Michael Ross: Data and digital come together to understand the customer

Michael Ross: Data and digital come together to understand the customer

Last week we hosted an event for retailers and brands at Audi City in Piccadilly, London to discuss the concept of decision intelligent commerce around which the venue played a central role.

Despite being a showroom for what is essentially a very physical good, the car, Audi City is a prime example of digital pervasiveness. Digital in cars has evolved from being part of the engine management system to something that can now drive the car, leaving the driver (potentially) able to spend their travel time surfing the net and responding to their email.

Equally, as demonstrated at Audi City, the purchase decision for car buyers has now moved from a cumbersome journey between catalogue, colour cards and showroom to a fully immersive and virtual experience conducted on touch screens and 20 foot digital walls. For vehicle manufacturers digital is now part of the marketing, the product, the servicing, indeed everything the brand does to interact with its customers.

Chanel’s global digital programme director, Phillipe Baumlin, recently stated “digital cannot be a department in your company. It’s too deep, too important, the whole company has to become digital.”

Baumlin conceded that the luxury sector lags behind other industries in terms of digital adoption but that it will create a new level of service expected by customers across all touch points.

The point is well made. Customers have shown that they are willing to set the pace in digital. Once they perceived the potential, they have challenged companies and whole market sectors to serve them digitally and in an integrated way - or lose their loyalty. Some industries like the automotive and airline sectors have been quicker to adapt to the implications of digital. One of our event speakers Martin Gill, principal eCommerce analyst at Forrester, cited Lufthansa as an example which has become ‘digital-savvy’ and ‘customer-centric’ by organising themselves around the customer journey, rather than the channel or touch point.  Lufthansa has created a team with a holistic responsibility for the booking function – regardless of online/ call centre/ travel agent channel, as well as a team for check-in which embraces desk, kiosk and online / mobile, etc.  This means the customer experience is seamless and synchronised regardless of ‘channel’, digital or physical.

However, logical organisational structures can only be effective if they are well informed and empowered to make the right decisions. The most powerful aspect of the digital revolution is the wealth of available data which enables brands, retailers and indeed any organisation to listen to their customers and understand their behaviour. Armed with the right technology to interrogate this data, to surface the right decisions at the right time, to the right people, businesses can serve their customers in an efficient and seamless way, every day. That is the essence of decision intelligent commerce.