Will 2014 be the 'internet of customers'? - Business Works
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Will 2014 be the 'internet of customers'?

by Bo Mattsson, CEO, Cint First there was 'the internet of things', denoting the abundance of cost-effective technologies that can be applied to almost anything in order to collect data. Then, towards the end of last year, the phrase 'the internet of customers' was coined by Salesforce as a prompt to marketers that individual consumers should be the focus, rather than technologies. The brand was certainly successful in generating a buzz, which was surely a motivating factor behind creating the expression. Added to this, it is key to remember that, over recent years, the art of marketing has picked up speed in terms of technology; Gartner has predicted that by 2017 a brandís CMO [Chief Marketing Officer] will be spending more on IT than its CIO [Chief Information Officer]. But what does this really teach us, asks Bo Mattsson, CEO of Cint?

The new phrase serves as a reminder that technology and big data are not the be-all and end-all of a marketerís activity and this warning may have come at the perfect time if Gartnerís study is accurate. There is a danger that this proliferation and sprint to have the biggest, best or newest tools or apps means that spending is not carried out with the true end goal in mind: how will it assist customers, improve products or services and is there a beneficial ROI to be had from implementing the said technology?

Software and sensors should not be employed just because they seem cool to have or because a competitor is, or may start, utilising them. Whilst much of the data obtained can be used to plan and automate complex marketing tactics, numbers alone cannot always paint a picture that will inform strategies or product development constructively and, again, what about the different needs of each customer? For example, is a deal offered to a specific individual based on his activity really what he wants? In the right circumstances, this approach is valuable and provides the marketer with the means to focus on targeted messages, but we mustnít forget about building meaningful relationships with customers.

The thinking behind 'the internet of customers' may be sidestepping the reality that interactions and exchanges with customers cannot be entirely overtaken by technology, or even intelligent customer data. Marketing plans should continue to feature activities such as asking one or two questions at the point of sale, creating a market research panel with which to regularly gather opinions from those who matter to the brand, listening and then acting upon those views.

Should customers be the focus of 2014? Absolutely

Fortunately, a global CMO study released by IBM in 2013 suggests that marketers are not yet turning their backs on customers in favour of a full-on technology and data-led approach. It found that 71% of marketers feel underprepared to manage the impact of big data and 72% said cost is the biggest barrier to adopting new technology and tools. Whether 'the internet of customers' should be the focus in 2014 for marketers, Iím not so sure. Should customers be the focus of 2014? Absolutely.

Bo Mattsson is the Chief Executive of Cint. For more information, please visit: www.cint.com

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