Why you should be "Digitally Dating" your Customers
Let's do the digital shopping experience as it happens but in real life. It goes something like this...
A customer walks into your shop, within a fraction of a second you rummage through their personal belongings. In those shopping bags, what have they bought today? Open the customer's purse or wallet, find their ID with their age and their location and review any old receipts to see what they have purchased recently. You then pull out your phone, snap a picture of your customer and send it to your network of retailers who promptly reply if the customer has visited their store, what they browsed and what, if anything, they bought.
You find in the shopping bags, that they have visited two clothing stores, one retro and one vintage and purchased two items, one pair of red vintage shoes and a 1950's cocktail dress. The network of retailers reports that the customer has also been to bric-a-brac, charity and antique shops, as well as low-end retailers such as Primark and Blue Inc, The customer made purchases of children's clothes in these stores. The customer is a middle-aged female, living in a less affluent part of town.
You use this information to make the following assumptions:
The customer has a low disposable income. Justification being the shopping in low-end and second-hand retailers, as well as an address in a less affluent part of town.
The customer is heavily interested in retro fashions and furnishings, justified by the recent shopping habits
The customer is has a young family, as the customer had young children with her and made purchases for them in Primark
Using all of this evidence you make some logical assumptions to profile the customer and assess their needs, so you approach the customer with a small selection of books you may believe to be of interest. Some books on retro fashions and antiques, a few books on managing personal finances, raising a family on a budget and some educational children's books.
The reality of the customer is actually this:
The customer is actually part of a local amateur dramatics society, her recent shopping habits were for a production of "The Great Gatsby", hence the retro fashions and antiques.
The customer has no children, the children in Primark having purchases made for them were actually her nephews, the customer was using them to make sure the clothing for the extras in the production, played by children, fitted them comfortably
The customer is currently having a house built for her and husband in a rural area, the current address is a six month let whilst the work is carried out. The customer is actually wealthy, having made enough money to retire and follow her passion for amateur dramatics
The customer ultimately rejects your understanding of who they are, possibly insulted, promptly leave your store.
Had you simply asked the customer what their preferences were, you would have known the reason the customer was in your store was to purchase a travel book for their holiday to Borneo next month.
Instead, you chose to pigeon hole this customer, making spurious assumptions based on fragmented evidence you acquired through spying.
What you discovered was factually correct, but completely irrelevant.
This experience has left the customer unfulfilled and violated, empathetically we would all the feel the same, it is insulting when somebody pretends to understand our story by judging the chapter they walked in on. This experience had no value for the customer or for the retailer. No long-term benefits and a lifetime value of zero.
You would never dream of behaving like this in real life, so why do it online?
Connecting with your customers is easy to do with the right technology. A central consent and preference hub, such as ConsentEye, generates a customer-facing, personalised Preference Centre unique to that individual customer, collecting the zero-party data about preferences and intentions, as well as audit-proof consent. This data is then made available to over 1,000 apps and systems integrated within the solution.
The information supplied by the individual and their preferences is "Zero-party data", 100% accurate, true and reliable; provided by the individual, about the individual. You are no longer making assumptions but gradually introducing prompts to gain more understanding of your customers, tilting the value exchange in your favour.
This is "Digitally Dating" customers, the building of a trusted relationship, where personal data is provided freely in exchange for greater personalisation and relevance.
If you saw a potential romantic interest across a crowded room and wanted to engage with them, you wouldn't walk up and ask a series of quick-fire questions relating to favourite colours, animals, food and lifestyle preferences. That would send them running. What you would do is start by using an icebreaker, the classic "Come here often?", then engage in conversation over time and as more synergy between shared interests grows, you learn more about each other over time. The point here is it's a natural, phased evolution of conversation.
The same principles of relationship building apply in a digital setting in the exact same way they do in real life, in fact, it may be more important in a digital setting due to the digital distance between you and your customer.
Further e-Privacy legislation is due in the next twelve months, although not finalised we know there are strong concerns from lawmakers around cookies, profiling and tracking. The EU's opinion being these digital practices would be a huge violation of the EU Human Rights Act if it happened in real life, so why is it different with your digital identity? The EU want to align behaviours and principles acceptable in real life and apply them to the digital world, offering EU citizens the highest privacy protection, physically and digitally.
Understand your customers, honestly and transparently. Future proof your engagement and marketing strategy but more importantly remember, spying on customers doesn't make you 007, it makes you Johnny English.