Businesses who invest in managing their first-party data today will have an advantage over competitors tomorrow.

There’s no doubt that the pandemic has fundamentally changed how we interact with brands. Thanks to a period of being unable to shop and interact physically due to global lockdowns and travel restrictions,   many of us have expanded our online presence in a bid to stay connected to the outside world. This has made loyalty even more of a challenge, especially when pre-pandemic, Asia-Pacific as a region was already facing higher brand switching – with nearly half of consumers saying they are willing to try new brands according to a 2019 Nielsen report.

Yet as online behaviours become increasingly sophisticated, consumers’ expectations have also increased. A recent study by Salesforce revealed that 66% of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and preferences, to deliver optimal customer experiences. The rising digital influence on purchasing decisions means consumers today are far less likely to choose in-store shopping, as compelling online alternatives exist. This unprecedented opportunity to gain market share is unlikely to present itself again – this is particularly true in Asia, where the loyalty management market is expected to grow by over 25% from 2021-2026.

As this shift to enhanced online experiences has become the norm, the digitisation of customer interactions means understanding online behaviour is now more important than ever. Businesses who invest in managing their first-party data today will have an advantage over competitors tomorrow.

In the world of personalisation, context is king

Increasingly aware of consumer expectations, marketers are investing more time into identifying customers’ offline and online actions – to build a more complete and accurate profile. In the world of personalisation, context is king. The same individual may be a business leader, a holidaymaker, a parent, a sibling, and a partner – in each of these contexts, their buyer behaviours create different data signals. Data professionals must understand this context, identify the data that exists, and highlight and fill any gaps to enable the delivery of truly personalised experiences in the right context, at the right time.

Having a customer data platform (CDP) that creates a Single Customer View (SCV) has the benefit of gathering important pieces of information about your customer to fully understand their transactional or behavioural patterns and preferences. It provides a solid foundation to effectively link their data from all sources and channels to achieve an integrated view of the customer. Building this Single Customer View is the first step to eliminate gaps that are formed due to silos in data management. The next key step is to understand whether you have enough data held on each profile, and if this data held will enable you to understand your customer in context.

Don’t just digitalise – humanise

Once you have a clear overview of individual customers’ profiles and transactional information, it then becomes important to humanise this data; using it to understand an individual’s habits, what is important to them, how and when they prefer to be engaged and what their pain points are. This will help to improve the relationship between brands and the customer, as the interactions will be timely and topical – designed to make their lives easier, or more enjoyable. Employing a questions-based approach will ensure that you stay on top of the latest insights as customers’ needs change over time, helping brands to stay relevant.

We know data can be challenging to use correctly, and in a way that people are comfortable with – as many customers may have reservations about privacy. While in addition to local regulatory regimes around data, global organisations also need to be aware of data laws in other countries where their customers reside, such as GDPR.  Yet when handled the right way, with an emphasis on first-hand collection strategies, the smart use of customer data offers a competitive edge in today’s age of digital disruption – providing a deep understanding of customers and business which can drive loyalty.

Ask the right questions

Last but not least, Asia-Pacific’s emerging economies bring new trends and patterns of spending, which makes asking the right questions critical to being able to personalise the customer experience. Amidst a more challenging environment for accessing third-party data such as cookies and email open rates, building a strong data culture is a key priority to be nurtured within organisations, across all departments – not just the data team.

Ultimately, it’s all about the right use of data to create more meaningful relationships, and ones which leave a lasting impression on customers that will earn their loyalty for years to come.