By ZoomInsights staff

A key to good marketing — and also perhaps the hardest part to get right — is knowing what your customers want and figuring out how to give it to them. As a marketer, it’s your job to learn everything you can about your target audience and to make sure your message is reaching the right people at the right time. One of the factors that makes understanding your audience so tricky is that they don’t always clearly voice their preferences.

Stated preferences

Companies often receive preference information via Web forms, Sundeep Kapur, a digital evangelist and author of the Email Yogi blog, told ZoomInsights. “This information could include contact information and other preferences – whatever the consumer provides or states to the brand are stated preferences,” Kapur said. This information is, perhaps, the easiest to gather.

Observed preferences

Brands gather data about customers as the customers interact with brands’ websites, email and other content. From such data, brands can glean observed preferences. “Over the course of time, the brand starts to notice what the consumer likes and ignores. They should collect click data and what the consumer did not click,” said Kapur. Think about how Google or Amazon keeps track of you as you navigate the Web, performing searches and clicking on links, and then it serves you ads and product information based on your activity. These companies are gathering observed preferences.

Implied preferences

This is where things get tricky. “Implied preferences are driven by assumptions. So if a person bought a French cuff shirt, cuff links are an implied preference,” said Kapur. “Or if a consumer went to their bank for a car loan, the bank should try to market insurance to them. Implied preferences are also enhanced when the brand does a search (like Amazon) to see what products or services are best paired with others – i.e. people who bought ‘this’ also bought ‘that.’”

Turning information into action

But once you have all of this information about your audience, what do you do with it?
“Ideally, you want to be able to micro-segment, where you can personalize offers for different people based on their preferences,” said Kapur. “What brands can do in lieu of that is to create campaigns with content for different interests and then “observe” what might interest the consumer.” For instance, if you know one set of consumers responds well to discount offers, then you’ll want to use that information to target them with coupons or information about sales.

In order to effectively manage and act on the data you gather, you’ll need what Kapur calls an “intelligent preference center.” He wrote on his blog: “What good is the information that you collect about a consumer if you are not in a position to respond to the consumer when they need you to?” He continued, “It is not about having their data in one place…instead it is about letting all your channels have access to your consumers’ preferences, keeping those preferences updated in real time and being pragmatic about making offers.”

Improving interactions

Kapur also has some other advice for marketers: Use what you know. “I have a confession to make: I speak English. You might scratch your head as to why I am saying this, but it is the result of a failed relationship. It is my bank – we have known each other for 27 years and yet, every time I stick my card into their ATM, the first thing they ask me is to choose my language,” Kapur said. “Brands should personalize not just offers but past transactions.

Wouldn’t we have a smoother transaction if my bank told me, ‘Hello, Sundeep, would you still like $60?’ They would have saved me time, I would appreciate it and now I might be open to an offer from them.”

In the end, keeping your customers engaged is about creating meaningful interactions that ultimately offer values. Or as Kapur put it: “Engagement is about listening and responding; it is about creating interactive conversations.”

Want to build customer segments that really perform? Combine preference data with the very latest demographic and firmographic data from ZoomInsights. Talk to a ZoomInsights data expert to learn how.
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