By: Simon Chung – Director of Strategy & Consulting Acxiom EMEA
Today’s digital customers, used to interacting within the worlds of Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook, have become used to instant, personalised experiences from the brands they interact with every day. Brands and marketers must be able to move and make decisions faster. The digital world has meant customer experience has become even more well established as the backbone of business success, and the most successful brands are those that are making it their number one priority.
From data to creative
This goes far beyond building a brand identity, although that’s an important first step. The path to customer loyalty is built by meaningful experiences, and the onus is on brands to find ways to engage customers at every point of interaction to do this. We live in a world with a huge amount of noise and communication being pumped out every day, and cutting through that will require more intelligent, data-driven ways of making decisions, and leveraging the assets brands already have to hand.
For example, imagine being able to offer the functionality and means to provide personalised experiences – such as giving the customers the option to set spending limits on one-click purchase systems, and sending notifications before the limit is reached. Or helping them get the best renewal offer for a service online without having to call. Or, in the case of multi-brand conglomerates, ensuring that when a hotel is fully booked, a customer is not recommended to the same-chain hotel in a different city, but rather a similar hotel from a sister brand that is close by.
To be able to get to the point where individual interactions can be customised in this way takes a smarter use of data. Alongside that, it’s also about things like setting up decisioning rules, that enable booking systems, websites and other touchpoints to respond in appropriately personalised and useful ways, based on the information they’re receiving. Joining all of this together are the external elements that customers will actually see – the creative design and work that brings it all to life. This could be a website that’s clear and easy to use, and presents products in an appealing way, or menu systems that anyone can work through first time.
A pathway to better decisioning
Helping organisations to deliver fully across all three of these touchpoints takes time. At Acxiom, we’ve found that in our work with clients, a framework to structure these projects can be immensely helpful. This typically starts with the lining up the basics of data and technology maturity, before building through seven levels of intelligent decisioning. Over time, this allows organisation data sources to become fully accessible, and moves the kind of marketing and customer experience operations that are needed from being largely manually driven, right the way up to full automation.
In the long run, it sets businesses up for better decisioning, customer experiences, operational efficiency and competitive advantage. So, what does this framework look like in more detail, and how do businesses work through each stage?
First is the foundational phase, and at this stage, a brand may have many data sources and disparate technologies – or lack of either thereof. Making the most of any existing capabilities, and auditing existing technologies is the first step to maximise value. This phase starts by setting the data and technology foundations for the future, whilst working to maximise an organisation’s current assets and capabilities.
Second comes the strategic phase. Once the foundations are in place, greater value can be generated across the customer journey. This often requires some elements of change for an organisation, be it new technology, better data connections or shift in culture to be more data-led. Prior to entering this stage, it is worth mentioning that adding new or replacing old technology platforms should be considered against current and future business requirements.
Third and final is the transformational phase. This is the final phase, where an organisation has reached a level of its data maturity that decisions can be automated, or made in real-time as situations and consumer input and preferences change. Businesses at this level will be able to shift focus from simply meeting day-to-day customer experience needs, to delivering the holy grail of hyper-personalisation at scale that will drive value and competitive advantage at each touchpoint.
Getting intelligent decisioning right is a gradual process across an organisation, and that organisation’s technologies and approach to data. While an organisation won’t go from a foundational level to a complete transformation overnight, making any first step towards intelligent decisioning is a huge moment, and one that all brands ought to seriously consider.