When Apple decided to launch its new devices and iOS 8 by “gifting” free copies of U2’s new album to iTunes users, there was a strong consumer backlash. Contrary to what Apple’s marketers had imagined, people weren’t universally thrilled to see music files they hadn’t authorized on their devices.
Cue dozens of opinion pieces slamming the cloud — as if the platform was the problem, rather than marketer miscalculation. The fact is that cloud computing is already enabling some of the most powerful advances in retail and brand innovation, with infinite, global scale and near-real-time rates of speed to execute results-driven marketing faster and more intelligently than ever.
To cultivate loyalty and build long-lasting relationships with customers, retail and brand marketers need to understand their behavior and desires at a very granular level - and be able to engage them in real-time through the channel of their choice. Previous technologies allowed this at an aggregated, segmented level. Today, the consumer expects a personalized connection. After decades of talking about one-to-one marketing, only recently have brands been able to collect and interpret the vast amount of data consumers create and activate insights gleaned from it through real-time digital and mobile platforms. Delivering this personal experience is made possible by cloud-enabled solutions.
To achieve precise insights, it is necessary to look at longitudinal behavioral data over several years, as well as the vast sea of data we each create digitally every single day (e.g., from social networks, geo-location, preferences, connected devices, etc.). This requires data architecture and infrastructure able to combine long loop data with real-time data, static data with real-time contextual data, highly structured with unstructured and unpredictable data. The only scalable model — from a volume, concurrency, and performance perspective — is a cloud-based one.
Once these data assets absorbed, the customer science applied must deliver the level of specificity needed for individual-level insight. In a world where consumers expect personalized engagements from retailers and brands they select, marketers must be able to understand each individual and engage with her one-on-one, in real-time. To effectively activate those insights, and provide consumers with a personalized, relevant experience online and offline, brands must be able to execute trillions of “data transactions” every single day. This is only possible with a cloud-based platform that grows with a brand and its customers.
The other area benefiting from this transformation is new product development for CPG brands. While a year’s worth of data might generate some helpful analysis when evaluating a customer’s past preferences, five years of data allows a brand to completely understand the effects of their CRM strategy and how it has changed and engaged their most loyal customers over time. This data also allows brands to identify and create models for new product trends, an endeavor previously unproductive due to the insurmountable size and scope of information.
Thanks to cloud-based platforms, it’s now possible to look at shifts in consumer behavior and use that information to build models to predict the size and nature of the next trend. This has made it possible for brands to connect massive amounts of consumer behavior and product performance data with new contextual and time-aligned data, proving critical when launching new products. These insights aid in early diagnosis, enlightening brands on why a product might not be meeting targeted benchmarks, how to steer the launch back on track, or enabling them to make adjustments to the product. Conversely, this also helps brands to spot when a new offering is a budding success, enabling marketers to push that product further.
Is any of this as sexy as a U2 album launch? Maybe not — but sexy doesn’t always count for much with consumers. Thanks to these advances in technology, shrewd retailers and CPG companies are now ahead of the curve, discovering new ways to capitalize on smart data to give customers exactly what they want, when they want it, and where they want it.