Information has always been key to understanding customers. In the days before information technology this manifested itself in the business owner knowing his or her clients and their tastes, asking after their children and generally building a positive relationship.
In the information age things are, perhaps, a little more removed, but businesses have the potential to know more about their customers than ever before. Every transaction leaves a trail and Internet of Things technology increasingly means that more data than ever is available about how we lead our everyday lives.
Knowing the data is there is one thing, exploiting it to earn revenue is another. Within an organisation you have, of course, a record of transactions with your customers which you can use to drive your marketing efforts. This is the modern version of the shopkeeper understanding that Mrs Jones always buys a large white loaf on a Friday whereas Mr Smith prefers a small brown.
But there’s data outside the organisation too. Access to this with the right APIs can yield valuable knowledge and help customers interact with your website or app. You can already see examples of this in action. Consumers who have shopped for car parts or tyres will have encountered websites that allow them to enter their registration number to identify the type of vehicle and show only relevant products. This is based on information sourced from the DVLA.
The Land Registry, the Ordnance Survey and the Met Office are all working on ways to make their data available for commercial use via APIs.
Increasingly businesses are also likely to have access to customers via social media. Many organisations treat this as simply an exercise in collecting Facebook ‘Likes’ or racking up Twitter followers, but it should be seen as an opportunity to interact. Social media offers a unique opportunity to find out what your customer base thinks about your business.
So, how can enterprises benefit from all of this data? If you have data to sell, you gain an extra source of revenue for minimal effort, using information that is already siloed within your organisation.
If you’re a business looking to provide a better level of service to your customers then building apps or websites that streamline the buying process using information, such as the DVLA example above, should be seen as an attractive, low-cost option that can help to boost your sales. Similarly geolocation data can be used to alert customers via a mobile device when they’re near a retail outlet.
Internal data about customer history can of course be used to target offers based upon buying behaviour and to re-engage those who may not have bought for a while. Using information in this way is far more effective than blindly sending out marketing communications.
Social media can be a double-edged sword. You can use it to communicate with your clientele, but it’s important to monitor what they are saying about you. How you deal with complaints and manage your online profile is a key part of exploiting this avenue effectively.
There’s no doubt that data has already changed the way we do business. As more and more becomes available from both public and private sources, the trend can only continue.