Why “Small Data” Is Actually the Key to Great Customer Experience

In today’s era of digital transformation, customer insight has gone from being a “nice to have” and become central to fueling customer experience.

Not that long ago, consumer insight was something that informed different silos within the marketing department—there might have been efforts around advertising messaging and effectiveness, brand health or ad hoc fuel for innovation. But the rise of the experience economy, fueled by shifts in technology and culture, has resulted in the business-critical need to understand your customer and use data to design a real-time personal experience.

The term “experience economy” is not as new as you might think. It was introduced back in 1998 in an article by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore where they used it to describe the next great economy that would follow the agrarian economy, the industrial economy and the service economy. Pine and Gilmore argued that businesses must orchestrate memorable events for their customers and that memory itself becomes the product: the “experience” which would give brand a competitive advantage by winning more customers and being able to keep them. Even 20 years ago, the experience economy was considered to be the main underpinning for customer experience management.

Understanding the customer holistically

What wasn’t apparent when Pine and Gilmore introduced the concept was that experience would mostly be driven digitally.

While most of the emphasis in recent years has been on big data, what brands are discovering is that it’s not enough to gather and act on transactional data from sales and clicks. They need to hear the voice of their customer, asking them questions and gathering their feedback. It isn’t enough for business to simply gain an understanding of their customers in terms of their experiences with brands, products or services. Brands need to understand their customer holistically–their lives, the attitudes, opinions and values.

In essence, they need to understand their customer’s truths.

It’s becoming apparent that more brands are realizing this. Gartner’s latest CMO Spend Survey found that “marketing and customer analytics” and  “customer experience” are two of the top three considerations and investments brands will be making in the new year.

Brands are quickly realizing that to drive the most relevant CX, the most valuable data is what your customers think of you or your products. And that information comes from the customers themselves.

Small data reveals customer truth

This is where small data needs to be considered.

Small data is the human insights necessary to understand what your customer thinks and feels. To get to that understanding, brands are building always-on strategies to gather their customer truths.

FocusVision’s recent “How Do You Research” study found that 87 percent use surveys to capture point-in-time feelings and reactions. A quarter (25 percent) use video interviews to ask why they do what they do. Focus groups continue to be a prominent methodology, with 71 percent looking to move beyond the voice of the customer to understand why they think, feel and act the way they do.

Moving into 2019, it will be the brands that truly understand their customer truth that will be able to connect their story with their customer’s story. Just look at what Nike has done with their Colin Kaepernick campaign. Brands that don’t understand their customer truth not be able to become part of their customers’ stories and create the right customer experience to sustain and grow their business in this experience economy.