The many avatars of the modern consumer

Kalpit Jain | Updated on January 09, 2018 Published on December 06, 2017

One true avatar or many? The consumer is a multifaceted personality   -  reamolko/

Scientist, traveller, stock market buff, artist – when a customer can be all this and more, how and where can marketers net him?

As today’s consumers traverse their own path, through their many avatars, they are motivated solely by their own needs, demands and thought process.

Can a single person be many things at once? Could a multiple-personality phenomenon be the reality of a post-demographic market space? To answer that, let’s consider Mohan, a professor of microbiology at a large university. Mohan has invested a large portion of his savings in stocks and mutual funds. So, as a matter of habit, he spends his mornings combing through financial news, stock listings, and the latest financial products and tools. He is in touch with a lot of former students, colleagues and other academics and he connects with them on Facebook and LinkedIn. They often share links of the latest developments in microbiology along with occasional campus updates.

Mohan and his wife have a tradition of taking their two children on holidays once or twice a year. So every once in a while, Mohan looks up child-friendly vacation spots and flight prices. He is partial towards wildlife reserves and botanical gardens and is a regular subscriber to travel blogs that cover them.

To most of us, this sounds absolutely normal. A regular day in the life of a regular person. An individual using the various digital channels at his disposal to fulfil his specific needs at different moments in time. It’s what we all do, day in and day out. But let’s reverse the lens and examine Mohan’s behaviour from the perspective of a marketer. That's when things start to get a little awry. Mohan leaves digital pheromones of his behaviour and preferences across a multitude of channels and platforms and they’re all dizzyingly divergent, with almost nothing in common. A marketer might wonder: Should we cross-sell Mohan travel insurance or SIPs? Do we populate his Facebook feeds with vacation packages or microscopes?

Today’s consumers are self-defining and self-driven. The ubiquity of social media channels just adds another layer to their web of interactions and is often the first point of contact that customers turn to, whether to express an opinion, give voice to a wish or ask questions.

Each of these customer interactions generate precious data that marketers can mine and analyse to gain a deep understanding of their customers. This data can represent a vehicle of transformation for marketers, and help them move from predominantly transactional relationships towards becoming authors of an immersive, omni-channel customer experience.

Personally, I prefer to think of this state of complexity as a positive development. Yes, our customers are layered, nuanced individuals in a hyper-digital ecosystem. They have easy access to digital and social channels, myriad devices and platforms, and it is foolish to expect them to follow a linear, predictable path.

Why should they not act on their whims and convenience? We are in the age of ‘consumer parallelism’, where a single customer has many different avatars spread across the different platforms during different times of the day, often simultaneously.

Marketers need to see this as a golden opportunity – to create a 360-degree, three-dimensional view of customers like Mohan so that we become co-passengers with him on his customer journey, offering him answers and responses that are perfectly relevant and perfectly timed. Smart marketers who can appreciate the parallelism in today’s customer behaviour and create experiences tailored to them, are setting themselves up for future success.

Making sense of data

Of course, the solution is that while customers meander between channels and platforms looking for answers, marketers need to meet them at these points, and react in real time to their actions, with the right content, delivered in the right format and channel. The single source of truth can be churned out using data.

Data analytics can equip marketers with insights that let them deeply understand their customers’ needs, at varying stages of the customer life cycle. Marketers can leverage these insights to craft relevant and timely content that meaningfully engages users in real-time. With a data analytics-driven approach, the potential to cross-sell and up-sell, expand your customer lifetime value and reduce the risk of them dropping off, is sky-high. The way it works, in a nutshell, is that data integration specialists summarise transactional, behavioural, demographic and social media data to create a centralised data mart. Summary-level data can then be linked to a marketing automation solution to assess how customers respond to various marketing campaigns, through a unified view. Thus, integrated analytics comes in to give marketers a comparative view of customer transactional data with marketing campaigns. Marketers can then pinpoint, with remarkable precision, the performance and ROI of their marketing activities relative to customer response.

If this is sounding more like IT than marketing, that’s not far from the truth. If data is the key to unlocking customer parallelism, then data science is as much a CMO’s job as it is a CIO’s or CDO’s. Data analytics is the route to meeting the needs of today’s multi-faceted customer and data-driven marketing is the only key to growth.

Kalpit Jain is the CEO of Netcore Solutions

Published on December 06, 2017
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