How Business Intelligence Can Help You Understand Consumer Behavior

Retailers are frequently challenged with a new definition of multi-channel marketing.

The marketing landscape includes much more than the traditional components of print advertising, direct mail, e-mail, and customer relationship management (CRM). It also rolls social media, mobile and ecommerce into the marketing mix.

Customers engage with brands and make purchasing decisions on a wide array of platforms and devices, which has increased the amount of consumer behavior data available for retailers to manage.

This makes the marketing campaign management process much more complex—from budgeting and planning to predicting consumer behavior and providing superior customer service after the sale.

Business intelligence (BI) makes this complex process manageable. BI solutions aggregate information and provide retailers easy access to data for business reporting, analysis, planning and decision support. By transforming data into actionable information, BI helps retailers make faster fact-based decisions before, during, and after campaigns.

Here are some tactics to employ that will help you get the most consumer insight from the mounds of data at your disposal:

Gather your social media data.
As a retailer, you are aware of who your customers are. You likely have technology that tracks demographics, buying patterns and influencing behaviors. However, the proliferation of social media channels in the consumer market—like Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare—has exponentially amplified the challenge of identifying and understanding target markets. Next generation Web 2.0 communication has altered the frequency and intimacy with which you interact with consumers.

Online communities can serve as an optimal resource for learning about your customers, so it is worth the time and effort to invest in social media marketing. But the important step that many retailers miss is integrating the social media intelligence they have with their traditional data repositories.

Create a 360° view of your customers.
You likely have data on your customers stored in a CRM system and your social media data in spreadsheets or a separate database. BI gives you access to a more complete picture of your customers by combining that social media data—engagement levels, “likes,” fans, followers, comments, and customer sentiment—with fundamental demographic information from your CRM, like location, age, gender, etc.

These layers of information can be superimposed on a geographical map to create very powerful segmentation visuals that can help your marketing team target an audience more effectively and drive improved results on future campaigns.

Going further creates competitive advantage.
Many best-in-class retailers are reluctant to reveal what they are doing in terms of business intelligence because they feel that BI is what gives them an edge over the competition. Insight into customer behavior is more valuable than ever in our interconnected world.

Marrying your social data with your CRM is a perfect first step, but going beyond that to connect social data to your financial systems, product catalogs, inventory and supply chain systems is what leading edge retailers are doing (but won’t tell you). The resulting comprehensive reports will help you identify patterns in customer behavior and even track the success of offline campaigns.

For example, a fully integrated BI report can highlight customers’ online behavior and also display analytics results from traditional marketing methods, like whether or not a direct mailing campaign rendered the desired results from a target audience, down to a very granular level. Knowing what channels produce the desired result creates that competitive edge.

Measure campaign and cost effectiveness.
Think about that report we just mentioned. Your marketing team can use this to track whether investing in one channel or another is worthwhile because they will have insight into buying behavior via concrete revenue metrics. BI enables accurate forecasts and demonstrates true effectiveness and return on investment (ROI) of marketing campaigns.

BI dashboards break down the number of emails opened, click-thru rates on e-blasts, Facebook “likes,” and positive or neutral sentiment Tweets to help you analyze customer activity. This intricate reporting breakdown provides a wealth of knowledge into customer behavior, responses to marketing methods or brand messaging, and overall campaign effectiveness.

Engage customers after the sale.
Leveraging BI dashboard visualization capabilities can provide a visual pattern of your most prolific customers and insights into customer touch points. A variety of charts can correlate the tendency for preferred customers, or club members, to actively engage with your brand on social networks or make purchases online. Using BI in this manner can help you identify and reward your brand ambassadors and identify and engage with customers who are less involved with your brand online.

Rajesh Kutty is CEO of business intelligence provider Ivedix and Heather Smith is director of marketing for business intelligence provider Arcplan.