A deep understanding of customer needs, wants and reactions to new developments is an increasingly crucial element of brand strategy today, and remains at the absolute forefront of concern among digital leaders. Thanks to AI, we now have the ability to leverage the online breadcrumbs our customers are already leaving behind to help us better understand and connect to their mindset.
In the latest Nimbus Ninety Digital Trends report, 82% of digital leaders surveyed identified improving customer experience or engagement as the most important single priority for the year ahead. Following closely is improving data management and strategy, which they see as the biggest challenge to customer loyalty.
Tied to this is business leaders’ #1 reason for undertaking a digital transformation strategy: to meet changing customer expectations.
In the latest version of their Chief Disruptor Magazine, the Nimbus team spoke with Jeni Herberger, Head of Transformation and VP of Global WPP Alliance at Sitecore, who discussed the role that understanding customer experience will play in forming forward-looking business strategies. However, many face challenges when it comes to meeting customer expectation: “It’s undoubtable that the consumer is looking for authenticity. They’re also looking for technology….Along with that expectation, there is the need for transparency, authenticity. Those two, king of, butt heads.”
She says that part of being transparent is being honest about the fact that many brands exist to derive a profit. That’s ok, but at the same time we need to provide customers with something they really want and need. Determining what exactly that is comes down to having a deep understanding of that customer.
Similarly, Cleve Gibbon, Chief Marketing Technology Officer at Cognifide, spoke on the importance of thoroughly understanding your customer journeys. “I would focus all my effort as a brand to actually getting that picture [of your customer journey] as a north star, roadmap it against a digital strategy and colour it in as I go.”
“We think we know the customer,” Jeni continued. “But we don’t. No shareholder, no CEO says, ‘slow down, take your time.’ So we’re working under the gun, and I think we skip steps.”
Thanks to AI and machine learning technologies, those businesses now have the capacity to better understand customer wants, needs and behavioral changes in real time if they’re looking at the right data sets. Those first movers that take advantage of these insights will likely be the ones that continue to propel forward as data continues to take center stage.
Understanding customer insights through external data
Every day, your customers are freely and openly leaving behind online breadcrumbs that indicate their thoughts on a product or development, on a marketing campaign, on a change in leadership, and equally on the same elements within your competitor set. They also discuss their wants and needs, pointing to gaps in the market.
The challenge of course is distilling the recurring patterns and insights from amid the noise and social chatter. Today there are AI tools designed to do just that.
Looking at a popular automotive brand, we conducted an analysis of one of the most popular review sites to see what customers were saying about particular features of their new hybrid model, compared to their competitors’ offerings.
In addition, it picked up top positive and negative keywords associated with each brand and each particular attribute, to illustrate what it was about those elements that led to interest or concern.
This site is just one source for customer feedback, and reviews are just one data type. Combined with overall social conversations and sentiment about these brands, as well as things like top performing Google Adwords or other online ad campaigns, and customer engagement with digital products or in-store, business leaders can start to piece together strong and validated indicators about customer preference that can and should inform their next steps in product development, marketing, new business lines, geographies of focus and more.
More importantly, it can help them better understand and define their core customer, who in any industry is constantly changing, as well as their niche within the wider market.
As improved customer experience falls further into focus for more and more brands in today’s hyper-competitive markets, those that are able to leverage the customer data available to them to inform strategy will find themselves at an information advantage, giving them a leg up on those still working to implement digital strategies.