Commentary

No Data? No Problem! Build Loyal Relationships Despite Data Dearth

It’s an ongoing endeavor to tailor messages and content in new ways that keep audiences interested -- and if that interest wanes, the first rule of thumb is to create more personalized experiences for each user.

Building that experience, however, is challenging when the target audience does not yield enough data. For companies with a global reach, this becomes particularly problematic in developing economies or underserved areas where large percentages of people don’t have access to the types of technologies and services that deliver well-defined data.

Here are a few marketing lessons I’ve learned from years of addressing the unaddressable market.

Cultivate context

Context -- what people are doing and where they are -- can illuminate data on hand, but also offers important clues for data that does not exist and can be used in a myriad of ways. Think of context as intent.

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In my day-to-day work, our customer base is largely in emerging economies and has been historically anonymous. We reach these users directly by understanding that their moment of need might come at home, late on a Friday night, when their mobile phone is about to run out of service. It’s in that moment we connect to offer a simple top-up option, helping them avoid the hassle or wait to get to a store and enabling them to keep their phone in use.

The moment of need might be different for your customer, but the same principles remain. It’s about understanding intent to find and connect with the individual in a meaningful way, in the anticipatory moment, and provide what they need without putting a requirement or expectation on it.

Trust your customer

We talk all the time about how to get consumers to trust our brand. But do we trust our consumers? This is standard procedure for most companies, but over the past few years, I’ve recently come to discover a more effective model.

One of the most common transactions for the underbanked consumers we represent are prepaid top-ups. In order to offer our services we have to offer financial airtime credit extensions, in the moment needed, to everyone. We do this without prequalifying the individual or having a certainty of their ability to pay. Instead we extend a trust to them and provide incentive to pay the extension back. 

It’s a remarkable shift that shouldn’t work, but does. We see consistent payback rates between 97%-98% and customer churn is all but eradicated. While your business may not trade in financial credits, the lesson can be learned that extending trust to every user, not just a privileged few, yields measurable success.

Build user identities

Context and establishing trust sets the stage for building purposeful user identities. Once we tune in to what our users need, and rely on our loyal relationships, audience data expands. From there we must ask, what data is most meaningful when building pathways to repeat app usage?

In my own work, we determine this by cultivating a deep, data-driven, identity-based relationship. We build trust with users gradually, at different stages of their own journeys -- in and outside the app. I’m privileged to watch as unbanked users are empowered to create financial identities and access fair financial services for the first time. The possibilities don’t end at airtime credit extensions, and identities based on context and trust are opening doors for the first time to other innovative services such as smartphone financing.

By applying the context you’ve discovered and the trust you’ve developed toward creating user identities, you can better deliver personalized, progressive experiences for users that keep them engaged and allow them to progress. In today’s world, there is no reason anonymous should mean unreachable.

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