What is Customer Intelligence: 4 Steps to Get There

Customer intelligence is key to becoming more relevant as a retailer but how do you get started?

Nikole Wintermeier | May 27, 2019


In our increasingly competitive business environment, this seems like a logical question for any aspiring company looking to maximize their business value. As an online retailer with the desire to thrive in this customer-centric world, how do you engage with your customers better?

The answer: By maximizing your customer intelligence. And how can you do this? I’m glad you asked. Let’s figure this next one out together.

First, let’s define customer intelligence - The new way forward for technologically sound business strategies (If I hammer this point in too much, it’s because there is no alternative to competing in the online shopping landscape. Customer intelligence is the only way to go).  


What is customer intelligence?

Customer intelligence is the process of gathering and analyzing customer data and turning it into actionable insight. It does not only answer questions of Who, What, When and Where but also Why.

CI can be used to improve your communication with your audience by providing the information you need to segment campaigns, relieve journey bottle-necks, along with a host of other use cases

For example, customer intelligence can be used for psychographic segmentation.

Although a bit of a mouthful, this latter term basically means understanding who your customers are by gaining a clearer picture of their interests, motivations, and shopping habits. Then using these characteristics to create personality-specific marketing campaigns, which results in more human and relevant communication with your target audience.

Psychographic data

Why do I need customer intelligence?

 Why your business may want to maximize customer intelligence is very simple: it is the universal way forward for any brand with eCommerce ambition. By placing emphasis on the customer, you are:

  1. personalizing and improving their customer experience which will
  2. inevitably increase conversion rates, loyalty, and retention.

personalization empty cart


I say “inevitable” because according to a Harvard Business survey, customer analytics (and with it, customer intelligence) improved customer experiences by 60% which led to better customer retention of 58% (seeing customers return time and time again).

And if you break it down, of course, understanding your customer is important to their shopping experience: a Dutch boy doesn’t want a suggestion popping up about high-heels exclusively found in Spain whilst browsing for running shoes online.

Personalized shopping experiences are enabled by customer intelligence (segmenting your audience, for example, on the data points that you are collecting).

And guess what? The London Research Customer Analytics Report suggests that 69% of business-leaders in customer intelligence are increasing their investment in this field. This means that:

  1. it’s working and,
  2. it’s making business leaders.

 The next thing to ask yourself is: do I want my business to be a leader in customer intelligence? If the answer is yes, then keep reading.


How can I improve my customer intelligence?

Obtaining customer intelligence is the first part. Improving it is the second. It may seem tough to get your head around the process, so let me try to break it down for you in only 4 easy steps:

  1. Develop a Customer Intelligence Strategy
  2. Enhance your Digital Analytics Maturity
  3. Invest in Technology
  4. Make the Most Out of Your Data

If you are able to successfully integrate these steps into your business strategy you should be proud. Your online retail relationship to customer experience will be optimized. But this all starts with a mandate from C-level down.


1. Develop a Customer Intelligence Strategy

Martech! Sounds like a call to arms, but is rather the seamless merging of two spheres of any successful business: marketing and technology. Yet, by creating departments that merge these roles your business will be able to centralize its data better and bridge the gap between commercial goals and analytics. Customer relationship management coupled with business intelligence is the march towards a winning omnichannel strategy.

Make sure you build for scale so that you have the technical capabilities to cope with the influx of development that is coming your way.

Similarly, you should consider how to leverage your data to invest in customer intelligence: or, how to provide actionable insights using customer data. This consideration will pave the way for a sound strategy that enables systems, data, and professionals to positively impact your key performance indicators. 

You should also consider:

  • Which channels will I use to improve my impact (text, email, ads, social advertising)?
  • What are my business goals (improve conversion rate, reduce churn, increase lifetime value)?

As for infrastructural strategizing, you should consider who will be the project manager to act as a bridge between the customer analytics tools, platforms, and your business.

With these considerations in mind, you can solidify or acquire the appropriate technology and IT infrastructures that can facilitate a customer intelligence strategy.

“That’s where companies struggle - defining their objectives - even before they start thinking about the IT infrastructure or the cultural shift that needs to happen” (Jacobs of McKinsey & Co, SAS Real-Time Customer Analytics Report).

I know it may seem like a lot to incorporate and may be a slow process, but it is a transformation that has to happen if you are to cope with the future demands of online retail.

So, are we ready? What’s next?


2. Enhance Your Digital Analytics Maturity

ecommerce profiling

So you have your strategy in place for leveraging customer intelligence. But what does it mean to be mature in this area?

Let’s break it down. On the broadest level, you should be able to perform “analytics”. Meaning, your team should be able to identify patterns in shopper data by looking at their digital footprint (for example, are you a Macbook guy or PC girl, are you from the Netherlands or Columbia? What clicks brought you here?). 

To achieve advanced analytics maturity according to the London Research Customer Analytics Report can be garnered from,

"AI-driven analytics and insights delivering significant ROI and customer experience improvements."

Sound familiar? If you want a more detailed breakdown of how this can be done, see Customer Intelligence Platforms.

Enhancing your digital analytics will provide you with a more complex picture of your customer, which is why several international organizations have been working with a similar model (also using psychographic data) to better understand cultural nuances.

In retail, your business should always strive towards a more customer-centric approach.

But this can be hard, I know:

  • 83% of respondents in the Harvard Study said it was important to translate data into actionable insights, but only
  • 22% said they were successful.

Increasing your customer intelligence maturity starts at the top level where decision-making executives need to be the driving force to embrace this culture shift company-wide.

So, ensure that you have a top-down mandate to hire a qualified customer intelligence analyst or data scientist who can engage with customer data at every stage of the buyer’s journey.

Then, set up the necessary systems to provide a data-driven overview of all customer interactions with the business: Big brother is watching you, but unlike the foreboding dystopia of Orwell’s universe, big brother is here to help your shoppers.


3. Technology Investment

Customer Intelligence = Improved Customer Experience = Return On Investment

Simply put,

a)  buying the best software for customer analytics/intelligence
b)  using the technology to its full potential.

Significant, strategic IT investments will create opportunities across all segments of the supply chain- see image below from Capgemini’s report on how unleashing AI across functions offers a multi-billion dollar opportunity - and determine your competitive advantage.

Campegini supply chain AI

(partnering with startups hint hint can also be mighty beneficial to helping improve the complexity of your online offers).

AI is a critical component for customer intelligence since most customer intelligence technologies are already leveraging this kind of machine learning to refine their insights and enhance customer experiences.


Well if you think about trying to synthesize billions of data points to uncover actionable insights, AI has the capacity to deal with this scale and complexity. And AI doesn’t complain about it either.

Big Data

AI is continuously looking for the best options in the online shopping experience whilst taking into account the context of the shopper. AI is able to consider people’s differences and carry out simultaneous (multivariate) tests (see Psychographic testing methods that can be leveraged in eCommerce).

Adopting AI means the potential for growth since it has the data integration tools already built into its machine learning. AI is the product innovation that determines business intelligence and can give you a competitive advantage over others:

It's the organizations that are embracing AI today that are already setting themselves apart from competitors and delivering winning customer experiences.(SAS)


4. Making the Most Out of Your Data

This may be the hardest part: How do we harness big data to provide actionable insights? We’ve already tracked the importance of interdepartmental organization and integrating tech skills with cultural know-how.

Your data should highlight customer segmentation, customer insight, and profitable products as equal pillars of success. Leveraging this data to create intelligence is the leap you need to make towards a more customer-centric business model.

WARNING: Don’t forget the past 3 steps! Make sure you stick to your original customer intelligence strategy and revisit it regularly to make sure you’re on the right track.

Customer intelligence is a pioneering model and, analytically, the way forward. Data-driven approaches are now becoming the next urgent step for retailers. If you want to be part of this then the only thing left to say on my end is: data, data, data, data.

So, what’s the point?

AI[Crobox AI experiment]


The point is: customers are becoming more and more demanding. They have the right to be because we can now curate their shopping experiences.

If you want to provide the same kind of service to your customers as your competitors then you will need to efface the gap between retailer and shopper, and this can be achieved through maximizing customer intelligence.

To sum it up, this is important because customer intelligence personalizes the consumer’s experience of your store which in turn means:

  • You acquire more customers
  • Your current and new customers stay loyal to you, which
  • Generates more sales and revenue for your business as a whole.

And the way you can start by doing this is:

  • Customer intelligence strategy!
  • Technology! Digital analytics! AI!
  • Invest…
  • Make the most of it!

If you think you need help to appropriate these steps, No Fear: Crobox is Here.

Pairing AI with psychology, we provide unique insights that tailors content for your customers. This means that we are your customer intelligence strategy, we have the technology necessary for digital analytics, and we can help you make the most of your data providing actionable results.

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