Now you see them, now you don’t

You know you have got customers because their money shows up in your accounting systems. You can see them when they visit the website and log-in. Then suddenly, they are gone – invisible to your marketing function and customer insight teams. What happened? They may have gone to a shop to buy your product, or maybe they phoned your call centre.

Without an integrated customer management process across multiple channels, the view you get of a customer can be patchy, coming in and out of view depending on where they choose to touch the business. It is a major problem for any business that wants to run customer-centric marketing and one that even pure-play digital companies can suffer from.

Research carried out by Oracle among media companies across Europe has revealed that only 48 per cent are able to monitor their customers’ interactions across all channels. Even integrating across digital channels alone is a challenge – only one in five are able to make recommendations to customers based on their interactions in every online channel.

These gaps in the view of the customer run directly counter to the marketing strategy, with 84 per cent planning personalised content, 72 per cent looking to foster deeper levels of trust with consumers, 68 per cent want to provide a compelling user experience and 66 per cent hoping to tailor offerings to customers’ needs.

That’s what customers want, too – personalised, responsive websites that develop dynamically and know who they are. Willing to provide their data in return for that sort of experience, they expect to see publishers (and every other type of business) keep to their side of the bargain.

So what is getting in the way? Oracle found relatively low levels of smart billing systems. Just as online publishing enters a critical debate about paywalls and paid-for content, the basic infrastructure to make this happen is lacking. Barely one in five can even handle one-off payments.

As a result, the customer is not being given much of a choice. Either they go for the all-you-can-eat annual subscription to access content or they have to make do with what is available free-to-air, while perhaps buying physical content ad-hoc. Publishers want committed subscribers, but as “long tail” economics shows, get multiple incremental purchases and you can build a sizeable revenue stream.

With the fragmentation of channels, consumer buying behaviour has also fragmented. Alongside committed purchasing – such as getting a daily newspaper or a magazine subscription – individuals may now want to use content on and off via different channels, from their work PC to their iPad. Sewing those data streams together into a coherent and holistic view of the customer is no longer a nice-to-have, it is a must-have.

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