Like it or not, it’s possible to reduce many of our behaviors, wants, and needs down to numbers. It’s not just the fact that we need a certain amount of calories to sustain ourselves and so many hours of sleep each night, our tendency to do particular things can be predicted just by looking at data, histories, and the actions of our peers. Call it astrology or science, there’s a number out there that describes each of us individually.
Inevitably, marketers have tried to use this data to determine the best way to hawk their wares to us. This approach, which comes under data science and/or Big Data, has grown increasingly advanced over the years. Now, both artificial intelligence and machine learning have a role to play in understanding each step in the customer’s journey, from arrival to check-out and (hopefully) beyond.
It’s possible to summarise current efforts to attract customers with just a single word – personalization. Using banks as a case study, the consulting firm Deloitte predicts that hyper-personalization, i.e. the use of data to provide “context-specific” pricing, promotions, and products to clients, will become the norm, as businesses seek a more personal relationship with their customers.
A good 75% of companies will introduce hyper-personalization to their marketing over the next few years, Deloitte says. This doesn’t appear to be a fad, either. Research to date indicates that data-driven advertising has a much better return on investment (up to 8x in some cases), as well as a 10% increase in sales. Of course, there are a few barriers to entry associated with data science, given its relative newness.
Just how new is it, though? Businesses have been taking advantage of promotions of all kinds for hundreds of years. Tesco recently made the headlines by turning its Clubcard program into something of a lunchtime essential, increasing the cost of its meal deals for customers that have yet to opt into it.
Online, things are the same. Gaming site Buzz Bingo runs a daily free spins promotion, as well as a welcome bonus and turns on the Fishin’ Frenzy Spinner, which gives out select rewards to players. Buzz Bingo also provides new deals with each login. Oddly enough, the video gaming industry tends to be much more traditional with its promotions, opting for money off or free gifts with purchase.
The point is that the new trend for personalization will take account of customer behavior to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to advertising. This type of marketing was previously impossible due to the need for some kind of intelligent automation. The person-power necessary to sort each customer by their spending habits is, after all, unfathomable.
Data science isn’t without its problems. The thorny issue of privacy has yet to be solved, potentially limiting the potential of modern marketing efforts. As customers tend to appreciate a personalized shopping experience, though, it’s conceivable that they will be willing to share information that will make the high street (or the internet) a more palatable place.
Overall, the combination of shopping and data science seems like a net good for the shopper, rather than another intrusive corporate tendril.