Direct marketing, email newsletters and CRM seem like tactics from a bygone age in today’s communication world; but within brands and marketing departments the arguments still rage as to whether an organisation needs to build its own customer database and harness its audience, or whether the major online ecosystems of Google, Facebook and Apple now own access to the audience.
This may not be the right question today, but a look at the real principles behind these approaches and how they can be applied to today’s communication landscape may give us the strategic approach that is right for brands in the age of data.
The basis of CRM was to create a direct relationship and communication channel with the consumer for them to provide details on themselves, their interests and purchasing habits and for the brand in return to provide messaging and offers that were more relevant; a bilateral communication that was supposed to be win-win. If we apply this to today’s environment their may be different ways of achieving these objectives.
1/ Better understanding consumers comes through both active and passive signals
The advent of ‘big data’ means that we are able to learn and understand our consumers both through explicit information they can give us, but also through their activities online, on their mobile and instore. Connecting these data points to give a broad view of the consumer and developing algorithmic approaches to extrapolate propensity and future needs are the key for consumer insights driven by data. Brands are creating this data everyday with the media that they expose to their consumers, the websites and mobile apps that they navigate and the loyalty programmes that show their purchase history; the challenge is to harness and decipher the signals that it creates.
2/ Segmentation and targeting means that mass channels can be used for personalised communications
The days of one TV spot hitting the majority of the population or a narrow range of magazines across gender groups is over, but beyond that e-couponing or direct mail are now considered spam (even while email as an engagement tool continues to be successful); On the other hand the advances in targeting through digital technology are now tremendous, from mass reach platforms such as Facebook and Twitter who understand your interests, to the ever present Google who knows everything about your email and search activity and even digital outdoor that can now recognize you through the bluetooth transmitter on your phone we can now apply specific messages to different segment. But beyond this, there are even more advanced technologies like Facebook’s Atlas adserving which can follow an individual across the web and their custom and lookalike audiences that can create segments based on millions of variables means that the right message can be delivered to the right person at the right time.
The future of CRM is in brand advertising, in the sufficiently large niches that are relevant both to consumers and to businesses; when the TV can recognize who is sitting in front of it we will have reached the pinnacle of CRM and mass-media convergence. Today and tomorrow brands need to engage with their customers and continue to build an understanding of who they are through the data trails that they leave. We may not be collecting email addresses to send BOGOF or BIGIF, but really getting to know the customer is the key to success in the future.