Last week, I had the opportunity to join Silicon Alley’s finest at Techweek New York, where I listened to over a dozen panels and speakers. While topics ranged from women in tech to wearables, the overarching theme of the conference was clear: it’s all about knowing and delighting your customer. This conference came at an interesting time, as last week also saw the launch day for our new IBM Center for Applied Insights study, Charting the social universe: Social ambitions drive business impact. In the study, we explored how leading organization adopt social capabilities and learned that they tend to do so in groups, each aimed at realizing a specific goal. One of these five social ambitions was to “Understand and engage customers.” How do organizations achieve this goal through social? With social capabilities such as customer analytics, social analytics, customer support and social CRM.
What I heard at Techweek had a number of similarities to our takeaways about companies looking to understand and engage customers:
1. Customer loyalty and advocacy
We asked study respondents to name their top objectives for deploying social capabilities that help them understand and engage customers. Not surprisingly, increasing sales was a top objective. Interestingly, though, increasing customer loyalty and advocacy was just as important. One Techweek panel outlined an industry that likely has the most loyal fans in the world – sports. The Sports and Technology speakers emphasized how social technologies can truly enhance the fan experience. Sports fans form a tight knit community, due to their strong emotional ties to their favorite teams. By effectively engaging these fans via social, brands and technology can mimic sports teams by prompting the same powerful sense of loyalty in their fans.
2. Metrics – “these likes ain’t loyal”
The topic of metrics was key to our study. Respondents eager to understand and engage customers tracked a wide variety of metrics: customer satisfaction, retention, conversion, yield, win/loss rates, share of volume, and share of wallet. But which metric is the best? According to a panel session on the “The Social Roadmap,” it depends on the brand and the business. David Arabov, the CEO of Elite Daily, a news site that describes itself as “the voice of Generation Y,” knows that social media “likes” only show a superficial view of success. In his words, “these likes ain’t loyal.” He’s more focused on how often links to his company’s news stories are shared. Return visitors and time on site are the most important metrics for Neil Vogel, a Techweek speaker and the newly appointed CEO of About.com, an online source for expert content that recently re-launched its website.
3. The value of data
Companies that are working to understand and engage customers have a wealth of social data. But when we asked respondents whether they use that data to influence marketing decisions, we were surprised to learn that 70 percent do not. Despite having all this data, many companies are still relying on gut feel. This concept of having data but not knowing quite how to use it relates to a key theme on one of the most popular panels of the conference, which was about wearables. Jason Fass, the CEO of Zepp Labs, said in reference to his wearable device, “I don’t need it to tell me I don’t get enough sleep. I have a three year old. I know that already.” The panel consensus was that wearable technology will reach the mass market only once the data from these devices is truly useful (and when they become more fashion forward). What’s the value in having data if you can’t use it? None. For social data, this may be an opportunity for a Chief Data Officer to step in.
So what did I learn from the best and brightest of New York’s technology scene? Jonah Peretti, the Founder and CEO of Buzzfeed, summed it up nicely: “Give people what they want before they know they want it.” Exactly!