Dr Samir Kapur, Management Consultant and Visiting Faculty, Indian Institute of Mass Communication and Leading Management Colleges

I recently received an e-certificate saying that a grove of 10 trees has been planted by my telecom service provider on the occasion of my birthday. This simple yet thoughtful gift. Did my telecom operator know that I am a zero carbon advocate? I don't think so but they do know that I am a strong advocate of e-bills having influenced my extended circle of family and friends to voluntarily give up on paper bills. They used this information to create a forever memorable wow for me. This is just an example of how the power of analytics and the intent to delight your customers can create a wow moment.

Benefiting the Customer and the Brand

Changing lifestyles, evolving ways of working, the ubiquitous access to mobile, transacting digitally, and soaring popularity of social media are generating huge amounts of data, accessible to both customers and brands. However, to create meaningful and actionable information from this deluge of data, the need of the hour is sharp and smart analytics. Empowered with such information, customers are using the choices they have to make smarter decisions and brands are using it to make offers that they believe the customer is most likely to subscribe to. This a win-win for both as the customer gets the deal best suited for him and the brand is able to ensure that the customer stays with it. While theoretically, it may be possible to create a special offer for each individual customer, it is practically not feasible for every customization to have a cost. When brands deal with several million customers, the offers they make actually are designed based on a study of the usage and consumption patterns of hundreds of thousands customers, categorized as a single segment or class.

Big data is collated from disparate sources; sliced and diced using several parameters, put into a consolidated view for analysis and decision making with the objective of creating offers that are likely to appeal to the maximum majority of customers in each segment or class. With increasing consumerism, brands and marketers across industries, especially those that are service led, are leveraging the power of big data analytics to delight customers, build their loyalty, and drive further sales.

Benefiting the Ecosystem

Let us take the ride-hailing app like Uber. It is a testament to how big data can be leveraged to ensure success. The firm uses information such as travel time and traffic conditions, drivers, and demand in an area to determine pricing. Additionally, the app sends notifications to its users offering them customized discounts to ensure repeated spend as well as loyalty toward using the service. In effect every transaction on customer devices and touch points are being leveraged to constantly innovate. Similarly, just buy a book on Amazon. In no time is the transaction facilitated and the book delivered real time to your Kindle. Immediately thereafter, you start getting alerts about books similar to the one you bought. Bulk discounts are offered; complementing articles. This is big data analytics at work! And it's not just the new-age app and ecommerce savvy industries that are benefitting from enhanced customer loyalty due to the deployment of big data analytics.

Retail has pioneered several interesting innovations to delight customers taking advantage of the rich data that they have about their customers – spending patterns, types of purchase, frequency, and combining it with qualitative attributes such as fashion, lifestyle, special occasions, and festivals. From exclusive previews to invitations for special events to interactive sessions with designers – creating wow experiences for customers, which are unique is what it's all about.

In the aviation industry, most airlines have their own frequent-flier program, which entails more than just accumulating air miles toward a free flight. In addition to discounted fares, travel and holiday deals, they provide preferential access to their partner channels such as hotels, restaurants, car rentals, and retailers, with the added benefit of earning miles through means other than just booking a flight with them. Their program collates all such information and it is then used to make offers that are suited to the customer's needs as well as create opportunities to get their flights filled.

In each of the above-cited industries, intelligence generated using big data analytics is processed to create value across several industry verticals benefitting the entire ecosystem, thereby creating a win-win for all.

Today, it's no longer enough to provide great customer service – the norm is now Personalization – creating individual, singular experiences that will delight the customers making their experience a holistic one. With technology transforming every market segment, products and services becoming increasingly commoditized, and pricing not being a sustainable differentiator, it is customer experience that is becoming the hallmark of differentiation. In fact, with increasing affordability, discerning customers are willing to pay a premium for quality service and experience even for utilities and essential services, when they have a choice!

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