Refining the Customer Insight for Marketers

Today’s empowered consumer represents an interesting paradox for banking brands. Marketers have never had more tools to reach consumers, but ironically it’s never been harder to truly engage them. Most advertising is tuned out by consumers, while brands struggle to value the impact across all those new options.

Acxiom recently polled 147 marketing leaders at U.S.-based regional banks to understand their concerns and challenges. While most said they had made progress in developing the necessary people, tools and processes to better understand their customers, they also feel they’re falling behind their competitors and feel a sense of urgency to do better. The top three priorities they identified were: creating and delivering a market-leading customer experience; refining customer data to better understand high value audiences and build a world-class marketing data and analytics organization; and driving accountability and attribution to continuously improve marketing return on investment (ROI).

These goals are not mutually exclusive. Common issues among respondents included customer data sets not integrated in a coordinated fashion; a perpetual shortage of talented data analysts; lack of progress serving customers across a myriad of channels and services; coordinating the timing, multichannel targeting and creative to optimize customer engagement; and recalibrating efforts based on what customers do or don’t do.

One common denominator voiced by every single chief marketing officer (CMO) was their inability to cope with the vast quantities of digital data generated by online and mobile channels. Consider that nearly two billion terabytes of digital data were created in the last year, mostly about consumers. Big Data epitomizes the challenges faced by marketers due to its scale and the lack of analysts to harness multi-channel targeting, unstructured data and large digital databases. CMOs recognize their banks are sitting on immense value in their transaction, geo-location and social media data assets, yet few have any capability to leverage these assets.

Prioritization Challenge

The late Stephen Covey used the phrase “first things first” as a way to prioritize work aimed at long-term goals at the expense of tasks that appear to be urgent. Similarly, marketers struggle to fund innovation when results and ROI are demanded right now. Interviewees indicated that banks’ marketing budgets are often allocated by product (number of accounts), channel (number of visits) and segment (number of households), driving them to pursue goals that attempt to satisfy line-of-business requirements without solving for customer interests.

However, respondents also understood that within the descriptive statistical information lies the opportunity to create better engagement where they need to refine and control their own multi-dimensional, proprietary insight about consumers. Data, like capital and labor, now represents a crucial raw material in delivering value. With technology and focus, banks can refine the increasing volume, velocity and variety of data into actionable insights to make every interaction count. There is no match for the breadth and depth of a bank’s own insight about its customers where they can identify patterns among their most valuable customers over years.

Despite investing in tools and resources to refine data, however, many CMOs overemphasize a narrow set of consumer signals such as search, purchases, or expressed interests when making offers. Each of these signals is useful, but incomplete. To filter out false signals and gain a deeper, more meaningful understanding of customers, banks need to refine insights and link them across multiple consumer dimensions, including behavior, value, interests, relationships, influence, attitudes, consumption and geo-demographics. This approach enables a more personal conversation.

As banks begin to leverage their data assets, coordinating the right blend of multi-channel targeting, timing and creative can deliver a market leading customer experience. Start by identifying the talent gaps that hinder your organization’s ability to leverage the massive amounts of customer data that sit untapped. Much of the wasted money and opportunity can be avoided by leveraging the existing vendor relationships that can provide this expertise much more quickly and economically.

Organize your customer relationship management (CRM) efforts by cherry-picking the valuable nuggets of unstructured data out of various customer-touching systems and seek to understand what is working in other channels. Adopt a pragmatic, incremental approach by focusing on the best customers first, then model, test and adjust to maximize performance. Augment with additional, third-party insights. Managing customer data and cultivating insight are not separate. Customer outreach efforts will deliver more meaningful engagement with your target audience and reduce waste and wasted opportunities by leveraging insight about customers across marketing channels.

Build the customer-centric framework, tools and processes that enable continuous optimization of marketing budgets. ROI attribution will become more tangible as media spend adjusts based on where customers are active. Integrating and aggregating different customer channel data helps marketers see helpful patterns when they send certain messages to certain types of people at particular frequencies via certain channels. Seek to identify, understand and study these patterns to reveal who converts and what percentage correlates to certain channels.

Don’t get distracted or overwhelmed by Big Data, recessionary news and political and regulatory haranguing. What banks need is better insight to drive high performance marketing. That insight should focus on things that you own and control. Focus on taming the Big Data problem. Once harnessed, that will deliver incredible insight to your organization and bring you closer to your customers, yielding more profitable results.

Mr. Hudock is managing director, retail banking, with Little Rock, Ark.-based Acxiom Corp. He can be reached at is [email protected]