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Companies full of data are still leaving the consumer feeling empty

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Raise your hand if you empowered when being forced to watch a 15 second commercial before getting content you need. Do you like hearing from your bedside table unsolicited texts from airlines and banks at 4AM? Or what about having to make 7, 8, or more online clicks to get the answer you want because the UI/UX is poorly constructed. For the online example, kinda feels like we reverting back to listening to hold music again – but just in a digital world. Maybe consumers who hit the “X” on a crappy web site is analogous to hanging up on an incompetent customer service rep. This funny Google Analytics video pretty much sums up bad ecommerce experiences.

I surmise that fewer, more calculated smarter consumer engagements creates better relationships and experiences.

Companies continue to claim they are data rich. Is that largely due to the sheer volume of customer and business data we’re generating? Or is it because the consumer is generating more data to make even the most basic buying decision because companies are executing poorly?

According to USC’s Institute for Communication Technology Management, American consumers are sent more than 74 gigabytes of data on an average day. To put that into perspective for old school guys, that’s more than 9 DVDs worth, pretty much every day.

Then consider the activity level in the consumer (B2C) side alone. According to industry experts, global consumer e-commerce sales in 2016 are expected to grow to $1.92 trillion.

That’s an enormous number of online purchases. Even more mind boggling, however, is the number of actions customers take before they go into buying mode. When you fold in information on items like clicks and page views, reviews and product comparisons customers read, and all the questions and comments they post on social media, the data grows exponentially.

Then there’s information about the customers themselves that companies collect. This includes who they are, where they live, their behaviors and preferences, purchase histories, the socio-economic status of their areas, and many other defining characteristics.

Companies already possess this type of information about their customers. So the critical questions for them are these. “Do we have what it takes to identify patterns hidden in our customer data and understand what’s causing them? And can we quickly leverage those insights to increase our operational effectiveness and gain competitive advantages.

Unfortunately for both, the answer is a resounding “No.”

Still Flying Blind

Gathering data is easy. That’s why most companies today are data rich. The problem is that many of them remain insight poor.

Market research backs this up. One example is The CMO Survey from August 2015, which included responses from over 250 top marketers at Fortune 1000 firms. Participants said that less than one-third (31%) of their projects leveraged marketing (customer) analytics.

Similar difficulties percolated up in our own survey, Black Ink ROI’s C-Level 2016 Insight Study. In it, we talked with C-level marketers from the largest 2,000 U.S. companies. Nearly half of the participants (46%) said that their greatest obstacle to improving performance is a lack of access to “more advanced analytics and insight to make smarter decisions.”

Other Approaches Fall Short

Some companies have taken the plunge with one of the many Big Data, business intelligence (BI), or general-purpose analytics platforms now available. Others have made valiant efforts using familiar applications such as Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets.

So why are so many firms still struggling to find ways to leverage their data to reveal valuable customer insights? Why can’t they find the gems that will enable them to drive performance improvements, and gain competitive advantages and lasting success?

Most often, the answer boils down to one of two common issues with these approaches – deployment problems or capability gaps. More specifically, most Big Data and BI platforms require long and disruptive implementations. And general-purpose analytics platforms require too much customization to tailor them to a company’s unique needs. On the other hand, most companies that go the spreadsheet route quickly but up against the limits of those programs’ capabilities.

New, Purpose-Built Customer Analytics Platforms Making a Difference

The good news for marketing and sales executives is that a new class of customer-centric analytics platforms has emerged. These solutions feature customer-centric designs, and provide advanced capabilities for analyzing customer data and market trends. Most have cloud-based architectures, so they’re relatively simple to deploy and administer. And unlike many of the ‘heavyweight’ Big Data or BI solutions, they’re designed so that they are easy to use for non-technical business people.

These new, customer analytics platforms unify and process all types of data about an enterprise’s customers to form a clear picture of who they are, what they do, and what they think.

These platforms start by collecting data at the individual customer and transaction levels, then cleanse it and augment it with data from external sources. Then they apply advanced algorithms to discern patterns in the data and identify their causes.

The result is valuable insights about the composition, needs, motivations, actions, and satisfaction levels of an enterprise’s customers. Those insights can be quickly woven into marketing and sales programs to boost their effectiveness. Since these platforms enable more precise targeting, outbound programs tend to be more economical and cost-effective. Communicating program results is made easier with these platforms’ simplified reporting functions. And lastly, they tend to be more affordable than solutions from the big, household name software companies.

Advantages There for the Taking

The new crop of customer analytics platforms use data about a company’s customers – their profiles, past activities, and current status — to more accurately predict their future buying preferences and behaviors. Armed with these strategic customer insights these new platforms deliver, companies can shape their strategies and programs to drive significant performance improvements in marketing, sales, and product development, and other areas.

Significant improvements in marketing and sales performance – and real competitive advantages — are within reach with these new platforms. And the old reasons for not moving ahead with sophisticated analytics are falling by the wayside.

Smart companies will surely start looking at these customer analytics platforms sooner rather than later. Perhaps your company should be among them.

By Jeff Winsper

Jeff is the President of Black Ink and offers more than 20 years of leadership experience in marketing, serving companies ranging from Fortune 500 to start ups.

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