“Give the lady what she wants” and “The customer is always right” are quotes attributed to the venerable Chicago retailing pioneer Marshall Field. That customer-centered approach to doing business was leading-edge at the close of the 19th century and soon became a competitive advantage for Mr. Field’s namesake department store empire.

Fast-forward more than a century, and it turns out that same customer-centered approach remains a best practice for marketing, but what’s different is the operating environment. And in some ways, being customer centric is at once more challenging and more achievable than it was in the 1890s. The key lies in using marketing analytics.

In today’s market, there are very few situations where one-size-fits-all marketing is the best approach. Customers are empowered, and unhappy customers will flock to competitors, often taking their friends with them. As a result, organizations can’t afford to forgo efforts to know their customers as well as possible. And it’s the companies that can quickly turn data into intelligence that have a leg up in the race to attract and retain their customers.

Increasingly, organizations are investing in omni-channel strategies. Enabling a multichannel approach to sales that seeks to provide the customer with a seamless shopping experience whether the customer is shopping online from a desktop or mobile device, by telephone or in a bricks and mortar store.

Enablement of that integrated omni-channel vision begins with assembling rich customer information. For marketers that means binding together all on and offline data sources for a complete and consistent view of a customer that cuts across the enterprise, transforming data—big and small—into customer insight that is made available across the organization to drive smart customer-centric decision-making.

The key to transforming that wealth of data into customer-intelligent actions is to power it with analytics because the sheer variety, volume and velocity with which information streams at the marketing analyst can be overwhelming. Analytics helps organizations mine and unearth opportunity within data to determine its value drivers, and where to focus efforts for the greatest returns.

Personalized promotions can also improve customer loyalty. A SAS Canada survey found that found that 47 percent of smartphone owners said they would be more likely to return to a store that sent personalized promotions to their device while they shopped. Findings suggest that Canadians want more from their shopping experiences, and mobile is ripe to deliver, as 82 per cent of respondents said that it would be helpful to access detailed product/service information on their phones while browsing in store.

In an age where data is the key to relevant marketing, organizations assembling the richest data sources, superior customer analytics, with the ability to act in real-time will have a sustainable competitive edge. Reaching today’s modern consumer has never been so difficult- flooded with choice, and powered by the mobility of their smartphones these consumers are savvy and quick to loose loyalty. They can instantly cross-quote, compare features and purchase everything from shoes to electronics, navigating from bricks to clicks faster, in many cases, than the companies they do business with. The future of customer loyalty will rest heavily on the marketer who cuts through the clutter, and strategically harnesses the power of customer information and analytics to deliver what customers have told us they want: personalized interactions.

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John Balla

John Balla is a Principal Content Strategist at SAS and Editor of the SAS Customer Analytics blog. At work, he is focused on engaging fellow marketers with content and experiences that open doors, answer questions and maybe even challenge assumptions so better questions can be asked.
Prior to SAS, his experience spans over 20 years of leading teams and generating measurable results in technology marketing and business development at Fortune 100 companies, and co-founding two start-ups. He has lived and worked on 3 continents and has a fluent command of Portuguese, Spanish, Hungarian and English.
He has a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master’s degree in Business Administration from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

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