Are “data cockroaches” the future masters of customer experiences? – A Q&A with best-selling author Bryan Eisenberg

Are “data cockroaches” the future masters of customer experiences? – A Q&A with best-selling author Bryan Eisenberg

My interview partner today is Bryan Eisenberg, often recalled “The Grok”. Bryan has co-authored the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Business Week and Amazon bestselling books, “Call to Action“(2005), “Waiting for Your Cat to Bark” (2006) and “Always Be Testing“(2008). His latest co-authored book is “Buyer Legends: The Executive Storyteller’s Guide” (2014). He has authored over 350 columns for ClickZ, has been blogging at GrokDotCom since 2001. He has authored articles for, CXO Magazine, Website Magazine and many other publications.

Q: Bryan, so what are “data cockroaches”?

A: Without data you can’t feed your business. If you don’t want to go the way of the dinosaur, you must be a master of data. Data is the oxygen. You know how cockroaches can survive under anything? Companies such as Amazon can survive under whatever condition because the data can feed them and they can react.

Q: How well is the customer-experience understood today?

A: Bain published a study some years ago revealing that 80% of executives believed that their companies delivered superior experiences. But when Bain asked their customers: “hey is company X providing a great experience?”, only 8% would agree.

Customers expect responses to their inquiries within minutes - not days anymore. They want to be able to interact 24/7 via the devices they want, at the time they want. That is the world we live in.

That is why Jeff Bezos and Amazon have succeeded so well because they started with a vision of where the customer was going, not worrying about competition, but how to thrive in the changing digital market place, basically keeping up with the customer.

Back in 1994 he started out by creating Earth’s most customer-centric company. But many people mistake that and think it means “I am going to love my customers”. But that isn’t what they meant. Digital gave him an advantage over every other retailer. His target at the time was Walmart who were the most data-centric company prior to Amazon, bar none. And they still are. They started BI and they know that for example if they can shrink a bottle by 3% they can increase sell-through by 4% and then they might go speak to Colgate to get it done.

But when you and I walk into a Walmart, they would have no way of knowing you vs. me. The advantage of the digital channel for Amazon is that they could know everything about you, how you behave, what you’ve clicked, products you bought, what shows you’ve watched, and are able to get to know their customers in such depth that it drives all their decision making – and that is the value of being customer centric.

Q: In “Waiting for your cat to bark” you recommended a persona based approach instead of an individual-level customer analytics and personalization approach. Has your perspective changed?

A: I still recommend starting with personas because at least they give you a mental construct to connect with a modality of your customers. Because if your website gets 32 million visitors a year it’s hard to think of those as individual visitors so you start with personas as a way that everybody can agree on and then you refine from that based on the data that you have. Personalization is great but you need a lot of data to do it. Today we’re starting to see the tools that enable you to combine 3d party data with 1st party data to give you the first semblances of personalization.

But there are very few companies outside Amazon that have taken full personalization to the level they can because if you look around how many still struggle to make sure they know you between their mobile app and your phone and your tablets, website and store.

Amazon even rethought the store. There is no price in their store unless you physically scan it with your mobile devices and app that you are logged into. It’s all about the data!

Q: What does the future hold in store for data cockroaches?

A: So you see this now in some of the work that companies such as IBM and others are doing. Facebook also made announcements recently: the bots are coming. You are not going to solve all the problems, but at least they can process some of the data for us and alert us. Organizations still need to be qualified to act on the alerts. But you still need human intelligence. It’s not going to be working from day one.
It will balance out things better. But it’s going to become about “whose algorithm is better”. And “whose data is better”.

Q: What do you and Jeffrey help companies achieve today?

Back in the 90s, my brother Jeffrey and I started our business creating the first agency for Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) in 1998. We are not quants. We value the data to help achieve our customers’ goals and their customers’ goals. But we found that few people knew how to use analytics.

Fast forward to today, we’re currently helping retailers choose the best locations for their retail stores by using traffic as well as search data. This is an industry where the classic providers still use magazine subscription data to feed their models. They are basically targeting their customers the way that we would have focused on people on the Internet in the earliest days based on very broad demographics, e.g. I want men who are in a certain age group, etc. … Yet, today we would never buy advertising online that way.

We’re also working with many startups and companies. Mostly it’s about helping them get that culture right, it’s almost a mentorship program.

  • How to take advantage of data
  • How they should look at their customer
  • How they should think about customer experience
  • Do testing

If you are not spending 5-10% of your budget on innovation …there are no rules today, you have to rethink everything.

We’re seeing so many industries disrupted. Who would have thought 5-10 years ago that the hotel industry would be disrupted by an app? Who would have thought the taxi and limousine industry would be disrupted by an app?

Every industry is ripe for this because so often they are willing to accept the status quo. They see the meteor coming and they say ... well .. .maaaaybe we should do something about it. And they go ahead and sign up for some of the tools but they never change the culture and when they don’t do that, they’re not going to survive the storm that is coming.

The Clicktale team would like to thank Bryan for his thought leadership driving the use of digital intelligence forward since day one already!


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