Using big data to engage customers as individuals

Customer insight has always been valuable but now, social technologies make it possible for companies to engage in realtime with individual customers. 

Traditional market data shows how a customer interacts with your organisation-loyalty card data, POS scan data, demographic info. 

Social technologies now make it possible to add how customers engage with the rest of the world through Facebook likes, blog comments and YouTube 'most played' lists. Note that the Salesforce diagram above also shows your employee and customer social connections. 

As companies in a customer's ecosystem improve their social muscle, customer expectation of how customer service should work will increase. To say 'we're not Zappos' or 'we're not equipped for 24/7 social support" is not going to matter to a customer. If their supermarket has a mobile app, then why do you not have an app?

The IBM 2011 Global Chief Marketing Officer Study, shows that organizations are still focused primarily on understanding markets, not individual customers.

More than 80 percent of CMOs rely on market research and competitive benchmarking to make strategic decisions. While these traditional sources of information are still valuable, they offer little insight into individual customers. In contrast, blogs, consumer reviews and other unstructured online sources can reveal customer sentiment at a personal level, in context. However, relatively few CMOs are exploiting these new sources: only 26 percent track blogs, only 42 percent track third-party reviews and only 48 percent track consumer reviews. 

The gap between technology and adoption will always exist. However, continuing to treat 'social' as a subset of marketing and not understanding the magnitude of the changes required will cause many strong companies to run aground as agile competitors emerge and set new standards of customer servicing and product development.