Don’t think like the customer, get them to think like you


Predictive analytics is big business now. Hand in hand with Big Data they represent one of the only ways to get to know your consumer market and understand how they’ll behave under conditions, respond to marketing and react to incentives. But the problem with all of this is that it’s a constant cat and mouse chase, consumers are an unpredictable swarm despite what we believe to know about them.

So what if we’ve been going about this all wrong ?

A chink in the Big Data armor

Steve Jobs’ famously said in an interview “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.” and this perfectly explains the flaws with predictive analytics, customer experience management and how we are approaching Big Data. We are spending all our time trying to understand and mimic customer behavior and thoughts to attract them with a product or service when in fact we should be using that information to make them think like us.

Nobody needed the iPhone but Apple made us think we did and manipulated our desires to think like them, almost becoming employees of the company once we bought into the idea to defend the first iterations many flaws and missing features standard on other phones.

Nobody needed the MacBook Air but Apple made us want one over a standard NetBook to the point we were willing to shell out the additional cost.

Look into my eyes

Predictive analytics and the power of Big Data should be used like a hypnotist introducing a subconscious thought into the subject. It’s more than marketing. It’s more than incentivization. It’s subtle manipulation and conditioning. And it should work. In fact you should design your customer processes around the concept too. Instead of creating processes to bend backwards to make a customer smile turn it on it’s head; make them bend to fit your processes because you’ve created that same Applesque desire to be a part of your company and product, a part of something big. Consumers long for that.

Sure, this is a controversial way of looking at things and probably a downright immoral suggestion but customers are nothing more than a set of subjects and you are Sargant making them choose a path over your competitor. It’s just that instead of electric shocks you are using data.

And there isn’t that much difference at the end of the day.


3 responses to “Don’t think like the customer, get them to think like you

  1. I find sympathetic chords in this approach to what I do as a structured content developer. So often traditional information development just delivers what the audience is used, essentially asking “What does the reader want to see?” (which leads you down the path of perpetuating dysfunctional content) instead of asking the more relevant and useful question, “What is the reader trying to do?” and then organizing, typing, and presenting information according to the tasks being attempted. Time and again, I encounter so-called subject matter experts giving customers the content they want instead of leading the customer to the content they need.

  2. I think that designing your customer processes by data is likely to end up with the same dissatisfying experience as design by committee. But where data can come into play is around a better understanding of the customer journey and what helps take the experience to a new level. We collect a lot of data and are hoping that analytics will yield the insight we have been sorely lacking.

    The right question at the right time to the right person can deliver that insight. But no amount of answers will get you to that point.

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