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Customer behavior analytics brings marketing, analytics together

If you want better, more timely access to customers, consider customer behavior analytics, which is driven by the combination of marketing and data analytics.

ATLANTA -- To some people, marketing and analytics may seem like strange bedfellows.

So said Charlotte Mason, marketing department head for the Terry School of Business at the University of Georgia, speaking at the Data and Marketing Association's Marketing Analytics Conference.

But the oxymoron of combining a creative occupation like marketing with a data-driven approach like analytics began to make more sense to the conference's roughly 200 attendees, as they learned how customer behavior analytics can go a long way toward helping companies reach the right customer at the right time.

"Analytics is the foundation for transforming the customer experience," said Ash Dhupar, chief analytics officer for Publishers Clearing House (PCH), based in Jericho, N.Y. "The idea is to create data-driven insights that are actionable and timely."

Dhupar spoke at the conference's opening keynote, detailing how PCH was able to better target its massive audience of roughly 110 million U.S. customers, using machine learning and algorithms to help identify customers who would lead to a higher lifetime value.

Using the customer behavior analytics PCH gathered, Dhupar's team discovered that customers were irritated at the amount of email sent to them. PCH decided to lessen the roughly 4.7 billion email messages it sent a year by targeting the right customer at the right time. Using what Dhupar called an optimized customer model, PCH graded 30 million customers on that model to determine how to market to them.

"We reduced our email output by 200 million, while increasing revenue by $6 million," Dhupar said. "We also enhanced the customer experience by providing the right email to the right customer."

Data, technology and process

While PCH is a success story about applying customer behavior analytics in the marketing space, other organizations may find it challenging to combine two different strategies that seem to be at odds. Peter Dreyer, senior consultant for Brighthouse Financial, based in Charlotte, N.C., faced a similar challenge.

"We had multiple spreadsheets, nothing was integrated, and we tended to lead with our gut and not data," Dreyer said. Brighthouse Financial spun off from MetLife roughly two years ago, and besides the challenges of educating people on this new division, there was the larger foundational challenge of innovating customer behavior analytics.

The project was ultimately a response to a problem we were having with CRM.
Peter Dreyersenior consultant at Brighthouse Financial

Dreyer outlined his approach -- which focused on data, technology and process -- to adopting and using customer behavior analytics.

"We had a close partnership with the data science team," Dreyer said. "For technology, [the question] was, 'How do we push this insight to marketing managers?' And before we started the process, we made sure there was alignment with the CMO [chief marketing officer] and national sales director. Without that last component, none of this makes it to market."

Dreyer said Brighthouse Financial selected Qlik for data and business intelligence and integrated it into Salesforce, the company's CRM of choice. "We needed that data feed and that integration to CRM for it to be something that managers would log into," Dreyer said.

To ensure the customer behavior analytics project had support, Dreyer made certain there was alignment with executives at Brighthouse Financial. "Process is often overlooked. We try so hard on the data and technology end," Dreyer said.

The reason Dreyer had his CMO and director of sales on board as he worked to bring marketing and data together was that, collectively, they were all trying to solve the same problem: How do they retain people doing business with them today?

"The project was ultimately a response to a problem we were having with CRM," Dreyer said. "This process came out of listening sessions."

So, while on the surface it seems odd to bring together the artistic world of marketing with the mathematical world of analytics, it is the way the marketing industry is moving. Customer behavior analytics has a place in marketing -- it's just a matter of convincing your CMO.

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