Marketers must ditch ego to connect with customers

Nick mccarthyToday’s consumer is both hyper-connected and increasingly wary of sharing their data with brands. Indeed, a recent YouGov survey found that most UK consumers can’t get through dinner without checking their phone, whilst the latest IPA TouchPoints survey revealed that 53% of the UK population agree that these days they tend to trust companies less. This is telling, because trust is based on personal relationships. 
As a consequence of being constantly connected through multiple devices and touchpoints, consumers’ expectations of brands have been heightened. This demand has resulted in the consumer turning to brands who can provide a more integrated and personalised marketing experience, as is demonstrated by the success of the e-commerce giant Amazon, and the diminished presence of brick-and-mortar retailers on the high street. This anecdotal observation is backed up by research conducted by Harvard Business Review, showing that businesses which integrate multiple sources of customer and marketing data significantly outperform other companies in terms of sales, profits and margin. 
At a time when expectations of brand experiences are at an all-time high, how can marketers build the right kind of relationship to deliver the experience the consumer wants, with the limited data they are given?
The answer is parking the marketers’ ego and thinking beyond brand. Contrary to what marketers may wish to believe, consumers do not want to spend time updating brands with their latest personal information. For example, if you’re thinking about buying a new car, it’s possible you may not mention this to friends and family, let alone your previous car manufacturer. In contrast, if the manufacturer is able to tap into augmented datasets which go beyond first-party data within their organisation, they would be more empowered to serve consumers relevant content – such as a car upgrade exactly when you’re thinking of replacing your current model.  
However, whilst business models are evolving to bring service closer to the consumer, many do not realise that the biggest challenge is actually knowing the consumer well enough to make their interactions relevant. This is made all the more difficult by stricter regulation and an increasingly fragmented media landscape. 
Thankfully, with increasingly sophisticated technologies, brands can now join the dots across all touchpoints to seamlessly manage, activate and measure consumer relationships. Indeed, tomorrow’s data platforms are able to combine both first-party and third-party data and leverage insights gathered from offline and online datasets to create a single user identity for consumers. Our own platform, DataSource, allows us to take this approach; we use additional consumer insight points from our own pool of variables which we then augment with data from industry leading partners to deliver contextually relevant customer experiences.
By using these specific insights about the consumer and integrating both online and offline identities, marketers can deliver a more relevant experience and really connect with the consumer. What’s more, this can also overcome the historic problems with cookie tech – such as knowing if the person browsing a business site is a loyal customer, potential prospect or a random browser. 
With the right people, processes and technologies in place, brands can focus on creating a single user profile of the consumer. This will, in the long term, diminish the marketer’s long-standing ego, build up consumer trust and enable brands to develop a unique, personal relationship and deliver a more effective people-based marketing relationship.  

Nick McCarthy is senior vice-president of data solutions at Merkle EMEA

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