Insights — not data — are the key to understanding your customer

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The relationship between businesses and its customers has fundamentally changed over the past decade as technology makes it easier to collate data about shopping habits and buying preferences.

It’s a field pioneered by Netflix and Amazon’s “recommendations”, but customisation is increasingly not only something businesses want to do in many cases, but it is a “need to do” in order to give customers the kind of service and buying experience they now expect as normal.

Exactly how the relationship between data, customers, and businesses have changed and what this means is explored in our latest Business Insider Research study looking at “Data and value in modern retail”

What has become clear from the experience of trailblazers like Netflix and Amazon (and the many fast followers who have trod similar paths of customer preference customisation) is that shoppers now expect organisation-wide understanding.

“When customers give their information to a company, they expect everyone from that company to have that information,” Kellogg Professor Michal Maimaran says.

“Anything less falls short of the standard.”

Service models that feel burdensome or redundant are not well tolerated Maimaran said.

For business owners and managers this also means that customers expect you to use their data to aid them.

Binoo Joseph, Head of Technology at retailing giant Tesco PLC, based in Singapore, says that retailers need to be able to use data to:

  • Provide customer specific offers and discounts
  • Give store assistants access to customer information and preferences
  • Provide sales suggestions based on purchasing history
  • Deliver personalised loyalty awards in store

Joseph noted that customers today expect hyper-personalised service across both physical and online channels and that customers expect their experience to automatically adapt whether they engage physically or digitally.

And to do that requires not just data but an insight into what the data says about the customer.

“There is no shortage of information, no shortage of data. Retailers are long on data, long on information, but short on insight,” says Jerry Macey, National Retail Lead at the Commonwealth Bank.

And the insight customers are looking for Macey says is that “the data needs to solve a problem for their customers. Make it helpful, so that above all, it creates a good customer experience”.

It’s as simple and difficult as that.

You can read the full report here.