening the length between data and insight. The traditional data warehouse approach to customer intelligence is time consuming and complex, because data needs to be consolidated, cleansed and analyzed, which can take weeks. By the time actionable insights are available, the opportunity for action has long passed. Customer data platforms offer a much different approach: data insights are immediately available for real-time campaigns, with no data cleansing or data scientists required.
Customer data platforms represent a new paradigm for creating personalized customer relationships—one that visionary companies like Amazon and Netflix have taken to heart. They understand the importance of combining real-time decisioning with really granular customer insights. Instead of herding you into a segment, they meet you right where you are on your customer journey with them, whether that journey involves buying items for a new baby or binge-watching every zombie movie made in the last 10 years.
Each customer you have is unique. They’re changing. And they want to interact with brands that they feel passionate about, that “get” who they are and where they’re going. As a marketer, the decision is up to you: What kind of relationship do you want to have with your customers? One that’s built on broad assumptions, or a personal relationship built on shared passions? It could very likely be the most important decision you make.