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Relevance versus Reach - how to crack customer experience

Data is easy, there’s just too much of it. But there is a limit to its power, and unless combined with human insight and used to make experiences relevant, it can fall flat and can even alienate customers. The Drum caught up with some if its Joy of CX speakers to discuss how brands can use data to hone customer experience.

There is no denying the power of customer data, but if used badly it can have disastrous consequences and result in creating bad brand experiences and alienating customers. With terms like ‘data is the new oil’ being touted freely for the last few years, many marketers have become convinced by the notion that future success lies in big data sets.

But the race to obtain reach has often come at the expense of relevance, and in today’s fiercely competitive landscape consumers are more unforgiving than ever.

The most obvious example of where data has not been used to its full potential is in advertising retargeting – a vital part of any customer experience.

Retargeting has too often been used as a blunt tool rather than a clever mechanism to gel with a consumer by serving relevant, timely, and therefore useful messages. After all, there is a reason why over half of the UK population find ad retargeting off-putting, as revealed by a recent study from InSkin Media and Rapp Media.

In its report ‘Familiarity, Frequency and Fine Lines’ a total 53 per cent of people said that online ads are of interest initially, but the more they are repeated the more their interest turns to frustration and anger. Once a person sees an ad 10 times, they become “angry”, while ads repeated up to five times trigger “annoyance” and are deemed “intrusive”.

Focusing on the right kind of data is paramount to creating brilliant customer experience, and this was among the core themes discussed at The Drum’s Joy of CX conference by speakers including Sam Zindel, director of research and insight at iCrossing. He believes the use of bad retargeting can be “embarrassingly crude”, with people still receiving ads for a product they have just bought, days after the purchase.

“People have got very excited about data, and most have bought into the idea that more data equals better understanding and therefore opens possibilities for creating more engaging experiences. But the crucial part that has been missing until now, and that only the leading brands are starting to get it, is the idea that the scale of the data that provides the opportunity is also the enemy. While the ability to reach more people with a bit of understanding has massively increased, we have now lost the notion of relevance,” he says.

Although the opportunities of big data sets and the reach they can help achieve shouldn’t be disregarded, understanding more about less people presents far better opportunities to create brilliant customer experiences and long-term levels of engagement, according to Zindel.

“This whole debate between reach and relevance is crucial to generating the right customer experience. But for those brands that haven’t figured this out and are awash with the excitement of large data sets, what they are potentially doing is alienating some of their best customers (existing or future), and not getting it right about who to serve the message to and what the kind of content should be for them is the critical part in this,” he adds.

A major part of nailing great customer experience is to remember that there are people behind the data. Waitrose is among the brands to have cracked this, ensuring that it applies human insight to every piece of data it collects. The result is that it provides personalised ad retargeting and online content from data it has gleaned from purchasing behaviour.

For example, it can tell from a customer’s purchase patterns whether they are a vegetarian and therefore when they arrive on its site they alter its advertising to ensure no meat products are ever shown to that person. Waitrose, Zindel tells us, “uses information about individuals to consider those people as individuals and even though it might have a billion purchases that week or month, it is tying them to individuals and then iterating how it serves content on its site to serve that person.”

Meanwhile Mel McVeigh, product director, creative strategist and founding partner at Opposite Days, as well as host for The Drum’s Joy of CX event, stresses that the biggest challenges for brands looking to nail customer experience is the relationship between data, strategy and creative.

“All brands create memorable experiences and the key is to create positive ones, not negative. Data will give you part of the puzzle, let you know how your customers

think, give you insight. The key is to fuse this with market insight and plain old creativity,” she says.

She believes that to do this brands and agencies must have strong multi-disciplinary creative teams with different perspectives on the problem – “not just a traditional creative team but technologists, strategists, HR, customer service all mashed up together”.

By mixing up the team you can create a space for “seemingly disconnected ideas to connect and then you have the opportunity to create and deliver innovative and memorable experiences,” she adds.

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