Big Data and the Value of Making Repeated First Impressions

Contributed by: Ryan Cash

We spoke a couple of weeks ago about the importance of utilizing big data to create engaging and personalized content for consumers.  In today’s environment, people demand personalization in customer service and experience, and, not surprisingly, that same sentiment exists for marketing and advertising.  However, there is a crucial difference between the two.  With many services, one great interaction and a personalized experience can create significant loyalty.  And one bad interaction can serve the exact opposite purpose  

For example, if a hairdresser does a great job cutting your hair and engages you in an enjoyable conversation, you will probably go back to the same hairdresser.  Then, if they do not cut your hair as well the next time, your impression from the first experience may still drive you to return to the same hairdresser.  Conversely, most people would not return to a hairdresser who gave them a poor haircut on the first try.  Essentially, first impressions matter for good service.

Advertising, however, does not work the same way.  Personalization of the content becomes a necessary but insufficient condition to even make a first impression.  And much of this derives from the rise of the mobile internet, which has created a massive increase in data traffic.  We referenced a statistic in our last post that, according to Cisco, more data passed through mobile internet devices in 2014 than passed through the entire internet in 2000.  Consumers on their mobile phones are being blasted with content from all angles making personalization imperative to stand out from the crowd.  It’s well known that standardized, mass advertisements are less effective today.  They end up in the abyss of disregarded spam and internet trash.

In order to personalize content, you have to know your customer.  This clearly is where data is important.  It’s self-evident that knowing more about who you want to reach empowers you to better reach them.  It allows you to understand what they desire, and why they desire it; it allows you to make your message relevant to them.  In essence, you are practicing the art of effective communication, that is summarized succinctly by author Stephen Covey, who teaches the maxim, seek first to understand, and then to be understood.  Until you fully understand who you are trying to reach, you cannot really expect to know how to be understood by them.

But, it is still a necessary but insufficient condition.  You have to understand to be able to personalize and you have to personalize to be able to make a first impression, but it requires more.  Why?  People are bombarded by a surplus of information and they have a scarcity of attention span.  We need to be reminded.  Something may catch my eye on a web page, but I may accidentally click the back button, or change browser tabs, or a call may come through my phone, and I forget about it all together.  Even if I’m enticed to click something or take a next step from a personalized, creative direct advertisement, I may not have the time to go through with the process at the current moment, and I forget.  People need reminders.  And if you do not give them reminders, then you cannot expect that first impression to last.  An enticing advertisement is not congruent to a great haircut.

This means that you must not just know your customer, but you mustcontinue to know your customer.  You must be able to consistently put forth content that is relevant and personalized to your audience, and in order to do so, you must have accurate and current data.  It is easy to say that storing good data about your customers is key to knowing them, but is it really?  How frequently does that data become outdated?  People move, get married, change interests and jobs, and if you sit on a store of dated data, it will no longer be relevant more quickly than you think.  This speaks to the benefit of aggregating data in real time, but it also means that data collection, validation and storage needs to be a continuous process for companies.  It’s vital to be abreast of changes in the lives of your consumers and to always desire to learn more about them, their habits and their needs.  Only then can you consistently engage with your customers in ways that are meaningful to them.  And only then can you remind them frequently enough to stay current in their mind, and to entice them to action.