Despite it’s relatively low profile, it is likely to be the single most important issue facing marketing professionals over the next 10 years. Why? There are three big unstoppable trends:
- Customer data volumes are exploding. Disk space is cheap, database systems are powerful and can store many different types of data, and software applications such as accounts, CRM, ERP are holding vast amounts of customer-related data. The result? More customer data than you or your competitors have ever had before.
- Increased competition. Globalization has been a trend for over 100 years, but with cheaper travel and better communications it has become more pressing over recent years. The internet reduces barriers to dealing with suppliers in different countries and massively reduces costs. Consolidation in many industries has also been a competitive trend, resulting in larger and better funded competitors. Both trends are continuing in many industries.
- Better informed customers. High speed internet connections and low priced PCs have enabled every home and business in developed countries to be connected. When only a few years ago information was difficult to find, now Google produces highly relevant search results instantly. The increase in consumer comparison web sites puts a great deal of power in the hands of consumers. And where once content was generated by the marketing department, now it is generated by millions of bloggers, reviewers, contributors to Wikipedia and social media enthusiasts. There is no shortage of information for customers who want to know.
Yet customers have not changed. They still want value from their purchases, and they want their custom be valued.
Differentiation and value are still the keys to keeping customers happy. And understanding customers is the key to figuring out what they value.
Customer Intelligence is all about understanding customers; their history, their behaviour and their preferences. The information is already sitting in a million accounting, CRM or ERP systems and will yield a million different insights for the methodical marketer.
So Customer Intelligence will become the number 1 issue facing marketers over the next decade. Data-centric decision making will become vital as businesses of all sizes search for ways to improve products and services. Astonishingly, most companies already own the tools needed to create these marketing insights. All they have to do is to use them.