How do you surprise your customer? With data!
How do you surprise customers in a world characterised by ever-decreasing interest in advertisements? How do you start a conversation in today’s impersonal era? Data and analytics can help.

If your parents wanted a new TV set a few decades ago, they knew exactly what to do: visit the local electronics store. The sales assistant that had sold them a coffeemaker the year before displayed a series of new TV models and explained the features and prices. One of these sets would become their new television for the next few years.

Catch your (micro-)moment!
Times have changed. When we plan a new purchase, we no longer think in terms of specific shops and sales assistants. Our urge for information and to consume and buy things is not linked to opening hours. While our parents or grandparents spend one or two hours in ‘their’ electronics shop, we live on impulses and micro moments. Whenever we find a minute, we grab our smartphones and look for things we want to buy, comparing prices and features. For companies, this behaviour means that new channels must be created. How do you catch your customers during these micro moments? How do you start a relevant conversation? How do you tie your customers to your brand when they would rather remain untied? The answer to these questions is two-pronged: stay connected and be personal.

Stay Connected
Contact moments are shorter, but they occur more frequently. Consumers no longer have to walk into a store for information; they can now find it across numerous channels, thus lowering the threshold to get in touch. That’s why it’s so important to be there when consumers are looking for information – via WhatsApp, your web shop, live chat, Instagram, etc. Make sure you stay in touch with today’s ‘connected customers’. If you don’t, they might find a competitor and disappear from your radar.

Be Personal
It is, however, not enough to ‘simply’ stay in touch. As customers are inundated by information, they filter what they want to consume from what they don’t. To avoid being filtered out, make sure your information is relevant to customers at all times. Make sure you communicate with (prospective) customers in a truly personal way, like the sales rep did with my parents (after all these years, he knew what was important to them!). There’s plenty of technology available these days to help you with that.

Technology makes customer contact more personal
The more you know about your customers, the better – and the more – services you can offer them. Big data and analytics can help. Gartner states that in 2020, no fewer than 20.8 billion ‘things’ will be connected to the internet via sensors. These ‘things’ provide us with valuable information, for example, about customer behaviour and how devices are used. As such, they can help us to provide our customers with better services – and even surprise them. 
An example: as sensors detect the signal of your app or customer loyalty card when you walk into a store, the sales assistant can view information about you in real time: your sales history, details on the shopping baskets you’ve filled online and your shopping preferences. Based on these insights, he/she can make a personalised offer. Wouldn’t that help you save time when looking for products?

Data-driven organisation
How do you convert all that data into valuable insights? How can you make sure the data benefit you (and your customer)? These three steps are critical:

  1. Collect and bundle data.
  2. Analyse data, i.e. make valuable links and forecasts by means of smart algorithms. 
  3. Use real-time monitoring to stay in constant contact with your customers.

By doing so, companies can develop into agile, data-driven organisations. The data will then enable you to provide the best possible customer services, stay in touch with your customers and even surprise them.