The Rise of the Agile Consumer

Today, consumers are significantly more empowered when making purchasing decisions than ever. They are far more informed about the marketplace—with a deep knowledge of product features, competitor pricing comparisons, and upcoming product releases.

Today's agile consumers have several key attributes:

  • They spend an average of 255 minutes of their day online—52 percent more time than they did three years ago.
  • They spend 22 percent of that time on social networks.
  • Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) read consumer reviews to get information about brands and products.
  • Exactly half are influenced by social media when making purchase decisions.

Their ability to access rich information from multiple sources has resulted in a shift from traditional brand loyalty. It used to be that a Chevy customer was a Chevy customer for life, for example—but this is no longer the case, due to the volume of information available and the pace of competitor innovation. With the rise of savvy and agile consumers, the need for companies to better understand both their needs and behaviors is absolutely crucial.

Traditional CRM Is Broken

Traditional customer relationship management systems were created to help brands better manage their interactions with consumers—creating individual profiles, tracking historical purchases, and targeting content accordingly. The problem is that traditional CRM doesn't provide a comprehensive view into consumers' interests and behavior. Existing systems still only capture a fraction of consumers' interactions with a brand, like Web site visits and purchases. They employ various tracking methods at different points in the purchase funnel—cookies, email addresses, customer ID numbers, and more. These methods are disconnected, making it difficult to get a unified view of the consumer. CRM systems also include basic demographic information, but it's often uploaded manually from various sources and updated infrequently.

This incomplete information can result in brands targeting consumers with the wrong content at the wrong time—putting customer acquisition and retention efforts at risk.

For example, take a consumer who visits an e-commerce site and purchases a LEGO product for his nephew's birthday. In a traditional CRM system, he would be placed into a "LEGO customer" category and receive frequent, targeted emails for related products. If the CRM system contained more information about his up-to-the-minute interests, it may have recognized that this was an atypical purchase, and target him with offers for products that interest him.

How to fix this problem? Integrate social data into your CRM system. Targeting consumers with the right content still remains a fundamental challenge for marketers, as social data has yet to be seamlessly integrated into existing CRM systems. As users increasingly engage with brands on Facebook via likes, comments, and content shares, marketers have the opportunity to learn more about who their fans are and what interests them now. Brands that harness this data and leverage it across various marketing channels will win every time.

When you marry real-time interaction data with a critical mass of users, you get a social marketer's perfect storm. The number of social media users continues to grow at an accelerated rate. Facebook recently topped 1 billion monthly active users, and half of those users are accessing the site primarily from mobile devices—this is where agile consumers spend their time. Social users all over the world are sharing information about their lives and interests, and offering opinions about brands and products. Real-time consumer data has never been so readily accessible and incredibly accurate. Now is the time to start utilizing it.

Social media is becoming an increasingly dominant force in B2C interactions. In fact, according to a recent study by market research firm Lab42, half of consumers now find brands' Facebook pages to be more useful than company Web sites. Take this as a sign that social media cannot be ignored when considering the effective inputs to a CRM platform.

The Opportunity

The social data now at the fingertips of marketers provides marketers with an unprecedented opportunity—the ability to track consumers on individual and aggregate levels on dimensions such as:

  • Engagement (quantities of likes, comments, and shares of their content on Facebook)
  • Influence within the brand's community and their own social circles
  • Brand loyalty
  • Real-time and historical interests and segmentation

This up-to-date information about your consumers provides ethnographic research at scale—something that has never before been achievable by marketers. You can understand your consumer from demographic and behavioral dimensions.

Plus, consumers on social platforms have unique IDs—allowing you to track them from the very top of the funnel down through conversion, purchase, and ongoing relationship.

Unlocking Your Social Data

How does one go about integrating social data into an existing CRM system? The first step is to build an active Facebook fan base through frequent content sharing and engagement campaigns. Use these campaigns to gather actionable data for individual profiles—including email addresses, opt-ins, and more. Next, categorize your wall posts by content type, including popular and trending topics. Populate individual profiles with the content categories consumers engage with—helping you understand their interests. You can then use this data to create targeted offers, email campaigns, social ads, and more. We call this integrated social marketing.

The reality is, the interests of even your most loyal consumers can and will change. Social media gives brands the opportunity to unlock real-time data about fans' interests and understand what is current and trending. By taking advantage of these systems, we can begin to develop what CRM promised years ago: better customer relationships.

Mark Cooper is cofounder and chief marketing officer of Offerpop, a fan-marketing platform for Facebook and Twitter. He has helped launch an array of online, mobile, and media businesses, including the first TV product placement ratings service (Nielsen IAG) and the wireless industry's first mobile virtual network operator (ESPN).

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