In the previous chapter, I described several sources of big data that could be used for gaining a better understanding of customer. In this chapter, I have provided several examples of how marketers can influence their customers. I remember talking to my aunt a long time ago, who was disgusted with advertisers. I politely told her I worked for one, and she responded, “It is a bunch of lies" She was reacting to a set of broadcasted messages coming from marketers to consumers. The messages were shamelessly repeated until the consumer finally remembered them, and marketers hoped the consumers would remember them at the point of purchase. The credit card offers described at the beginning of this chapter are another good example. As long as the yield is above zero, marketers have a justification to do push advertising.

Contrast this with the new way of marketing by Chipotle. Any time they open a new store, they distribute numerous coupons to the residents in the neighborhood, offering them a free meal. Their assumption is that the meal will be so good that customers will not only repeat their visits but will also tell others, and this form of word-of-mouth publicity only costs them a lot of free burritos on the first day of opening a new store.

As consumers become better organized, they may seek the opinion of others to decide on their brand purchases. While consumer needs are individual, we live and work in a collaborative society where we feel connected with people with similar needs, wants, or likes. I am amazed at the collection of books Amazon is able to offer to me based on the books I read. This is a very interactive process. The more I use the network to buy additional books, the more the recommendation system develops stronger ways to gather a group of customers with similar reading preferences.

Jeff Jonas (an IBM Fellow and a leading expert on big data) once told me the real power of big data is that it finds new data. Questioning the source and getting more focused data is the best way to fill in the gaps. But doing so means that we must have earned the customers’ respect. Once a channel of communication is established, the marketer can use the channel to encourage customers not only to buy products, but also to collaborate in bringing other customers to the marketer. Once marketers have found a consumer with a need, they can use other observations and interactions with consumers to get a better understanding of the need and start creating a community around the buyer that the he/she will trust.

Our decisions are colored by the information available to us and by the opinion of those who matter most to us. Hopefully, this chapter is consistent with your personal observations and has convinced you that marketers have available to them a set of sophisticated capabilities for influencing their customers in the most personalized and collaborative ways. Marketers can use these capabilities for marketing research, pricing, and the promotion of their products and create a truly individualized experience for each customer based on his/her preferences and needs.

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