Positive experiences are a cornerstone in developing relationships with consumers. But if you think those experiences just naturally come together, think again. Delivering a memorable customer experience takes thought, planning, and enough data to understand what will actually resonate.
With the 2.5 quintillion bytes of data humans generate each day, the tools of connection are there for the taking. But data alone doesn’t guarantee trust. Trust is hard-won, and it often culminates when you can connect empathetically with the consumer. C-suite leaders must encourage their teams to balance precision with empathy by aligning a company’s values and resources to match the principles and needs of their customers.
Smart data can help you get there.
The Intelligent Advantage
Smart data adds a layer of intelligence to turn troves of otherwise meaningless statistics into actionable insights for businesses. In fact, smart data has changed the landscape of business as a whole.
C-suite leaders no longer rely solely on experience-based knowledge to solve problems or tackle goals. Assumptions and trending analyses have all but fallen to the wayside in favor of these new analytical metrics to measure and plan efficiency, impact, and growth — sometimes down to the granular level.
Take the professional sports industry, for example. Coaches and other leaders can now captures data to measure the impact of everything from the wear and tear of an athlete’s body during a season to his or her actual contribution regarding fractional wins.
Look at any industry and you’ll see the rise of data-driven challenger brands that led incumbent mainstays to invest in entire analytics departments, all of which ladder directly up into C-suites. Even historically creative-driven industries, such as advertising or marketing, are now experiencing an arms race reminiscent of the technology development era, with data-driven competitors threatening to advance in the space.
Applying Smarts to Data
Where many businesses still struggle, however, is in applying smart data to consumers’ emotions. Properly utilized data can provide leaders with a detailed picture of their audience, allowing them to connect empathetically like never before. This is the core of building those powerful, positive experiences that turn a prospective customer into a vocal brand advocate.
Getting smart with data has the potential for making each decision more tactical, more strategic, and just plain smarter. Whether tackling an omnichannel targeted marketing campaign or using algorithms to provide more relevant content, smart data adds value and allows you to better react to consumers’ ever-changing preferences.
Of course, much of this data is available to consumers, as well. And with information accessible with the swipe of a finger, consumers have become more educated and socially conscious — not to mention a little suspicious.
This has led companies to value not only product quality, but also their vision, mission, and place in the community. After all, consumers are asking, “Is this a company I can trust? Does it align with my values?”
Consumers want to feel a connection, and using smart data offers you the opportunity to tailor your content, message, and experience to what matter most to them. Let’s say you find that a certain incentive will get more people walking though your doors or that taking part in a community outreach program will increase subscriptions. Whatever the tactic, it can help consumers get to know your brand. And over time, this familiarity can lead to real trust.
Data’s High-Wire Act
While there are infinitely unique ways of leveraging smart data, the principles around building for ethical and empathetic use are almost always the same — no matter the company or the industry. Of all the areas to focus on, four invariably bubble to the surface:
- Invest in the foundation. Data has its advantages, but it can also open a company up to risk. Just consider the estimated 500 million accounts stolen from Yahoo if you have any doubts. There are countless areas where you can direct your dollars, but there are only a few that truly matter to your customers. Customers care about their data and want brands to actively care, as well. Start by making data security and literacy a foundational element of the brand’s DNA.
In addition to the proper security protocols, invest in building and maintaining a credentialed data privacy council — this ensures domestic and global best practices and measures are followed. Furthermore, foster a culture internally through training courses that ensure your employees can properly assess potential data bias concerns as they build new products and solve customer issues when they arise. By investing in a strong foundation, consumer trust and product quality can begin to grow together.
- Be transparent and allow for choice. While data security remains the critical starting point, the consumer mindset is trending toward increased curiosity and concern over what data is collected and then utilized or sold. Be transparent with consumers about what data is being utilized for their benefit. Rather than a reliance on long-form disclaimers, communicate in a way your customers can understand and connect with, whether that’s through visuals, clear copy, or enjoyable content.
Strive to even go a step further by allowing consumers to choose what data is used to enhance their experience with the brand. Transparency and choice allow for customers to feel comfortable with a brand’s ethical use of data. With this trust in place, meaningful connections can be made that have increased depth and “stickiness.”
- Be pragmatic and have a method. With the influx of data, many leaders want data for data’s sake and focus on quantity rather than quality. This can lead to unnecessary costs and misutilization. The key is to rigorously develop a structured method for quantifying data value.
While data is typically given a score on its ability to aid in precision, data typically isn’t given a score on its contribution to empathy. Understanding and quantifying the value of data to inspire and connect is critical to maintaining a dataset that is useful across disciplines that work to build the most engaging customer experience.
- Institute a team of challengers. Too often, companies end up in an optimization loop. Having a challenger nipping at your heels will drive your team to constantly understand, evaluate, and innovate what’s being done while still finding ways to better serve customers. But don’t wait for a competitor to move in on your territory before you start that process. Invest in true internal challenger teams to continue improving your products and services.
The very fabric of your company should be tied to precision and empathy. Set the tone for your business in the future by utilizing data properly and putting the customer front and center.