Financial Mail - - FEATURE -

As brands in­creas­ingly adopt a digital-only strat­egy, cus­tomers are be­com­ing con­fused by choice and that, in turn, is tak­ing its toll on pur­chase de­ci­sion-mak­ing. Wayne Hull, MD of Ac­cen­ture Digital Africa, says for brands to sur­vive they need to adopt an “in­tel­li­gent cus­tomer man­age­ment” ap­proach quickly. This is es­sen­tially where plat­forms “com­bine at­tributes and pref­er­ences” us­ing ad­vanced an­a­lyt­ics to de­sign “pre­vi­ously unimag­ined ex­pe­ri­ences” that build brand loy­alty.

“The digi­ti­sa­tion of ev­ery­thing is a dis­rup­tive step-change that af­fects ev­ery sphere of busi­ness. While this poses a num­ber of chal­lenges in terms of how com­pa­nies today en­gage with key stake­hold­ers, par­tic­u­larly their cus­tomers, this tech­nol­ogy-driven trans­for­ma­tion is also cre­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for busi­nesses to dis­rupt mar­kets and gain a sig­nif­i­cant com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage,” he says.

Among many chal­lenges posed by digi­ti­sa­tion is “the over­whelm­ing choice cus­tomers face in ev­ery­thing they do”. This new par­a­digm, “where more brands are within easy reach via digital chan­nels” means that com­pe­ti­tion for a share of the con­sumer’s at­ten­tion and pocket is greater than ever.

In ad­di­tion to this tougher cus­tomer ac­qui­si­tion phase, cus­tomer re­ten­tion has also be­come more com­plex since digi­ti­sa­tion has em­pow­ered con­sumers: it is eas­ier to switch brands or providers should they be dis­sat­is­fied with a prod­uct or ser­vice. Cus­tomers are also em­pow­ered through so­cial me­dia to broad­cast to their net­works any po­ten­tial dis­dain for a com­pany, prod­uct or ex­pe­ri­ence, which can hurt busi­ness.

The so­lu­tion to the chal­lenges posed by digi­ti­sa­tion lies in a busi­ness’s abil­ity to lever­age tech­nol­ogy given that it has ac­cess to more con­sumer data and touchpoints than ever be­fore.

“With cor­rect so­lu­tions in place, com­pa­nies can col­lect data from all cus­tomer in­ter­ac­tions, be they via mo­bile apps, e-mail re­sponses, brows­ing be­hav­iour, on­line pur­chas­ing his­tory, so­cial me­dia en­gage­ment, or in-per­son in­ter­ac­tions. Then, us­ing tech­nol­ogy such as an­a­lyt­ics and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, a dy­namic pro­file can be built of the cus­tomer’s unique pref­er­ences, pas­sions and needs. These pa­ram­e­ters can also be tracked in real time as they evolve.”

In­tel­li­gent cus­tomer man­age­ment, where data is ex­am­ined from a mul­ti­plic­ity of sources, of­fers busi­nesses the op­por­tu­nity to “move be­yond sim­ply know­ing what cus­tomers pur­chase or con­sume, en­abling them to un­der­stand why con­sumers make the choices they do”.

Hull says this dy­namic cus­tomer pro­file can serve as the cen­tralised cus­tomer in­tel­li­gence in the digital econ­omy, “help­ing to drive hy­per-per­son­alised rec­om­men­da­tions, con­tent and mes­sag­ing of­fers”.

In­tel­li­gent cus­tomer man­age­ment ca­pa­bil­i­ties also en­able busi­nesses to coun­ter­vail the frag­men­ta­tion cur­rently associated with the digital mar­ket­place, mak­ing it eas­ier for cus­tomers to en­gage with, buy, and con­sume what they want, in­stead of try­ing to lever­age the out­dated e-com­merce ap­proach of try­ing to pre­dict the right prod­uct, place and time of pur­chase. It also en­sures busi­nesses en­gage cus­tomers on their terms by ac­tively lis­ten­ing to and serv­ing them, in a sim­i­lar man­ner to that of a per­sonal shop­per or concierge, as op­posed to the old-school sales­per­son ap­proach of push­ing prod­ucts on cus­tomers.

Ul­ti­mately, though, it does come down to money. “For many busi­nesses, digital spend is in­ef­fi­cient due to an in­abil­ity to un­der­stand the cus­tomer and fo­cus on them in more per­sonal ways,” says Hull.

The suc­cess of digital sales and mar­ket­ing in an in­creas­ingly clut­tered on­line en­vi­ron­ment ul­ti­mately hinges on the “stick­i­ness” of a cam­paign, which is de­ter­mined by rel­e­vance and by cre­at­ing per­son­alised mes­sag­ing that touches the right con­sumer.

Hull says there is also an added ben­e­fit of un­der­stand­ing and work­ing across mul­ti­ple digital plat­forms. “This col­lec­tion of gran­u­lar cus­tomer data also cre­ates in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty from which all other forms of busi­ness in­no­va­tion can be driven. This may in­clude the cre­ation of new prod­ucts and ser­vices and mer­chan­dis­ing.”

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