Waiting To Wow: Three Keys To Anticipating Consumer Needs
Use the data you already have. Most companies already have access to customer interest (implicit or explicit), engagement and transactional data that they can leverage to understand and anticipate customer needs. The challenge is capturing this data to create the visibility and analytical insights that marketers can act on to identify and respond to customer needs.
Which brand are you more likely to continue to do business with: the one that recognizes your recent dining room chandelier purchase and provides helpful communications about possible accessories, like a dimmer switch and light bulb options? Or the company that sends you a promotional offer for a dining room chandelier just like the one you bought, because they recognized your browser history but didn’t capture your last purchase? OK, so the answer is obvious. However, this demonstrates why marketers need to leverage the engagement and transactional information they already have to enhance the customer experience.
Bottom line: Use the data you have to put your customers in context. It will enable you to better anticipate their needs and give them what they want, when they want it.
Contextualize consumer interactions and preferences through analytics. Do you know how your customers engage with and buy from you? You may find that customers browse and gather information on one channel (in-store, online or via catalog), purchase on another channel (online or call center) and ultimately receive their merchandise in yet a different channel (local retail store pick-up). This type of cross-channel consumer behavior demonstrates a preference for using whichever method gives the most convenience, ease of use and speed of service delivery. When marketers analyzes their customer interaction and preference data, they can:
- Better understand customer triggers that lead to purchase decisions
- Learn which products and features customers are most likely to buy
- Track, monitor, analyze and influence customer sentiment
Take the example of customers who don’t care about free shipping or percentage-off discounts, but always respond to BOGO offers they receive online that they can redeem at their local store. By analyzing the types of products customers purchase based on the offers they receive and the channels they engage with and buy on, marketers can understand and deliver experiences that meet the contextual preference expressed by a customer’s behavior.
Automate the insight-to-action cycle. Companies that use analytics to enable responsiveness are able to shift from a reaction mode to a proactive, anticipatory mode of engagement. This shift requires marketers to step into the shoes of the consumer. They must understand the customer journey and be able to identify the questions and needs that consumers will have along their path to purchase. The next step is to anticipate the engagements that are most likely to answer those questions, reduce uncertainty and increase convenience and ease of use for the consumer. Once the customer journey and anticipated questions and needs have been identified, communications can be automated and triggered by specific customer behavior and/or stage in their journey to create a continual insight-to-action cycle.
Think about the car rental company that can prioritize offers and information provided before, during and after a trip by considering data it has about the customer (such as attributes collected through its loyalty program and responses to past offers). For example, the preference and behavior data of a customer might include the type of car customers typically rent, their rental frequency, whether they travel for business or pleasure, the locations they usually rent and pick up from and if they usually select economy or full size. All of this data can be leveraged by the car rental company to provide contextual information to support additional value-add services, such as pre-trip planning (local hotel, restaurant and entertainment offers) and post-trip information (customer loyalty status and appreciation offers).
The most successful marketing organizations are the ones that can access information on demand with an analytics-driven approach to understanding their customers’ context, anticipating the next best interaction and executing it through the preferred engagement channel. This approach is what we call present tense marketing. Organizations operating as present tense marketers have the capability to continually capture and assess the dynamic consumer state and respond automatically in real time, providing a customer experience that truly wows.