Why Memory Is Your Most Powerful Tool For Building Customer Relationships

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In today’s crowded commerce landscape, there’s only one way to stand out: make your customers feel wanted. Market research shows that today, 87% consumers measure all brand names against a select few, regardless of industry category. To put it bluntly, average is no longer an option. Leading brands like Amazon and Apple have set a new standard for attentive and thoughtful customer care, and companies striving for success today must meet or even exceed it. 

Here are a few questions to help you figure out how far along your brand is on the path to gaining insight through memory:

Memory makes customers feel cared for 

Remembering personal information like names, birthdays, and likes and dislikes is key to building trust in human relationships, and it’s also important to customers’ relationships with brands. Brands today have access to a wealth of information about their customers’ routines, from their in-store purchase histories to their browsing habits online, but only a small fraction of it gets applied to any given customer interaction. If a person forgot that much information about you from encounter to encounter, you’d probably find them rude. 

Brands need to do better—not just by remembering customers’ information but by using it to make their lives easier and more friction less, the same way a shopkeeper or even a friend would. For example, Jaguar and Shell recently rolled out in-car payments for gas. No need for customers to pull out a wallet after filling up—the brands already remember who they are, and process the payment automatically via PayPal or Apple Pay. The key here is that customers see the value of sharing information with the brand, building more trust and deepening the relationship. 

Memory lays the groundwork for insight 

When a brand unites its own data with information from outside sources, memory can form the basis of even deeper insights. When a brand unites powerful analytics with data from multiple sources, memory can form the basis of even deeper insights. For example, at makeup retailer Sephora, employees scan customers’ skin with a handheld device to generate a four-digit number called a color iq. Once the number is added to the customer’s loyalty program account, the brand ‘remembers’ it on every device they use, using it to inform online and mobile product searches so customers get results tailored to their skin tone. 

The problem is that brands often remember in silos, even when it comes to data they’ve collected themselves. A clothing brand might remember a customer’s previous online purchases when they visit its website, but not when they physically come to the store. A hotel’s loyalty program might remember that a certain customer is a VIP, but not pass that information on to the app where rooms are booked, resulting in that customer not getting a promised discount.

Getting to the highest level of memory—the kind of memory that drives deep insight—means breaking down these silos so brands can assemble a coherent picture of each customer across multiple touchpoints, the way a shopkeeper so easily would. Facebook’s new offline to online is another example of the powerful things can happen when silos come down.

  • What data sources are you putting into memory? It’s not enough to link together in-store and online purchase histories. Brands need to relate the data they gather from interactions with customers to third-party and outside data, including social media and demographic data, to “remember” a full picture of each customer. Different formats of data—including videos, images, and voice recordings—should be included too.
  • How quickly is that data available for processing? Storing and organizing data isn’t enough—it also needs to be accessible, and fast just like human memory. The more a brand remembers and the more it develops capabilities for insight at a high level, the more that access needs to be real time or close to it.
  • How well do you connect those things to create a single view of the customer? This is the million-dollar question. To lay the groundwork for true insight, your brand’s memory needs to create a view of the customer not only across devices, but across digital and physical space. It needs to be truly comprehensive, not patchwork.

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