In 2016 contextual relevance will be most important factor driving customer purchase, satisfaction and loyalty.
Marketing is currently leading the charge on contextual relevance but customer demand for contextual relevance extends beyond the presentation of offers. Companies need to develop contextual relevance to develop more valuable products and services and to deliver efficient and effective customer support. An airline passenger blasting a carrier on twitter because of a delayed flight expects the airline to know who they are, where they are and where they are going and to use this context to respond in the most effective manner possible. One only needs to look at the recent uproar of the entire Indian cricket fan base caused by British Airways contextually ignorant response to a request for help by cricket star Sachin Tendulkar to see the importance of contextually relevant services.
The knee-jerk reaction to the demand for contextual awareness is more technology. While digital is incredibly important in an organizations ability to understand context and deliver products and services that are contextually relevant, placing technology before customer understanding creates disjointed interactions and experiences. Delivering with contextual relevance requires deep quantitative and qualitative understanding of the customer. Companies must invest as much in behavioral psychologist and anthropologists and they do in technologists.
Combining qualitative and quantitative research and analysis is imperative. Quantitative data like website analytics and social media data provide an understanding of WHAT a particular customer segment is doing. Qualitative research like ethnography and cultural probes provide an understanding of WHY customers are doing what they do. Together this information enables an organization to map every touchpoint in their customers journey, including those important inflection points that occur on the periphery of the organizations products and services but influence how the customers perceive and value those products and services. (For more on developing customer journey maps see The Most Powerful Business Tool You Are Not Using)
Only once a company understands the customer journey from both a functional and emotional perspective can the right digital (and non-digital) strategies be decided upon.
2016 will be a year of tremendous opportunity and challenge. Those companies that develop a deep understanding of their customers and use this understanding to deliver contextually relevant marketing, products and services will thrive. Companies that continue to emphasize features, functionality, technology and disconnected marketing will be in for a rough year.