Picture: 123RF / ANDRIY POPOV
Picture: 123RF / ANDRIY POPOV

As brands increasingly adopt a digital-only strategy, customers are becoming confused by choice and that, in turn, is taking its toll on purchase decision-making.

Wayne Hull, MD of Accenture Digital Africa, says for brands to survive they need to adopt an “intelligent customer management” approach quickly. This is essentially where platforms “combine attributes and preferences” using advanced analytics to design “previously unimagined experiences” that build brand loyalty.

“The digitisation of everything is a disruptive step-change that affects every sphere of business. While this poses a number of challenges in terms of how companies today engage with key stakeholders, particularly their customers, this technology-driven transformation is also creating opportunities for businesses to disrupt markets and gain a significant competitive advantage,” he says.

Among many challenges posed by digitisation is “the overwhelming choice customers face in everything they do”. This new paradigm, “where more brands are within easy reach via digital channels” means that competition for a share of the consumer’s attention and pocket is greater than ever.

In addition to this tougher customer acquisition phase, customer retention has also become more complex since digitisation has empowered consumers: it is easier to switch brands or providers should they be dissatisfied with a product or service. Customers are also empowered through social media to broadcast to their networks any potential disdain for a company, product or experience, which can hurt business.

The solution to the challenges posed by digitisation lies in a business’s ability to leverage technology given that it has access to more consumer data and touchpoints than ever before.

“With correct solutions in place, companies can collect data from all customer interactions, be they via mobile apps, e-mail responses, browsing behaviour, online purchasing history, social media engagement, or in-person interactions. Then, using technology such as analytics and artificial intelligence, a dynamic profile can be built of the customer’s unique preferences, passions and needs. These parameters can also be tracked in real time as they evolve.”

Intelligent customer management, where data is examined from a multiplicity of sources, offers businesses the opportunity to “move beyond simply knowing what customers purchase or consume, enabling them to understand why consumers make the choices they do”.

Hull says this dynamic customer profile can serve as the centralised customer intelligence in the digital economy, “helping to drive hyper-personalised recommendations, content and messaging offers”.

Intelligent customer management capabilities also enable businesses to countervail the fragmentation currently associated with the digital marketplace, making it easier for customers to engage with, buy, and consume what they want, instead of trying to leverage the outdated e-commerce approach of trying to predict the right product, place and time of purchase. It also ensures businesses engage customers on their terms by actively listening to and serving them, in a similar manner to that of a personal shopper or concierge, as opposed to the old-school salesperson approach of pushing products on customers.

Ultimately, though, it does come down to money. “For many businesses, digital spend is inefficient due to an inability to understand the customer and focus on them in more personal ways,” says Hull.

The success of digital sales and marketing in an increasingly cluttered online environment ultimately hinges on the “stickiness” of a campaign, which is determined by relevance and by creating personalised messaging that touches the right consumer.

Hull says there is also an added benefit of understanding and working across multiple digital platforms. “This collection of granular customer data also creates intellectual property from which all other forms of business innovation can be driven. This may include the creation of new products and services and merchandising.”

jmaggs@iafrica.com

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