Business Today

Reinventing marketing: The data-driven marketer

Companies will need to understand how they can gather customer information without compromising the customer's trust.

Ajay Kelkar        Last Updated: September 24, 2015  | 20:08 IST

Ajay Kelkar, Co-founder & COO, Hansa Cequity
Consumers leave behind huge exhaust of data and smart marketers are leveraging it to build superior and relevant customer experience. Now and in the future, Data Equity will trump Brand equity in a marketers arsenal. This needs companies to develop a new metric called Return on Customer Equity. And this also means changing strategy and structure across the organisation-and reinventing the marketing department altogether. Marketing has to be far more agile for the digital and "always on" customer.

The World Economic Forum is calling personal data a "new asset class: a valuable resource for the 21st century that will touch all aspects of society". But companies will need to understand how they can gather customer information without compromising the customer's trust. A recent research we conducted at Cequity showed that 88 per cent of consumers who were asked for personal information are okay with sharing it. So consumers are happy to share personal information as long as they see a "value add" for themselves. And organisations with trust-based information sharing relationships with customers will have significant competitive advantage over those with traditional data gathering relationships.

How the world has changed. Today many companies do not need factories to produce products, they just need customer data. Companies like Amazon leverage these petabytes of customer data to become more customer centric. Amazon aspires to be "Earth's most customer-centric company." Numerous mission statements are sprinkled with customer focus. But in reality it is hard to actually be customer centric. Prof Ranajoy Gulati summarises this beautifully:  "In fact the big leap that companies need to make is to "not sell what they produce" but to "solve customer problems" and  then suddenly "who produces the product is no longer important "because you start "owning the problem space".

Customer-centric companies tracked by Gulati between 2001 and 2007 delivered shareholder returns of 150 per cent while the S and P 500 delivered 14 per cent. While research like this looks great, one wonders why there are not too many companies who "really put the customer at the centre". Only companies who are great at "disruption" seem to truly belong to the category of obsessively customer focused. A customer-centric organization's business is built completely around the customer and customer data. This kind of company has a strong understanding of the customer's value and what the customer represents to the business's profitability. With this knowledge, a customer-centric company adapts everything it does - from research and development to to customer service - to deliver the best value at the right cost to their customer.

In this new age of the customer, companies need to get the following key strategies embedded in their fabric:


  • Re-invent the marketing department around being loyal to customers and not the other way around: This needs companies to have a long-term view of customer lifetime value and  not a short-term view of immediate profit. It needs an internal senior level stakeholder who champions the customer cause. The traditional marketing department must be reconfigured as a customer department that puts building customer relationships ahead of pushing specific products.
  • The new chief customer officer -- a fad or a reality: It's everyone's job to own the customer. Sounds familiar statement? When everyone owns something, actually no one ends up owing it. Over the past five years. Forrester has observed an increase in the number of companies that have a single executive leading customer experience efforts across a business unit or an entire company. This can be a role for your CMO or you could take your successful business leader and  give him the CCO responsibility.
  • Become more accessible to customers and respond faster to their needs: This needs companies to move from "insight to action". To act faster, companies need to break silos within their organisation to be able to respond to customers.
  • Use information to make every interaction relevant: One must use customer data responsibly to personalise company's interactions with the customer. The big data world is only producing more such information for marketers to leverage. This amounts to a mass customisation strategy where the CIO and CMO need to work very closely together to make meaningful changes in the company's operating environment. And most critically, to do this keeping the customers sensitivity to privacy as paramount.
  • Strategically think through what culture changes the enterprise needs: This will help companies become more customer centric. Today technology and big data based insights can help you accelerate this process.

The author is Co-founder & COO, Hansa Cequity


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