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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

STACKED: The Age of the Customer

STACKED: The Age of the Customer
Well that’s what Forrester calls it anyways. Here’s a great excerpt from the reports summary:
“Empowered customers are disrupting every industry; competitive barriers like manufacturing strength, distribution power, and information mastery no longer create competitive advantage. In this age of the customer, the only sustainable competitive advantage is knowledge of and engagement with customers.”
Some more data courtesy of Gartner:
Gartner Chart
Get the point?
It’s become mission critical to identify and communicate with your customers in order to create and maintain a competitive advantage. Yet it’s becoming harder to actually do so because of the proliferation of devices and media channels where your customers are spending their time. But it’s clear if you can piece this all together, you are poised to create incredible value for your organization.
In my last piece, STACKED: The Race for 1-to-1 Marketing at Scale, I highlighted some of the massive industry shifts taking place right now and laying the foundation for brands to become customer centric in their approach to marketing. This week, I’m going to cover exactly how you can prepare your company for “The Age of the Customer”.
The first step to engaging customers on an individual level based using historical information/knowledge (1st party data) is identification. If you can’t identify your customers, then you sure as heck can’t engage with them in any meaningful way.
Think about all the credit card companies offering you special promotions for that card you already have, or the cable companies constantly bombarding you with ads for new customer rates, even though you’re a long standing customer that pays much more. Why? Because on the web, it’s very, very hard to tell your customers from your non-customers, since most online customer targeting is reliant on an outdated form of identification known as “cookies”.
As LiveIntent President, Dave Hendricks, pointed out in his Click Z article “People Versus Pixels”, cookies are a very poor identification method. They are used to identify a computer not a person, and are limited by browser, which makes speaking to customers vs. prospective customers difficult, if not impossible.
In an increasingly customer centric world, it’s getting harder and harder to identify your customers across their many devices and media channels…scared yet? I wouldn’t blame you if you answered “yes” but…. There’s hope!
Super Email 
That’s right. The email address.
The email address, you see, is the key to unlocking all of the challenges being presented by today’s changing digital world. It is the perfect identification layer needed to distinguish customers from prospective customers, buyers from non-buyers, heavy spenders from light spenders. The email address is both knowledge AND identity, and that’s the key.
If you were to sneak a peak into any major retailer’s customer database, 9 times out of 10 the profile key (aka the unique piece of data that ties all information together) will be an email address. That means all of the transactions related to that account are stored against your profiles email address. Think about all the data has stored on your email address. It would be incredibly valuable and from a marketing perspective, almost priceless.
The email address brings with it incredible capacity to on-board unbelievably valuable data, data that can be used to target an individual with a specific promotion or offer based on their profile, and there is no other identification method in existence that can do that.
Sure, a unique customer ID will do the trick on your own properties, but as soon as someone leaves you become reliant on an unreliable cookie to do the work for you. But the email address has stood the test of time. It is the glue that holds the entire Internet together and continues to grow more valuable as the Internet has matured.
Email is like a Blue Chip stock; it’s not sexy or volatile, it just delivers and pays dividends.
The email address is mission critical in the Marketing Stack of tomorrow. Its ability to identify customers across channels and devices, as well as bridge offline data, makes it the centerpiece to a customer centric universe.
The question now becomes, “Are you set up to take advantage of these new capabilities? Do you have the data and the scale (number of emails) to beat your competitors and win the battle for mindshare?”
Technology is making available some truly game changing capabilities but only those who are prepared with the right data will be in a position to win in this new Age of the Customer.
In my next and final installment, I’ll be outlining what CRM programs will look like in the very near future and how marketers can use technology to maximize the value of existing customers.

Originally published on