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Customer Loyalty: Big Data. Big Transformation.

Welcome to the age of big data – Losing a customer is just a click away. One bad experience can reach to a million prospects/customers. Product features and price are no longer a differentiation. Markets are continuously evolving and customers getting powerful than ever before. Challenges. Challenges. Challenges. But is it what its all about?

Or, is it about a golden opportunity that’s waiting to be cashed at every customer interaction, throughout the lifecycle!

Knowing how to effectively nurture those “right” relationships has become more complicated than ever before. So, if we take a look back for a minute, what exactly did 2013 teach us about loyalty? A quick look:

Addressing customers’ needs must be the #1 priority. Every customer wants a brand that cares for him/her instead of only bragging about itself. Customers want a seamless brand experience.

Create a better customer experience. Customers love discounts but, that’s not the only factor – if it were true everyone would have only focused on slashing prices. Overall customer experience is the key!

Keep an eye on competitors but, focus on value. Do not create campaigns and loyalty programs only to trash the competitors. Create them so that customers get benefited!

Its a constantly changing world. Never rely on everything that worked well yesterday to work wonders even tomorrow.

That’s about 2013, but what’s the horizon for the year ahead? Here are few:

Leveraging data-driven marketing to create personalized offers. Use data to inform your decisions. Engage your customers with meaningful offers based on what they’re telling you they want.

Loyalty as a journey, not just a program. Think beyond the card. Think outside-in, understand what your customers will love and deliver.

Moving beyond discounts. Deliver value, delight and personal touch. That’s much more weighted than mere discounts.

Exceptional customer service. Data-driven marketing will help you earn the loyalty of your customers. But, build trust and keep having that personal touch & care forever.

For marketers every day must be February 14th. Its time to romance with your customers – each day of 2014 and beyond. They are constantly giving you the data, its your time to convert that into intelligence and engage with them to create better value and drive business objectives.


Data Deluge – Identify what’s important

I’ve heard many marketers talking about data and there are many IT service and product providers who fuel this fire 🙂 In a way, it’s good that marketers are thinking about managing the data flood. However, are we really required to care about the flood? Wouldn’t it be better to deal with knowledge instead of noise – Oh yeah!

Sifting through is the key. While all comments on Facebook might not be important – few might be sacrosanct. Having a knowledge engine in place will help. Now the 1st question – what is a knowledge engine? It’s not a globally accepted term however I refer it to as the combination of an efficient data management, analytics and reporting ecosystem.

Analysing data from multiple disparate sources, integrating it with in-house data, analysing data to derive insights and presenting it in a form that is actionable and usable by non-technical users. Weaving the thread of knowledge in the fabric of your marketing organisation is vital. Making marketers leverage technology is not just a matter of adoption but a culture as well.

Data comes in different forms, formats and multiple sources. Finding the most valuable nuggets of information is important. Many times we identify these nuggets after many instances have already taken place. That, in many ways, is mere post mortem. Being proactive in understanding data and focussing resources on the most valuable pieces holds the key.

Big Data: From the marketers glasses

In case you’ve been working in a marketing communications job since the past 7 years and have collected 2-3 hard-disks of data and have been terming that as big data – obviously, you are wrong! On the contrary, if you’ve been coming across multiple whitepapers on leveraging big data and you forwarded it to your pal in IT – Guess what, you were wrong again!

Remember when your B-school professor told you: hey, marketing is an art and a science – He was right. Not taking anything away from the creative or art aspect of it but, trust me this era is more of ‘Science.’ Consumers, Prospects, Media, Investors and Partners are all creating data in some form or the other and via multiple channels. You can’t give away this goldmine of information completely to your IT team. That would be criminal. So, what do we do?

The answer is two-fold: 1) Align 2) Integrate. These are nowhere listed in the 4P’s of marketing or 3V’s of big data. This is something that I can share based on my experience.

When I say align, I mean align It with Marketing. This appears simple on face of it, but it’s not. Marketing is no longer someone who’s dumb in technology or they use technology coz IT said so. Marketers need to evaluate technology that they feel is easy to use, collaborative, scalable and above all gives them better engagement opportunities with their consumers and customers. For instance, analysing data visually through easy to use GUI and being able to share them with your teams. Being able to club social data with organisation’s data and deriving predictive insights. This is what alignment can do for you. And by the way, it liberates the IT department too.

Integrate: Yeah, the world asks you to integrate. After all we are Integrated Marketing Communication Professionals. Actually, the real value of integration comes from being able to take data-driven decisions even while executing the smallest of the activities. Being able to predict outcomes, forecast trends, have clear metrics and speak numbers. It is important to drive this as a culture instead of a mandate.

Data will continue to flow, there’s no going back. Big data will never shrink, it will only grow. People will keep commenting, sharing, creating content, and expressing themselves. As marketers, it is vital for us to ‘Listen’ and then act. Keep subscribed to this space, to no more on how you can implement this!


Embracing Cross-Channel Data – The Marketers’ Perspective

In my previous post, I talked about the implication of big data on Marketing… This post answers the what and how. So, while we say that as marketers we are aware of what people are saying over digital and social channels and we also derive insights from what my consumers are saying on interaction channels (branch, call centre, POS, etc.) – there still exists a missing link. The missing link is the connectedness between what consumers are saying (social & digital platform) and what we are telling us (branch, call centre, POS, etc.). The image below (not a very creative one though) explains this gap.


  The key here is “Embracing” – Embracing all channels in totality to create synergies. While we very well analyze our efforts on Facebook or Transactional Data or Call Center Performance in silos, understanding what they can do together and gaining a holistic view is vital. Running a successful targeted campaign is always a win for any marketer, even myself. But, engaging with consumers is a lot more than merely running campaigns or providing the right offer. Its about creating thoses experiences that matters.

In this age where we have loads of data and herculean processing powers, there’s a lot that we can do. Going micro is perhaps the right answer. We need to leapfrog the segmentation barrier and focus on creating micro-segments and micro-experiences. This gives brands an opportunity to understand each consumer differently and allocate resources accordingly. From a business standpoint is increases efficiency and bottomline however, the larger picture is that your customers and prospects will be happier with the offers and receptive to messages.


Big Data – What it means for marketing

Data…. well, you need to approach the IT team. Havent we been saying this since ages! All of a sudden, we never realised when we entered an era where a major chunk of data is being created by consumers. And consumers remind me of Mr. Marketer – who always communicated the message he wanted to convey. Perhaps, its now time to listen to these consumers before we speak.

People across the globe are texting and tweeting, commenting and liking – big data is getting bigger. This exponential increase in data poses a big opportunity for every marketer. Consider this: since ages we segmented consumers by their gender, geography, purchasing power, age, etc. With the explosion of data, maketers can gain a view of the consumers’ emotions. But the barrier there is to create such a view. Advanced Analytics and Self-Service BI can help in transforming this big data challenge into an opportunity. Consider a classical case – I tweet about a simple request of updating my bank account nominee. A simple approach is to help the customer do this. But, that’s something which even a service representative can do however, what insights can do is to tell that if a person changes the nomination details maybe there has been some change in his life – he’s just got married, for instance. Now, that becomes a vital cue for cross-sell, doesnt it! Now imagine a situation where you have a billion of such tweets with varied requests – there’s the big data battle.

As marketers, we need to embrace analytics as a culture and not just as a toll that IT implemented. By leveraging big data analytics marketers can understand their customers and hence deliver value via cross-channel marketing techniques. This is a value which probably no print or TV or press release can add. In my next blog, we will see – how. Stay Tuned!

Evolution is the new survival

I no longer use a floppy disk, nor audio cassettes, nor do I even go to a photo-print store, nor do I log-in yahoo messenger, nor do I use yellow pages. And Im sure, almost everyone will agree to it. But, the bigger question is – Why have we moved on? Is it that we stopped feeling the need to use it or its just that pioneers in the industry believed in a better tomorrow and adapted well to the future!

Im sure it was not that simple, because if that were the case – An online version of a yellow pages would have been Google. But, its a lot more than that. Its the power to map innovations with latent needs. Its the power to tell a story which people would not only love to listen but also love to share. Remember the Yelp Monocle App, didnt we all shout-out and say its something great? Did any of us, before using the app, felt the need for any such utility; perhaps not. And that’s where excellence comes from – the power to create usable innovation and embrace the users of tomorrow.

Mere innovation is sometimes not enough, it needs to be backed-up with organization wide acceptance and belief. We all know the kind of trouble the legendary: Kodak is in today. Kodak was a pioneer in the imaging and photography industry and they were fairly innovative. In fact, they were the ones to actually design the first digital camera. But, then they felt that they might just cannibalize their existing line of product and hence never marketed it. Sadly, that did not stop competitors from marketing a digital camera and we all know where those players are vis-a-vis Kodak.  

In fact, innovation and belief are also sometimes incomplete. Look at Nokia, for instance. They were amongst the first players to create the entire “Smartphone” concept and the whole idea of Apps and App store. They used it well and sold millions of phones. But, what they forgot is to future-proof their own property and keep it updated with time and constantly enhance. The result, well heartbreaking!

In a nut-shell, Evolution is not that easy. In my view, it is successful only with the confluence of — Continuous Innovation (with usability), Being Future-ready and Organization-wide Belief. When all these coincide, organizations tend to differentiate and in a manner that consumers of today and tomorrow would love to be associated with them.


The next blog will take you back to technology in marketing and contact optimization. Happy 2013.

Contact Optimization – Key to success :: Series 1

Your customer’s inbox is flooded with emails, their mobile phone is filled with unread tonnes of SMSes, they keep getting unsolicited calls and YES THEY ARE IRRITATED! What’s worst, is probably you are also a part of this irritation built-up 😦

Contact fatigue is a growing epidemic! This creates a barrier in the consumer’s mind and he/she starts hitting the delete button every time they see a new communication from you. But hey, marketers felt that they were communicating the best offers which are in the consumer’s best interests. Perhaps yes, but what really matters is the ‘timing’ of communicating the right offer. This is where contact optimization steals the show.

However, contact optimization is not only about fatigue but also about a lot of other factors such as analysis, flexibility and preparedness. Imagine, if marketers work on a fixed plan that a customer will not be contacted for a new offer within a gap of 15 days – Is this contact optimization? Well, this is merely a contact policy which worked well till yesterday. Today’s consumer don’t have a problem in viewing content or advertisement provided it delivers value to them. Hence, a lot of analysis is needed to optimize contacts. For instance, if a customer opens a particular type of offer email every time and also goes to the landing page.  This certainly means that the consumer is interested in that particular offer type, its your cue to improvise on this. But, the difficult part is to analyse these details when you have 100 million customers 🙂 A sound marketing automation system with dedicated efforts from your team can help do this.

Remember, the complexity only increases as the number of channels increase. With the advent of technology, the number of channels have increased drastically consumers receive location-based offers on their mobile phones and tablets. This may seem like a threat, but it’s an excellent opportunity for marketers to engage directly with end consumers. The challenge is that marketers carve rules in stone and follow set processes. These processes need to evolve the way consumers have. Brands need to be flexible and act in real time, this is only possible if brand managers move from managing logos, font size and press releases and instead directly engage with their consumers. We will see a lot of new techniques to do so, in the second series of this blog. Stay Tuned!



Experience matters, not the price

You will always find your investment consultant saying – Consider investing as a long-term activity and try ignoring periodic market fluctuations! But when it comes to marketing investments, we seldom remember this rule of thumb.

Gone are the days when you could lure customers by offering massive discounts, not that you can’t but what’s the point – your competitors can do the same. A single click of a mouse is enough to make you loose your customers to competitors. So, what do we do in such a scenario. Simple, stick to the rule of thumb – go long-term. Create differentiated and delightful experiences for your customers. Gone are the days when brand managers think about logo usage, color combination, 2 press releases and 4 TV campaigns… its time to build direct relationships with your customers. Don’t give them a 500 bonus reward point and assume that they will be yours forever. Understand them better, by knowing them beyond the traditional geographic and demographic segmentation. Identify the emotion behind data-points, events that matter to them, offers that make them happy and create a brand they would love to engage with.

Its a ‘one-button’ revolution and people are talking to each other. As brand managers, we need to take the role of a facilitator rather than a communicator. Enable people to share experiences and inculcate advocacy. Go out of the way and give them more than what they want or deserve.

Don’t worry about big data, embrace it! Its a big opportunity. Every piece of data that reveals transaction patterns or provides details about customer preferences is a step towards attaining intimacy. For businesses to be successful, it is sacrosanct to be open to cross-channel engagement. Its important to know which channels your customers love and prefer.   Deliver a consistent messaging and experience across channels.

To summarize, in an era where products and services are commoditized and consumers are sharing their views and opinions like never before, it is sacrosanct to not just attain parity in price but attain differentiation in experience and deliver delight.

Loyalty Management | Going beyond offers and discounts

So you offered your ‘loyal’ customer a 500 bonus point, a free hat, a photo frame. Job done… Maybe not! These were the rewards you offered, but were these perceived as valuable by the customers? We often define loyalty programs basis our convenience and objectives. What we miss out on is the ‘consumer perspective!’

A research showed that 44% of consumers in 2011 had a negative experience with a loyalty program. I am not surprised at all! Most brands classify customers basis geography, age, demographics, financial ability, etc. But, what they overlook is the emotional aspect. Customers interact or transact with brands on a regular basis and across channels such as Call Center, In-branch, SMS, IVR, Social Media, Website, etc. They express interest, complaint, ask for service, purchase, demand and do much more. The key lies in identifying the emotions behind every transaction. This gives every brand a chance to look at every customer as an individual and not just as a data-point.

Another critical aspect is the timing. Why do brands wait for an interested prospect to but products, then expect them to get cross-selled and then run loyalty programs. Why can’t a loyalty be induced with the very first interaction. A famous real estate company based in Mumbai actually went about asking me “why” for this. Simple, consider a prospect who is in Non-Resident Indian based in USA and he managed to do some research about a project in Mumbai and expresses an interest in buying the property. This shows that the particular person is active over Internet. Why cant the real estate company provide him relevant information and provide him some free NetFlix credit… Will that not be something more than expected and even if the person does not land-up buying, he will go out with a positive experience and he will always talk great about the brand. If he wishes to purchase, you add an average of 100.000 USD to your topline. And the strategy is modified accordingly if the consumer is a domestic resident instead.


Fig. 1: Components of a loyalty program

The second most important aspect is to create experiences rather than merely offering freebies. For instance World of Coca Cola store in Vegas encourages a customer experience by free In-store pictures with friends, coke flavors from across globe and much more. It is an exemplary attempt to show how a brand connects with consumer emotions.

While brands do a great job in spending money and efforts for inducing customer loyalty, they miss-out on the engagement front. The key to rewarding loyal customers is two-fold – Identify emotions and Create delightful experiences.

Worth a though…Ain’t it!

ATL BTL and now CTL

So, we all love to classify marketing tasks, agencies, job profiles, strategies, plan and so on in ATL and BTL… Its 2012 and the two are almost converging! Perhaps few years down the line, both will converge to make CTL emerge. What’s CTL – Im no Kotler tough; however let me define – Combine the line.

But why? Simple, ask yourself! Today, you don’t just watch TV – you tweet, you share, you link it back to your experience when you walked into a mall and so much. This comes back to the ’empowered consumer’ who can be extremely passionate about your brand provided you stick to your brand promise at every touch point and every messaging.

So, gone are the days of paying celebs millions and not even having given your channel partner an interaction pitch. Integration is the key! The brand promise flows throughout mass, personal and earned media. And of course, the last mile!

Think through…




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