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Consumer and technology: from data to the right offer

Globally, 30 billion pieces of information are shared on Facebook every month, 350 billion tweets make their way into the online world every day, and more than 300 billion email conversations happen daily, as a norm.

india Updated: Jan 29, 2012 21:35 IST
Madhivanan Balakrishnan

Globally, 30 billion pieces of information are shared on Facebook every month, 350 billion tweets make their way into the online world every day, and more than 300 billion email conversations happen daily, as a norm. Closer home, we have reached a milestone of 100 million internet users, with more than 33 million leading the way through social networks. Online reviews, references, likes and opinions are the order of the day. The fate of a movie gets decided by the number of SMSs sent out from a “Send All” command on a mobile phone. A bad experience at a restaurant travels on the net within minutes.

In parallel, companies capture trillions of bytes of information about their customers and other partners along the value chain from millions of networked devices such as mobile phones, automobiles and other consumer durables. All this data throws up challenges for marketers. Distilling insights and analysing consumer behavior now necessitates an understanding of the unique chemistry developing between consumers and technology.

The implications are manifold. For starters, it puts the consumer truly in the center of all things. A greater degree of transparency, comparisons across different offerings and reviews and opinions has given a new meaning to terms such as advocacy and brand loyalty. Marketers have always prided themselves for their ability to understand consumer needs and design suitable offerings for such needs. Today, both of these are going through a metamorphosis.

Data is everywhere
There is a wealth of customer data being captured through the use of RFID, sensors, geo-tagging and other such methods. Even small amounts of data, when collected over time, can provide a wealth of pertinent information. A customer’s grocery purchase data, if collated over a year as a part of a coalition loyalty card, could reveal buyer behaviour insights and at the same time, enable marketers to offer unique propositions. A sensor in the shoe or mobile phone can provide running patterns to a shoe manufacturer, who can then suggest the right shoe for a user. Nike+ used this successfully to create a strategic advantage.

Instant offers
Data around consumers, captured through different sources at multiple points in time, throws up a huge chunk of information. When high levels of analytics operate on that, what emerges is “useful intelligence” for creating relevant products and services. Quite often, data points talk to each other and help create an offering that is almost instantaneous.
Consider, for example, that a shopper at a retail store reaches the billing desk. The moment the loyalty card is swiped, the counter staff gets to know that the consumer is a regular buyer of wine. In parallel, the store data system shows — in a pop-up — that there is an offer on a brand of wine that the consumer has purchased in the past. Back-end analytics suggest that the consumer has used reward points in the past to make a purchase, while counter staff can check the current reward points on the loyalty card. They can then make an offer with a marginally higher discount, persuading the consumer to buy the wine with the accumulated reward points. Technology has enabled a sale out of nowhere.

Indirect tech impact
In many cases, the end user does not experience the technology effects directly. In a new experiment, insurance advisors have started using consumer insights and co-creation to deliver an on-the-spot policy, using a tablet. The result is a need-based, transparent and relevant. Technology is therefore getting re-born as a strategic enabler that can help the marketer influence all parts of the consumer buying behavior. It is also helping reduce the time to respond to such intelligence in parallel. Recognising that the decision making window is small, marketers can react fast with persuasive offers. The result: higher levels of customer satisfaction.

The writer is Executive Director, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance