Competitive Advantages Fueled by Data

29 Jan 2016
by: Lou Powell

Competitive advantage can be derived by creating unique value with customers, employees, vendors, distributors... the list goes on. The types of experiences you could provide to these audiences to create competitive advantage depends upon the industry you're in and where you are uniquely built to provide value. The data you would surface to fuel these experiences depends upon what you believe would distinguish you from your competition and resonate with your audience.

Larisa Bedgood penned a great article on titled, “In 2016, the Customer Experience Will Separate the Winners from the Losers.” This article does an excellent job of illustrating what customer experience expectations are and their anticipated impact in 2016.

Maybe the best way to answer this question is not to identify which assets or data, but to describe how a good digital marketer thinks about customer experience and then determine what data would fuel that experience.

Let's look at an example of customer experience in action:

I was in an auto parts store recently to get windshield wiper blades for my car.  I have been in this store dozens of times buying products for the same car. I'm always greeted as soon as I walk through the door and asked if I can be helped. The sales person then proceeds to the counter to answer my questions using their computer. "What make and model of the car? What year?" Then, we head to an aisle to make a selection of wiper blades. He asks, "What line do you prefer?" and the truth is I don't know. I haven't put any thought at all into wiper blades since the last time I bought them. So, I go through the pros and cons of each product while carefully balancing that with the price to make a selection. I proceed to the counter and am prompted for my phone number to enter my rewards account. The salesperson concludes my purchase and I'm out the door. I attempt to put my wiper blades on in the parking lot and am struggling a bit as the salesmen notices and comes out to assist. He quickly realizes that I picked up the wrong blades so he exchanges them and proceeds to install them for me.

The store’s customer service is over the top and that is why I keep coming back! However, the experience, based on my familiarity with other more digitally mature companies, was not so good. So, what could my experience have looked like?

I walk into the store and am greeted by the same friendly salesman.

He immediately says, "Could I get your phone number? Welcome back Mr. Powell! Are you shopping for your Ford Edge Sport, one of your other vehicles, or a new vehicle?"

"I need new windshield wiper blades for my Ford Edge."

"Last time you were here, you purchase the Bosch Icon blades. Would you like to stick with those?"

"Sure, thank you!"

He inquires, "Will you be paying with credit card today?"


"I can check you out right here then. Your rewards points are now at 1,345.  You are only 655 points away from a $20 cash reward. Would you like a printed receipt or prefer I email it to your profile address?"

He finishes my purchase and I'm out the door, but of course with the same over-the-top customer service by installing my blades.

Now that is a much better customer experience. The data that was available to the clerk was utilized so that I can recall my purchase history and maybe even be notified on my mobile app that the wiper blades I purchased 6 months ago are due to be replaced.

The data that would need to be surfaced in a secure and salable fashion to drive this experience would be my customer profile data, my purchase history, my rewards data, local store inventory, and product locations in the store.

Understanding where you need to be positioned is the easy part. Changing your corporate culture, from every customer touch point back to the data that supports it and transitioning your organization to think about everything they do from a digital value perspective, is the hard part.

Creating the capability to surface data through APIs in a secure, salable, governed fashion is a critical capability that all organizations should be striving for.