Big data transforming South African marketing sector

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True personalisation can only be achieved by harnessing the massive amounts of data a company generates, in the right way, says Zareen Hartley, marketing manager at Software AG SA.

Marketing functions are perhaps the most important element of customer experience management (CEM), and the marketing sector is most often the first point of call for any business’ customer-related needs.

According to Zareen Hartley, Software AG South Africa’s Marketing Manager, the next step in the evolution of customer service is about true personalisation, as well as clever partnerships and alignments, which not only add value to the customer experience, but influence the customer’s feelings and decisions. This can only be achieved by harnessing and using the massive amounts of data a company generates, in the right way.

Hartley explains that while historically, marketing divisions in companies have used data such as customer demographics and transactional data to create profiles for their market base, today’s many touch points offer a wide range of rich big data sources. “The number of data sources has increased dramatically, and now includes social media events, sentiment analysis, news, mobile events, geo-location, system alerts, sensors and machines,” she says. “If gathered and used correctly, this incredibly valuable information can be fed into the customer profile on a continual basis, to create a more in-depth, relevant and meaningful picture of their needs and buying habits.”

Hartley goes on to say that Software AG’s Intelligent Business Operations (IBO) platform, which includes its successful CEM solution, allows for real-time visibility of this information on a constant basis, through streaming data and analytics. She goes on to say this information is easily accessed through visual dashboards detailing current events, and through this system, it is possible to deploy entirely unique and personalised marketing offerings for individual customers, in real-time.

“With the availability of effective CEM solutions, organisations should be able to easily visualise and analyse the performance of their marketing programmes, and adjust and optimise them based on changing consumer requirements, in a much faster manner,” Hartley adds. “All channels of data and analytics should be consolidated into a user-friendly, clear and contextual visual dashboard, whereby programmes can be effectively reviewed, and adjustments can easily be implemented.”

Mass customisation of offerings is enabled thorough this understanding of the customer, so that each and every interaction during any customer experience can be automatically personalised. This helps companies to ensure they are putting out the relevant message at the right time and place, each and every time they interact with a customer.

“For example, a customer may use their credit card to purchase tickets to a tropical holiday destination,” Hartley suggests. “This may trigger a system that will then tailor complimentary and value-adding offers, and that same customer could then be contacted with specific discounts on, say, swimwear or luggage promotions, travel-related insurance or discounts on international telecommunications rates. These would all be highly relevant offerings to this specific customer, which are unique to their individual needs, and as such, their experience will be improved dramatically.

“Understanding what drives buyers simply isn’t enough anymore to sustain or build a competitive advantage,” says Hartley. “It’s what you do with this information that is important. By pulling data from a wide range of sources, it is possible to transform it into insightful and impactful marketing programmes that can fundamentally improve the customer experience, as well as help businesses gain valuable insight into their customers.”

Hartley continues to explain that the key to CEM is not simply putting it in place – getting it right is what really matters. “Badly implemented programmes which churn out random or irrelevant messages can even alienate customers,” she warns. “That is why it is vital that businesses partner with solutions providers that are able to fully understand a business and its needs, and are able to tailor-make a customised platform that is able to create true and sustained value for customers.”

“We expect to see the demand for truly effective and sustainable customer engagement to grow dramatically, as South African marketing experts shift gears to cater to the hyper-competitive and fast-paced age of smart, connected customers who expect exceptional, personalised services,” she says. “These customised products and services need to meet the needs of individual customers, based on their specific and unique interests and needs.”