Customers offer the easy answers

Alicia Clegg’s piece on marketing research made for interesting reading (MW November 25). Accountability is a key concern for all customer-focused organisations. But the first step for any business on the road to true accountability should be to focus on the tangible data provided by their own customer information.

Customer behaviour can then be used to inform external research, with targeting to improve relevance. Existing customers can be interviewed with questions based on their actual, rather than assumed, buying behaviour. There will be no inaccuracy due to poor memory and real brand engagement can be measured. This internal customer information provides an in-depth view of the ebbs and flows of customer behaviour.

Yet despite significant investment, few marketing departments appear to grasp this concept and are prone to spend vast amounts of money on diverse third-party data that does little more than justify their own existence. There is little widespread appreciation of the quantity of detailed customer information now held – or how it can provide insight not only into brand awareness and the influence of media campaigns on sales, but also support cross-selling opportunities.

Detailed customer information is the lynchpin of customer-centricity, as opposed to the call centre-based lip-service paid to the concept by most companies.

To nurture real customer understanding and prevent brand erosion, organisations must move away from tactical research activity that validates individual marketing projects to a strategic evaluation of customer behaviour that informs business direction.

Paul Alexander

Head of consumer markets

dunnhumby

London W5

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