shellyShelley Waterhouse is the Managing Partner at soon-to-be-launched OgilvyOne Johannesburg. She has a proven track record in driving measurable business results, with a focus on CRM, data, digital, social CRM, and mobile marketing. This piece is adapted from one she wrote for The Annual last year:

You know what they say about someone with Big Data… huge customer relationship building opportunities. And it’s true. I’m encouraged by the fact that many companies are becoming aware of the fundamental shift required to create meaningful customer relationships. This is the age of the customer. Individuals dictate their relationships with marketers, from customised experiences they want, to how and when they interact with companies. As a customer, I know I do! I call this CMR – Customer Managed Relationships.

Gone is the age of traditional communications and data gathering. Customers have changed that. Consider the broad ecosystem of technology and messages that customers are exposed to. They also  influence each other’s choices through social media. How do you manage that as a marketer? With as much customer information and insights as one can glean from traditional and social media. The bigger the data, the better for us as marketers.

While traditional databases will continue to be the bedrock for one-to-one marketing, progressive marketers today see the potential of evolving this practice to also mine for social media data. They gather customer insights, predict trends and bring products to market faster. In order to attract and retain profitable customers and avoid losing ground to competitors, marketers have no choice but to dig deeper to gain new customer knowledge that will drive powerful ideas and enhance customer engagement and customisation.

The social media revolution now allows us to capture and integrate data from as many new points as possible, including mobile – from aggregated web behaviour like search data, to what customers are doing and saying in social media spaces (Facebook “likes”, tweets about our brands etc,), all in real-time.

Even Pinterest and Instagram provide rich data. Social media data sources just keep growing, and because it’s so unstructured, it makes it challenging to manage and analyse. On the other hand, it’s interesting and rich, and offers unparalleled value in being able to overlay qualitative information with quantifiable sales data.

Not only are web-based and social media data sources important, I’m not alone in believing that the next integral data source will be that of capturing customers’ interests.  Consumer interests have typically been identified or assumed based on their segmentation profiles and historical behaviour, however, interest-based profiling gleaned through social media platforms has the potential to be more effective in determining what brands, products and services consumers want and have the likelihood to seek out.

This new level of data can provide marketers with insights that guide product development, marketing budget spend, targeting, messaging and offers,  all resulting in more profitable marketing initiatives, success rates and ROIs.

All said, in order to thrive in today’s CMR landscape, marketers have no choice but to listen to their customers at every possible channel touchpoint. The utilisation of both traditional and rich personalised data truly allows for relevant one-to-one relationship marketing.

The challenge for us South African marketers is the low penetration of internet use, but the ever-increasing interactions consumers are having with our brands via their mobile social media is an extremely effective channel and will continue to grow. Marketers and relationship management agencies have long been stating that this is a key differentiator for them. But has this been accomplished? Let’s prove once and for all that South Africa can be a leader in the space of Big Data. Who’s up for the challenge?

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