Left-brain or Right-brain driven?

Through data, the unexpected truth and authenticity of the world around us is revealed.
— Carmen Vicelich, Data Insight CEO

The power of data: how to evolve and compete in the age of the customer

We are now living in the age of the customer. Technology, social mobility and connectivity mean our customers no longer compare us to the company down the road – but to global brands that are well ahead of the game. Companies like Uber, Amazon and Apple have all raised the bar when it comes to providing a complete experience and, as a result, we, as consumers, now expect a personalised, seamless experience that is relevant and engaging from every brand we deal with.

This is only possible with data.

For me, this is an extremely exciting time as, after almost two decades of working in the data industry, we are finally starting to see companies understand its power and the benefits to their business. Those at the top of their game are the ones who have made it fundamental to their business and are currently leveraging and building tremendous value from it. It is no longer something that companies can afford to relegate to the backroom. Many forward-thinking boards and executives have finally recognised that, to compete in a digital-driven market, data is fundamental to everything and deserves a seat at the top table.

As marketers, that is hugely exciting as it means there is long-term commitment and investment in, what is fast-becoming, a core driver for business in the digital age.

But how do you use it to get closer to your customers and deliver a seamless, relevant experience?

Many companies are already grappling with this very issue, and it is not a simple road. Fundamental to becoming a data-driven organisation is the need to evolve away from the traditional company structure internally and develop a new way of thinking. For many, this requires a massive cultural shift that challenges the norm and involves a significant amount of change.

Put simply; companies can no longer afford to work in silos if they want to deliver a seamless experience to their customers. Every part of a business holds specific data sets which need to be combined and shared across the business to ensure it can provide the right experience to the customer, at the right time. While many companies may argue they already do this, in practice it is quite difficult to achieve because of legacy systems, territory issues within departments and it also requires a cultural shift in thinking and working as a business. In my view, only a few companies have managed to do this well so far – and we are proud to be working alongside some of them.

In saying that, it’s encouraging to see many companies already attempting to do this with the appointment of new roles such as Chief Data, Customer, Technology or Digital Officers. And while this is a great step in the right direction, it doesn’t necessarily solve the problem as it adds a whole new level of complexity in regards to governance and structure without affecting real cultural change.

To execute on being customer-centric, agile and innovative, the whole organisational structure has to change. There’s no point having a Chief Data Officer who only focuses on the data and a Technology Officer who is only focused on infrastructure and operations without having visibility of the customer.

To compete with large global brands, companies now need to be driven by both left-brain and right-brain thinking. It is no longer possible to evolve and develop with either in isolation if you want to deliver a complete end-to-end customer experience.

Right-brain thinking is core to the creative design of an experience that engages customers and delivers value. At the same time, left-brain thinking is required to understand the data and technology to execute and deliver a contextual, relevant and personalised message.

So what does this all mean for you as a marketer? In the age of the customer, it’s imperative you understand the technology and data within your business regardless of whether you are a left or right-brain thinker. In order to deliver value, you need to be able to think from both sides so you remain in a unique position to influence customer-centricity within your business. You also need to take a leadership role and help drive change and collaboration across the business.

If you look at the metrics of what defines success from a leadership perspective, traditional business measurement used to be all about PNL, production, efficiency and productivity. In today’s world, success is also now measured by net promoter scores, customer communication volumes, click-throughs, conversions and the number of shares and likes you have. That’s a massive shift in quite a short time from traditional metrics without us even realising it and marketers are at the coal-face when it comes to driving how these factors are influenced.

A couple of years ago I wrote an article titled ‘The art of data’ in which I said “…Through data, the unexpected truth and authenticity of the world around us is revealed. Data can uncover human behaviour that we may not see. And when you combine that with human creativity and imagination, it can result in something magical.”. That’s left and right brain thinking in action and that statement is now more important than ever. There’s no doubting today’s customer-centric world is unchartered territory that requires new thinking from not just marketers, but from all parts of the business. However, the old adage of “who dares wins”€ will set those who dare to try something new apart from the rest of the pack in this data and digitally-driven world.

Carmen Vicelich is founder and CEO of Data Insight . Her company works with over 70 large companies including BMW, ASB, Skycity, BNZ, Genesis, and Z Energy to deliver innovation and game-changing value through the powerful combination of data, technology and analytics.

Justin Flitter