Forrester Research recently published a report on the power and importance of customer context, especially when it comes to insight- and interaction-driven marketing. The report’s author, Carlton Doty, discusses the inevitable shift in marketing, noting that, “Marketing’s job now is to identify and use context to create a repeatable cycle of interactions, drive deeper engagement and learn more about the customer in the process.”

The report goes on to support the argument that customer context, not campaign-based activity, is in fact what creates valuable, lasting customer relationships. And as an industry that continues to tick because of customer relationships and repeat transactions, retailers should take note. While the success of campaigns can be measured in immediate ROI and transactions, the true value of loyalty lays in positive consumer engagement and customer-initiated interactions (i.e. interactions that happen outside of campaigns).

But the problem for retailers, in my opinion, is not their lack of understanding of the power of customer context and context marketing; the immense value consumers find in personalized experiences has been widely reported.  It’s that brands and retailers don’t know how to create customer context or don’t have the tools in place to properly execute on these insights across every customer touchpoint.

According to Forrester, in order to deliver context content to customers, brands must build a Contextual Marketing Engine, which combines the power of customer data and technology, and often utilizes the tools that already exist within a marketing department: marketing automation; real-time analytics; customer databases; and personalized content delivered throughout the customer lifecycle.

This is clearly easier said than done. Even if you’re lucky enough to have all of the resources necessary to build a Contextual Marketing Engine, the one thing Forrester fails to address is who within the organization is meant to own the effort. And, as we know from past Forrester reports, the retail industry isn’t exactly flush with skilled marketing scientists – the logical professional to manage an operation that combines customer interactions, customer data, and predictive analytics.

Instead, I think the most viable option for retailers looking to deliver context marketing to its customers at every physical and digital touchpoint, is to partner with technology companies that have already pre-built the workings of the Contextual Marketing Engine, ready to dissect customer data and deliver relevant, tailored communications across every customer interaction.

As the report concludes, the power of customer context is not limited to improved engagement, revenue and experiences. When done correctly, customer context has the potential to shift marketing as a whole, “from media to technology and innovation.” Most importantly, the goal of customer context is for brands and retailers to become trusted resources for their customers, continually delivering valuable content and messages with information that pertains to each individual consumer and their unique interests.

How does your retail organization plan to adopt this new customer context approach? Share your thoughts with us here or connect with us on Twitter.