Delivering personal experiences with data-driven marketing

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Customer is king” has been a mantra of business for decades. Variations of it have been used for centuries. It carries a particular significance in marketing, however, since the process of engaging existing and would-be customers requires an intimate understanding of their needs – marketers and salespeople need to know what makes people tick. Armed with these insights, businesses can win over customers and build loyalty for long-term commercial success.

About the author

Yorick Astier is Vice President of Customer Experience for Oracle EMEA.

The marketing industry’s approach to customer loyalty has changed over recent decades: there was the 90s’ obsession with customer love, which levelled out in the 2000s, only for Ehrenberg-Bass’s evangelism for sophisticated mass marketing and penetration to move conversations away from existing customers. Now, the balance has shifted once again: intelligent marketing tools offer the opportunity to create more nuanced, even emotional, customer journeys and earn their loyalty in the process.

The benefits of leveraging new technologies to build customer loyalty and retention cannot be understated. A report from KPMG found that 52 percent of the consumers would buy from their favorite brand, even if it were more convenient and cheaper to buy from one of its competitors. Everything from an engaging onboarding process to unexpected rewards and other incentives can delight customers – and technology can make these experiences feel more personal than ever.

Unifying the customer experience

Imagine trying to talk to someone who has no memory of who you are one moment, and the next is trying to sell you something you do not want or need based on a conversation you had six months ago. It would be frustrating, and after a while you might simply walk away. The fragmented approach that many businesses use when engaging with their customers has a similar effect – and it ends up costing them sales and, more importantly, loyalty.

To have compelling conversations and build stronger relationships with customers, businesses need the right tools and structures in place. Too often, siloed solutions and teams mean that the marketing and sales functions work independently of one another, when in practice the two are both responsible for the same thing – delivering great experiences for customers that make them want to make purchase decisions, time and time again. By breaking down the barriers that often separate marketing and sales, businesses can provide customers with more fluid, personalized experiences.

The key to a unified customer experience is an integrated marketing system that can manage the entire customer journey, end to end. This gives businesses a single view of audience segmentation, cross-channel campaign activation, automated lead qualification, and sales generation. Once these processes are brought under one roof, marketers and salespeople can begin to approach customer journeys in a more intelligent way, determining which processes can be automated for efficiency and leveraging data to inform engaging experiences.

A good conversation takes intelligence

For marketers, intelligence is derived from data. Data helps them understand what customers have bought previously, how they browse the internet or physical stores, and the ways they interact with content. This information can be used to build up a profile of each customer that can inform interactions. This can be highly contextual: for example, a particular event, such as a customer visiting a fashion retailer’s website and searching for outerwear, could trigger tailored content being shared with a customer, in this case sharing a range of winter looks.

Business intelligence feeds into the way that salespeople interact with customers too. With intelligent insights and lead qualification tools, salespeople can have informed conversations with the right leads, rather than wasting both parties’ time with unproductive conversations.

Genuine sales automation also prevents salespeople from wasting time on tasks that they might do to keep their managers happy, for example updating lists and actions. A study from Oracle found that handling repetitive administrative tasks that could be automated was the single largest frustration of salespeople, with 43% voicing their annoyance. Crucially, wasted time could be better spent acting on the intelligence provided by an integrated marketing system.

Personal experiences at scale

Marketers can go even further by building more intelligent databases and models that enable them to engage customers at scale. Data analytics helps businesses to make sense of big data and experiment in real time to test different strategies for engaging customers, while AI can not only personalize interactions, but also predict and individualize them. More and more companies are implementing these tools, with great effect.

Travel technology company Amadeus has changed its approach to digital customer acquisition in recent years. It is building a data model to serve the multiple marketing teams and sales functions across the company. From there, Amadeus uses AI to leverage data and facilitate personalization at scale: rather than a scattergun email-blast approach, the company matches the right prospects and customers with campaigns suited to their needs.

Of course, the COVID-19 had serious implications for the travel industry, with international travel virtually grinding to a halt. For Amadeus, this meant a strategic shift from demand generation to drive marketing qualified leads to prioritizing existing customers with always-on automated campaigns that are sensitive to customer profiles. In a time of volatility, earning customer loyalty with better, more personal conversations is more important than ever.

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Yorick Astier is Vice President of Customer Experience for Oracle EMEA.