Posted on: Monday 14th of July 2014
In a world of Personal Information Management Services (PIMS) individuals (consumers, customers, citizens) are empowered with sources of data, analytics, tools and technologies that were once the sole preserve of large, incumbent product or service providers. As PIMS change the relationship between companies and customers, how should incumbents respond?
The answer is to go with the flow and embrace the trend towards personal information services: to evolve towards ‘brand as information service’ strategies. Adopting a ‘brand as information service’ strategy can trigger a far-reaching reappraisal of what value you seek to offer, and how you bring this value to market.
There are at least three levels to this.
Products as information services
Level one is to view your products and services as crystallised knowledge: knowledge about what customers need and how to meet these needs. This knowledge needn’t only be delivered by a particular product or service.
For example, Transport for London knows an awful lot about how to run a bus service that helps people get from A to B. But by releasing open data about where every bus is, on every route, it’s enabling the creation of a wide range of apps that help bus users plan journeys and reduce the irritation and uncertainties that used to plague bus travel. In providing or enabling these information services on top of its core bus service it is, in turn, adding new value to its core product and making it more popular.
Similar possibilities are opening up across every industry. Look at how smart meters are transforming energy into an information service; or how car black boxes are enabling car companies to offer new layers of information value to car drivers.
Repurpose existing data
Many organisations now have rich sets of data about their operations and customers – data which they have traditionally looked at only through the organisation’s eyes: how to improve efficiencies, identify new opportunities etc. But now these same sets of data can be re-mined from the customer’s point of view to ask, ‘how could this data directly add value to the customer?’
Brands as information services revisit the organisation’s existing and new knowledge and information (including personal information) from the perspective of information as a tool in the hands of the customer, deployed to pursue the customer’s purposes.
A trivial example is the way courier companies have repurposed internal operational data about the progress of a parcel through their systems, to let customers track this progress too – thereby reducing the volume of queries coming into call centres.
Lloyds Money Manager takes data originally collected for operational banking purposes and adds new analytical tools to it to create a new customer service. Loyalty scheme operators like Tesco and Sainsbury boast about the richness of the data they hold on customers: how could this data be used to help customers understand their own spending trends and make changes to meet budgets or personal goals such as calorie intake or ethical consumption?
Marketing as a service
With brands as information services, every customer touch point is an opportunity to deliver new informational value to customers. This includes every aspect of marketing, which becomes an opportunity to earn your customers’ attention by engaging with them via information they find useful.
A high proportion of modern marketing communications fails to pass marketing’s first test. It doesn’t focus on identifying and meeting the customer’s need. Instead it focuses on meeting the brand’s need to ‘push’ and persuade. As a result, customers don’t see it as useful or helpful (rather, as irritating or intrusive). This sort of marketing risks being spurned by the very people it’s trying to attract.
Marketing as a service seeks to add value to customers at every touch point by understanding where they are on their journey and helping them to achieve their goals at this point in the journey.
A competitive necessity
Exactly how brands do these three things – whether by partnering with PIMS or becoming PIMS in their own right – depends largely on circumstances. Whether brands do it is the difference between flourishing or languishing as the new environment takes hold.