Defining the customer relies on smart use of data

How do you define ’a customer’? Is it someone who buys your product or service on a regular basis, or an individual who once made a purchase from you but is simply hanging around on your database? Kevin Slatter, managing director at G2 Data Dynamics, gives his view

Kevin Slatter
Kevin Slatter

As media channels continue to fragment, these are important questions for us data folk to be able to answer. Consumers enjoy (or ignore!) marketing communication through more contact points than ever – where once the mail was seen as the main CRM channel, digital now offers the chance to have tailored and even real-time conversations with individuals. The march of new technology platforms is changing brand-to-consumer interaction forever.

Of course, with the availability of more channels comes a greater volume of data, and the need to filter customers, for example to categorise them as regular, occasional or lapsed. This is imperative, because you need to know whether it’s relevant – or efficient – to get in touch with all database contacts for a campaign, regardless of their age.

In reality, defining your customers should be about more than just marking or rearranging names on a database: that is not always the most effective way of using your customer data. An individual’s relationship with a brand or service provider can be very complex, so you really should be using the data from all touchpoint sources to create a relevant conversation with each customer wherever possible. By implementing what we call a ’mutual marketing’ approach – creating dialogue through your marketing – you can glean a more complete picture of that person’s relationship with the product they buy, from paths to purchase to post-sale involvement. In this way, you could actually determine the length of engagement with a brand and whether the customer is perceived to have ’lapsed’ or not.

With new technologies and good systems architecture, marketing managers and their consultancies should now be able to create a sliding scale of ’customer connection’ to evaluate ongoing brand association. By assessing a person’s engagement with a company through each channel, you can devise a multi-layered communication strategy, including real-time analysis and response where appropriate.

Ultimately, we as an industry have to take a wider view on the definition of a customer by thinking more holistically about their relationship with the brand. This will involve taking a wider view on measurement of all channels, including online or call centre activity – such as help lines or email enquiries – to allow more in-depth analysis of where the customer fits into the sales cycle. With or without evidence of a recent purchase, all these touchpoint activations indicate an ongoing relationship which should be nurtured to ensure customers do not slip into the dark land of the lapsed.

Who is more important to you, a heavy user with infrequent purchases and a brand advocate or a frequent purchaser but reluctant user? The answer of course is that they are both valuable customers but in different ways and they should be treated differently to ensure the brand relationship is maximised.

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