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As 2015 quickly approaches its finale, this has largely been a year of technological epiphanies for customer-centric brands and industries which have aligned their strategies and capabilities to understand and motivate today’s savvy ‘always on’ consumer across an increasingly complex engagement environment.

We sat down with a cross-section of Clutch experts who, across varying dimensions, sit on the frontline this customer engagement evolution. These individuals work on strategies and solutions for leading brands across an array of industries including Crabtree & Evelyn, Lacoste, Meineke, New Balance and Pandora Jewelers, among others. We asked the roundtable to discuss some of the most significant technology lessons that have emerged for brands over the past year.

Here is a review of some of the major customer lessons the roundtable discussed and debated:

DATA DISCIPLINE: While ‘big data’ has been all the rage in recent years, the incessant hype around the topic has frustrated countless marketing and technology teams. However, leading brands across a spectrum of industries, from apparel and automotive to footwear and food, “are realizing that the customer marketing solution now exists,” as Joe Pino explained, “in the form of Consumer Management technology that can centralize and synthesize their disparate customer data systems across in-store point-of-sale systems, ecommerce platforms, social accounts, email lists and mobile applications.” As Aimee Ellis explained, “Integrating this data now allows brands to get a holistic 360-degree understanding of their customer for the first time ever, which has tremendous impact on their strategy.”

“Overlaying automated, targeted messaging and blast marketing allows the brand to deliver high-impact and effective campaigns,” according to Margot Berger. “These campaigns, based on the customer’s own traditional behaviors, preferences and social interactions.” The roundtable debated how mainstream the leveraging of ‘big customer data’ will become in the next 12 months with a split of three feeling it will shift from a competitive advantage to an industry standard across many segments and three feeling that it will remain a competitive advantage embraced primarily by visionary market leaders.


BASE JUMP: According to Dan Guy, “Retailers are starting to finally realize the massive intrinsic value their brands have access to within their established customer base.” In fact, for many businesses upwards of 80 percent of their revenue is derived from 20 percent of their customers, who are often their most valuable customers (MVCs). On top of this, it costs an average of seven times more to convert a new customer over an existing one.

“Despite this massive untapped value, many marketing teams continue to rely on antiquarian budget structures that divert minimal investment (often as low as 20 percent) towards identifying, understanding and motivating their existing customers,” explained Brad Marg. As Tyler Walton added, “Many brands are taking advantage of Consumer Management technology and strategy. This allows them to deliver data-driven personalization and relevancy to customers in order to help them earn genuine loyalty rather than the ‘buy three, get one free approach’.”


 
GETTING PERSONAL: “Many brands are realizing the power within the diversity of their channels and how an integrated marketing strategy across online, in-store, mobile, social, SMS, catalog, direct mail and beyond can help reach customers across their entire base,” according to Aimee Ellis. While many businesses opted to focus squarely on emerging channels like mobile or social, “several innovative companies have opted to personalized their experiences across the digital spectrum,” said Brad Marg. “As well as traditional outlets like direct mail and in-store.” Dan Guy added, “Consumer Management technology has brought personalization to these physical outlets making them incredibly effective engagement points.”
 

 
TEST, TEST, TEST: “Testing for optimization is another element brands are starting to execute on,” as Joe Pino said. According to Tyler Walton, “From segments and messaging to channels and offers, savvy brands are taking advantage of testing and measurement technology. Thus brands can optimize and maximize efficacy and experience for their customers.”
 
“Staying up to date and relevant has become a major driving force for consumers. Set it and forget it just doesn’t work anymore,” according to Margot Berger. “Consumers move so quickly and markets are constantly shifting, maintaining engagement touch points and strategies is critical.”

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