Consumer understanding is competitive advantage

by Danyl Bosomworth

Consumer understanding is competitive advantage

Systemising data capture to drive insights & ROI

That enviable depth of consumer insight, customer understanding, once afforded to all but the biggest brands is now accessible to all, and affordable for most – it can not only level the playing field, it can provide significant competitive advantage. Marketing investment decisions mustn’t be based on opinion alone, the risk of wasted investment and new opportunities are just too great, besides genuine competitive advantage is closer than you think.

“If we can have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”
– Jim Barksdale, former Netscape CEO

Marketing’s never been this is easy (new ways to connect and communicate), or this hard (so many decisions, tools, tactics and market noise). The opportunity is a wealth of data available to use — from third party data to first-party, explicit data. Aside from that data being a source for driving external customer personalisation and automation programmes, it’s also the basis for understanding, certainty in decision making and ultimately business growth.

“The goal is to turn data into information, and information into insight.”
– Carly Fiorina, former president and chair of Hewlett-Packard Co.

Certainty is born through valuable, actionable insight – from first-party, owned data

All brands can access a glut of consumer data, that data is typically rear-view mirror—things that people have bought, where they live—it’s broadly useful for old segmentation. Some brands have implicit, behavioural data—still rear-view but at least ‘what I recently did’. Both of those types of data are useful for predictive analysis. And, now, if brands choose to tap it, we can access a rich data-oil-well around a consumer’s life, the explicit ‘what I recently told you’ data and ‘what I am doing right now’ data. This is a unique and game-changing proprietary asset, if it can be configured to drive better decision making. Gaining more data isn’t necessarily the advantage. The real advantage comes from using it at a customer-level to achieve greater relevance, and at an aggregate level to achieve better understanding for investment decisions—whether pricing, media buying, content, product development and range or channel extensions.


“Big Data will spell the death of customer segmentation and force the marketer to understand each customer as an individual within 18 months or risk being left in the dust.” – Ginni Rometty, President and CEO, IBM

Ask, and understand

The right mix of data can yield profound insights into what consumers really want and need. These are actionable insights — things that your brand can fulfil quicker, better, more easily, or more inexpensively than your competitors can.

Every time we find ourselves wishing for an external event to transform our marketing fortunes, perhaps consider that it’s way better to start focusing on something we can already control instead—the depth and quality of the consumer relationships is proportional to how much we understand them.

Serve better, sell more

The catch if there is one, is to create content that works harder, that serves and creates a data exchange for better sales – brands must give value outside of purchase in order to get insight surrounding purchase intent. Here are five examples to illustrate the point:

  1. Make content useful or fun, and interactive. Think creative and immersive polls, quizzes and even interactive video. There are two benefits to this, better engagement (interaction and sharing) and of course the explicit data captured, brands can garner insights from both a cookie and data capture level. Because only the brand owns the content asset, the insight is unique
  2. Gated brand experiences. Whilst not appropriate for every brand, a deep brand experience deserves a value exchange through registration data, useful to append to all that implied (cookie) data at any point after initial site visit. Explicit data marries perfectly with recent implicit behavioural data. Just beware unnecessarily big registration forms and consider incremental, explicit data capture to maximise conversion and insight
  3. Design the data exchange. Publishing and sharing content without thinking about the data exchange is essentially useless beyond possible traffic acquisition (SEO programmes for example), it’s a large amount of anonymous analytics. Engagement can be even more valuable to brands if it creates deeper individual or more usefully segmented insight. The price though, is relevant, purposeful content that serves – less about noise to drive search campaigns
  4. Build a buying audience. Systemising the building of an owned audience as a proprietary brand asset is the holy grail, we’d suggest, and a recent blog post here offers some detail in how we see that. In short, it’s about serving all audience types across the buy-cycle—brands offering useful or entertaining content experiences based on the consumer’s level of engagement and purchase intent, providing a means to engage beyond purchase today
  5. Ask specific questions. From serious customer communities such as Dell, through to simple customer polling and surveys – whether native / integrated or perhaps a SaaS option – budgets no longer prohibit asking direct questions to drive product R&D – the most powerful of insight, why not ask more short and specific questions at different touch-points? Of course, there’s a time and place

Keen to make content marketing matter?

Us too and we’d love to help – we make marketing that is contextually relevant and as a result consumed voluntarily, more of the time – we believe in content marketing that’s sustainable, cumulative and focussed on ROI.