Three hundred years ago, Button’s coffeehouse in central London thrived on the interaction of its customers. Opinion was common currency in a city at the centre of the tradewinds. Conversation was the lifeblood of the coffee houses and the data it delivered went on to become the lifeblood of the markets.
Still reeling from the exploding Note 7 debacle, tech giant Samsung will know more than most how little our appetite for sharing opinions has changed.
Its CEO Oh-Hyun Kwon realises that the true cost of its problems cannot be quantified until it can attach a value not just to the revenue but to the trust it has lost among its customers, recently telling Samsung’s 489,000 employees that it must ‘use the crisis as a chance to re-examine and thoroughly improve how we think about innovation and our perspective of our customers.’
That’s no easy task, and if it’s to achieve it Samsung will need to harness the power of data. In the digital age, the firms that prosper will be the ones that unearth data on a scale commensurate with the extraordinary extent of society’s interconnected, globalised conversations. That puts Samsung in a favoured position. Few can match Samsung for the wealth of insights it gathers from its billions of interactions with millions of customers across thousands of diverse products.
However, its chances revolve not around the tech it packs into its phones or fridges, but in the way it uses the massive data at its disposal to align its complex brand with its universe of customers, including them as a sounding board and integral part of its thinking.
Data ain’t what it used to be
Customer data used to come from diverse operations such as sales interactions and marketing. It was dysfunctional, decentralised and only occasionally shared. Today, fast firms employ smart tech to reach out and pull in instant customer feedback and insight, using it as the basis for every corporate action. That’s how they keep abreast, and stay ahead, of their customers.
They also involve their employees by generating the same insight from them as they do from their customers. Ideas are sought, associates feel motivated and management is connected with front line staff. When opinions are sought from customer and employee alike, both parties become sounding boards and ideas factories, helping companies build products around customer needs. Customer insight and employee engagement work in harmony.
Connectivity is key here. ‘Connected devices’, or the ‘internet of things’, are actually misnomers as they revolve not around the connectivity of the thing, but around the people they serve. By placing their customers at the heart of these new, borderless empire, firms make their customers as sticky as their products.
Connected products often give their maker a measure of personalisation with which to ensure clever cross selling, customisation and segmentation. With a forensic understanding of their customers, firms can refine products, pick price points, ensure the value proposition and guarantee our satisfaction. To work, they depend as much on big data as they do on fast data that is contextualised and immediately shared.
Apple vs Samsung
Samsung’s great rival Apple knows how to use its interconnected product suites and connected customers to gain new levels of insight. It realises that interconnected product ranges can radically change consumers’ buying patterns, maximising value, using the products’ understanding of its customers as the foundations of an entirely new, real time level of customer engagement.
But whereas Apple is recognised for its ability to extend customer connectivity through its empire of connected devices, Samsung comes across as a network of colonies.
The dangers are plain. Firstly, the consumer with loyalty to a family of four interconnected products is unlikely to buy a fifth that will not synchronise with the other four. Secondly, in a race for supremacy over household connectivity, consumers will have to choose the hub, or platform on which to control the connectivity. Who will usurp whom? Will consumers opt for the provider whose gadgets it loves most, the provider of the greatest number of high performing white goods, or the utility provider? Or even the self driving car?
To follow our coffee house analogy, if Apple is the latter day Buttons, where people gather to engage, Samsung is the department store, where they hardly ever meet.
As they slug it out, using their cameras, tweaks and apps, the winner in Apple vs Samsung will be the one that best deploys its product family to develop the bond with its customers. Share of mind is the best way to achieve share of market. As it puts its troubles behind it, Samsung has an unrivalled ability and opportunity to make a mega community of its immense fan base and use their loyalty as a competitive weapon and a robust platform. The question is, will it?
Ian McVey is UK director of data analytics firm Qualtrics.
Image credit: Pixabay