February 7th, 2012

Customer behaviour in the digital age

Digital marketing is set to get more scientific. And it’s about time.

Companies have an abundance of data available but at present much of it is not being utilised. By gathering data on customer behaviour, they can develop more valuable insight can and get into the mindset of each individual customer. Algorithms and complex calculations allow brands to predict specific actions, behaviours and activities.

Data gathering holds countless options for brands, not least ‘bespoke shopping’. Brands already know your favourite items and how you like to be contacted, but what if they knew your behavioural tendencies and odd behaviour as well? For example, if you suddenly started buying healthier food, they could recognise this from the data and offer you healthy recipes, deals on specific products and could even congratulate you.

Or, a fashion brand might know that you always bought certain styles but would always waver towards what is in fashion at the time. That means they’d know exactly what products to sell to you on any given week. It’s recognising this more ad-hoc behaviour which allows businesses to be a little bit cleverer with their marketing strategies.

This issue is that brands seem to have trouble with spontaneity at the moment – digitally at any rate. They usually have a very rigid marketing plan based around their target market and need to realise just how many variables there are which affect customers, all of which should be taken into consideration.

But digital marketing is not just about spontaneity, it’s also about transparency. So you want to know everything about your customers but you are telling them nothing in return? That’s just not going to cut it anymore.

By engaging customers you are increasing people’s interaction with the brand and hopefully, in turn, their loyalty. Rather than just trying to sell, attention has shifted to generating more of a community- and sharing-based attitude between brand and consumer. Brands will have to act more like a real person to get their story and brand personality across. It’s the human characteristics that will encourage customers to love a brand rather than just buy from it.

And, of course, humans make mistakes. There have been a lot of marketing mishaps over the past year, but what has separated the clued up brands from the not so clever has been the aftermath of those incidents. An apology or acceptance of a mistake goes much further than complete dismissal.

There will be a lot more brands trying to hide things under the carpet – but with the internet becoming the ultimate word of mouth reviewer there’s just nowhere to hide any more. What’s clear is that digital marketing is becoming more scientific and more human at the same time, contradictory though that might sound. Businesses need to understand how to do both and to do both well.

By Karen Hawey