As the saying goes, “the customer is always right,” especially when it comes to behavior and buying practices. But consumers are constantly changing, which is why insights derived from data offer companies the opportunity to better serve them and drive sales in the process.
For example, although value, quality and convenience are the three main factors that consistently drive purchasing, what those factors mean tend to evolve with consumer habits and trends, said Linda Ellett, Partner and Head of Consumer Markets, Leisure and Retail at KPMG UK.
“Value for money has an element of price in it but is also broader than that,” she said. “How do I feel when purchasing that item?”
Consumer value, experience and sustainability are buying patterns Linda Ellett sees as “signals that cannot be ignored.”
During a roundtable discussion convened by Forbes, Linda Ellett was joined by Jeremy Pee, Chief Digital and Technology Officer at Marks & Spencer, and Aileen Nathan, Sales Director at Mondelēz, to discuss changes in consumer behavior and the challenge of turning data into actionable insights. The conversation included tips on how brands can personalise interactions with customers by tapping into data insights.
Read the speakers’ insights and watch the full event video below:
Start with the question you want to solve
Whether it’s using insights to enhance brand connection or customer experience, companies should work backwards to identify the data they need to achieve their desired outcome.
Starting conversations with “Is this what the consumer wants?” instead of “Is this right for the bottom line?” is fundamental to finding the correct answer to both questions, Aileen Nathan said.
At Marks & Spencer, where the customer journey involves 12 steps, data can provide details on how the company is performing in each one, Jeremy Pee said.
“We know what we can drill down on in each of those areas to understand what are the sentiments, what are the specific responses that customers are telling us, where we can look at things we need to improve on … We have a 360-degree view out of every step of that journey,” he said.
Listen To The Consumer
By not listening to customers and what the data shows, companies can potentially go off on a tangent. There is a financial and emotional risk of losing their trust, and therefore, their business.
“Consumers aren’t judging their experiences now by other [similar] brands alone … consumers are expecting the same experience to come from not just consumer retail, but [from other consumer-facing industries] like the tech and media businesses … their banks, even their energy companies,” said Linda Ellett. “We’ve got to understand the consumers as deeply as possible so we can engage with them … and actually give them that fantastic experience.”
However, be wary of doing too many things, as failing fast is easy, cautions Aileen Nathan, sales director at Mondelēz. She suggests thinking about “clarity of work, who’s doing what, where, and if we’re able to deduce the right data from what’s being done.”
Enable The Use of Data
To leverage data efficiently, the key is making it easy to understand so those using it are equipped to make faster and better decisions.
From the C-suite to customer-facing employees, it’s more powerful to have product details and/or customer preferences on hand “at the touch of a button … easy to read visually … We [have] to make it really super easy for people to use that data to make faster, better decisions,” said Linda Ellett.
Jeremy Pee shared that having a platform that gives instant access to transaction data, for example, helps automate critical business decisions that can improve customers’ digital interactions. “Instead of looking for one insight at a time, you scale the operations to grow … which has significant commercial value for our business,” Jeremy Pee added.
Create Personalised Customer Experiences
With more opportunities to translate data into insights, companies are tasked with building experiences and offerings that can keep up with the pace.
Showing you know and understand your customers—and demonstrating that throughout all of their interactions—is crucial for brand loyalty. Personalised offers, on-site experiences on a company’s app or in-store, or via one-to-one communications in the market, are increasingly important.
“Loyalty and repeat—it’s no good just getting the consumer to buy you once and then chasing after them to buy you again,” said Aileen Nathan. Prompt them to subscribe, join a community or simply shop, and you suddenly have a steady stream of revenue. Bundle in additional benefits, and you’re able to add the value of the proposition and prevent the customer from shopping elsewhere or supporting another brand.
Many companies, including Marks & Spencer, are scaling data insights to increase personalised interactions for consumers. “Our mission is to make every touchpoint—every digital interaction—personalised for our customers,” said Jeremy Pee.
But Jeremy Pee thinks it’s about more than just the data itself: “How do we actually take this and move quickly…and really drive value in different ways?” He believes using the insights as a learning cycle to implement improvements will ultimately make the experience better for the customer.
Today, the consumer journey crosses multiple channels, and no one wants to feel like a brand-new customer every time, so personalisation every step of the way is key.