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The Mask Behind the Veil: Identifying the Many-Faced Consumer Across Channels

Today, the average customer may engage with a brand across 10 channels, and look like a different person on each. If the brand cannot reconcile all data points to one human being, how does it deliver a personalized experience?

4/14/2014 10:47:32 AM

By Irving Fain

Multi-channel loyalty marketing is in many ways a practice in peeling away veils. We use in-store purchase data to reveal needs and preferences, mobile analytics to understand lifestyles and patterns, and social media to gauge interests, passions, sentiment and influence.

But the beauty of multi-channel loyalty can also be its undoing. A consumer who is revealed as a mother of two in the aisle may pop up as an NBA fan on Facebook and even a world traveler based on online surfing habits. It’s as if for every veil that data lifts, a wig and dark glasses are added.

This data complexity presents a greater challenge today than it may have 10 years ago. As brands become more competitive and communications channels more fragmented, the imperative to aggregate data into a single identity is increasing. A multi-channel strategy can provide the holistic view of the customer that marketers seek, but its success depends on gathering complete data.

Purchase data is important in helping to identify relevant benefits, but it only reveals a sliver of who a consumer is and the potential of his or her relationship with a brand. The average consumer can engage with an organization across 10 channels, but look like a slightly different person with each. If the brand cannot reconcile all data points to one human being, how can it tailor a personalized experience that is truly holistic?

The answer, we know, is through cross-platform, omni-channel data and analytics. But as privacy issues grab headlines and regulatory attention, marketers are increasingly tasked with proving their worth in this information exchange. People are, after all, remarkably savvy about the value of their personal information – 78% of consumers surveyed by LoyaltyOne in 2012 said they do not feel they receive any benefit from sharing their personal information, up from 74% in 2011. For marketers, this is a worrisome trend.

To succeed, marketers need to use the data they are collecting to create better customer experiences ranging from offers that resonate, products customers care about and brand experiences that are personalized and relevant.

This last point – relevance - requires emphasis, because it is the spring that will launch the entire process into motion.

The consumer’s many faces
The pressing importance of personalization is no longer a veiled secret, nor is the need to engage consistently across channels. In today’s world, customer information is worth as much to a brand as top-line sales were five years ago.

For instance, a 2013 global survey by IBM shows that 40% of shoppers use social, location and mobile technologies for information gathering, but are not likely to use them to actually purchase products. This represents tremendous upside potential – if the marketer can figure out how to aggregate disparate information to deliver a positive experience.

Consider the phenomenon of social media, and that earlier figure of consumers using 10 channels per brand. It is no longer effective to look at specific channels through which the consumer exchanges information as separate silos. The key to multi-channel loyalty is that it be integrated across all brand touchpoints – social, online, mobile, email, in-store – because consumers don’t care what channels they use, they only care that the brand experience is consistent, personalized, relevant and ultimately that it meets their expectations.

Properly executed, multi-channel strategies enable organizations to read, measure and recognize moments of engagement between consumers and brands across channels, linking each of these encounters back to spend. There should not be a touchpoint where consumers create value that isn't incorporated.

At CrowdTwist, for example, we recognize individual behaviors across more than 200 channels, allowing our clients to measure and incorporate into their loyalty programs any action as long as it is verifiable – this can include online site engagement, signing up for a newsletter, logging into mobile app, submitting product reviews, watching videos, sharing across social networks and much more.

Unmasking the Customer: Three Steps
Which leads us to the most important veil of all: that which conceals the customer of tomorrow.

Purchase data is certainly important for creating a personal profile. The act of predicting and addressing a customer’s potential is notably sharpened when the brand connects the transaction with how someone spends, what inspires their purchase decisions and more. Combined, these insights provide the ingredients to power personalized experiences that engender long-term loyalty.
With that in mind, here are three key tips for revealing deeper data behind your customers:

  • Invest in integration: Personalization is paramount, but not achievable until the organization can reconcile a consumer’s identity across channels. A multi-channel loyalty platform is an effective tool for collecting cross-channel data in an opt-in manner – avoiding privacy concerns and providing marketers the ingredients to differentiate their brand experiences. Organizations should be careful to ensure that multi-channel loyalty means the collection of data across channels and not simply communicating in different places.
  • Think consumer, not channel: Today’s consumer is channel agnostic. She does not care if she is purchasing on her iPad or in the aisle, so marketers should be sure the features she values in the brand are present, regardless of the means of interaction. Again, the only way to know both what she values and who she is in each touchpoint is the single identity key.
  • Give the consumer some control: Shoppers realize the worth of their personal information. They know when they buy a pair of shoes online an entire machine is at work processing the details of the transaction. With privacy protection becoming an everyday topic, consumers will place greater trust in those brands that give them control of the information they share.

Multi-channel loyalty marketing may be a practice of peeling away veils, but it also is a responsibility. If a marketer delivers a clear benefit in return for the customer’s buy in, consumer understanding will be less of a challenge and everyone will leave each interaction happier and more successful.

Irving Fain is the CEO and co-founder of CrowdTwist, provider of omni-channel loyalty and analytics solutions for brands such as Pepsi, Nestle, VIZIO, L’Oréal, Zumiez and others. Irving has been featured by CNBC and TechCrunch and is a frequent contributor to The Wall Street Journal, Inc., and other business media outlets.

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