Mining the Customer's Mind.
By Vijay Dandapani
Wednesday, 16th January 2013
The Harvard Business School's newsletter of several years ago had a piece on the 'subconscious mind of the consumer', with the premise that '95% of all cognition occurs in the sub-conscious mind' the article sought to explore how marketers could 'begin to understand behaviors and attitudes of which customers themselves are not aware' using techniques from clinical psychology and sociology without, at the same time, alienating customers who may recoil from the apparent intrusion into their personal space.

A company that picked up on the idea of "getting into the customers head" and has actually implemented it, albeit largely in the digital space" is Electronic Arts (EA). The latest issue of the McKinsey Quarterly features a remarkable interview with the COO of the company detailing how the company has used technology to get unparalled insights into their customer; in part from the firm's digital transformation. 

The interview offers an excellent template for companies in a variety of industries including hotels. EA's digital transformation basically jettisoned a "retail-delivery" model with the principal objective of going direct-to-consumer and garnering better insights to foment closer relationships with the end-user.

That included, among others, the institution of a "free-to-play" model which actually results in incremental revenue via "microtransactions" (items that can be purchased while the customer is engaged in order to enhance the experience). The analog for hotels could be providing basic WiFi for free while charging for enhanced speeds.

The most insights, however, are obtained using "telemetry" (measuring data from a distance) when customers are tracked in real time resulting in their understaing objectively "when something is working and when it isn't".  Other methods include the use of account-management systems to track profiles of millions of customers  and "external industry-wide metric based on reviews, analagous to tripadvisor.

Also employed are teams that look at "consumer blogs and social media, providing demos and playable betas to customers and getting feedback" that is immediately relayed to the development team to incorporate changes.  The end goal for EA being stretching the "lifetime-value" contribution of every customer. The EA leader summed it up by noting that although they are a technology company, they are primarily in the people business .  It is one where mining the consumers' mind has increasingly become a requisite.

Vijay is Chief Operating Officer and part-founder of Apple Core Hotels- a chain of 5 midtown Manhattan hotels offering value and comfort in the heart of the city. Member of the board of Directors - Hotel Association of New York.

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