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Can insights from social analytics be the final piece to the "360° customer view" puzzle?

On behalf of : Sathish Kumar R

Like cryptozoologists in search of a mythical creature, retailers have tried numerous customer relationship management (CRM) initiatives and tools available to capture the still elusive '360° Customer View.' Many have also been buying demographic data from third- parties to supplement these efforts. Today, the hopes of many rest on social analytics, but can insights generated from it really be the final piece to the 360° customer view puzzle?_

Retail businesses all over the world have been working hard to know their customers better. Over the years, they have created loyalty programs, built data warehouses, bought-in external data and invested huge sums in business intelligence and analytical tools to put together near-complete profile of their customers. Using their customer's historical data and advanced analytics, businesses have also been attempting to predict future purchases of their customers to influence them. A simple case of this would be grocery retailers trying to analyze their customers' purchases and offer appropriate promotions aimed at up-sell or simply to advance their future purchases. As grocery purchases often go through regular purchase cycles, with more and more historical data about a customer, it becomes easier to predict. While this may sound overly simple, we all know it is not the case.

First, the retailer should have the ability to uniquely identify its customers and consolidate their purchase data across all channels. This might seem a basic requirement but many retailers still lack this ability. Other challenges standing in the way of such analyses include irregular purchase patterns, purchases spread across multiple retailers, etc. The recent addition to these challenges is the influence of social media.

The on-going social backlash based on news articles about few global companies not paying their "fair share" of corporate tax showcases how social interactions can influence customer choices and purchase decisions. Indeed, such word-of-mouth social interactions, often confined to local markets in the past, have attained a level of importance previously unimaginable in a digital world fuelled by the boundless expansion of social platforms. Even though businesses cannot control such interactions, how quickly and effectively they respond to them largely determines their ability to influence them.

For these reasons, companies have started taking social media seriously. They are investing in capabilities that enable them to "listen" to social interactions in order to quickly engage, communicate and create a positive brand experience among its communities. While the primary purpose of this "listening" exercise is to engage and build positive relationship, it also presents an opportunity for retailers to integrate data from this channel with other sources of customer/prospect data to gain valuable insights. There are various mining tools to wade through terabytes of data about their user's interests, behavior and attitudes towards brands, products, companies, events, etc.

With this approach, a retailer can easily match prospects data with similar mind-sets based on their social interest groups and propose offerings for like segments. Similarly, individuals actively seeking advice on a particular product or a service in social media have a higher propensity to buy that product or service, if offered the right stimuli. The opportunities are many and with right CRM strategy, retailers could leverage data from social media to create impressive insights about existing customers and prospects that could potentially be the final missing piece to the "360 degree Customer view" puzzle.
What is your view? I would like to hear from the readers how integrated their social media to their CRM strategy is? How do they leverage data collated from social media across wider marketing initiatives? Please write to me.

About the Author: Sathish Kumar R is a Senior Principal in the Retail, CPG and Logistics practice at Infosys, and specializes on the demand-side of customer operations focusing in digital commerce, order to cash cycles, marketplace and CRM. He can be reached at sathishkumar_r@infosys.com

Comments

This sounds good to discuss about customer insight, as we know that the customers view is very important. What we are trying here with all the available technology is to make it easy to use and understand and more important is to make use of all the imagination of the developer or the maker of the object by the customer when he uses it. It should be very easy for the user to use it without any manuals. End of day we all are working continuously towards it and we will be working as we always have done.

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