In the Age of You, customer centricity is still king. It’s not enough to talk about customers and their needs. It’s talking to and with them that’s the key. Putting customers at the heart of the business requires going deeper and getting closer. To be customer centric is to be customer proximate.
Analytics can get companies closer to customers, but in a changing world, the way people interact with brands is far more fragmented—sources of information are scattered and proliferating. Analysts have to be more creative in the ways they collect information, and how that information is aggregated into actionable insights. Data gathering—when done right—can provide real, human insights that build authenticity, relevance, and engagement—all characteristics of a strong brand that drives growth.
74% of companies that over-perform on revenue growth create customer experiences based on data-driven insights. 
The empathy in analytics
While marketers tend to focus on measurement and act on the functional, the emotional component is crucial, both in gathering insights and putting them to work for the business. Exercising empathy builds understanding on one side, and trust on the other.
People don’t want to be data points. They want to be listened and catered to as human beings. Building empathy into analysis requires active listening. Data gathering should be approached as a collaborative activity, with the goal of creating better and richer experiences.
Authentic interactions will build trust in the brand. People can tell when they’re being listened to and when they’re not. Empathy requires thinking about how the interaction will ultimately benefit the individuals you’re talking to. It’s this deeper understanding that drives relevance to real people—not just “customer segments”—which comes through in the brand’s experiences.
From experience to mutual engagement
Understanding the experience from a customer perspective, rather than from the business or brand perspective, is the first step to building engagement. Experiences that are 100% customer-led return to the brand in the form of engagement and loyalty. They foster deeper relationships.
70% of buying experiences are based on how customers feel they are being treated. 
Relationships take work. Growing brands are looking to strengthen and deepen the relationships they’ve formed with customers. They’re identifying methods for measuring the performance of their engagement strategies, and developing ways of using measurement to continue optimizing their experiences.
This constant vetting of the brand’s experiences is necessary to stay relevant and in line with expectations. A proactive approach to engagement requires that organizations keep checking in with customers and measure their expectations against the brand and business strategy.
Mixing methodologies for more human insights
With fragmenting touchpoints, media interactions, and various social signals, brands have to be more creative in the way they gather information. This means using multiple and alternative research tools and techniques, because people are complex—no single-track approach will capture the nuances brands need. Crowdsourcing, social media watching, and Market Research Online Communities (MROCS) are rising research methods that tap into people’s natural and evolving behaviors. It’s about being everywhere the customer is. Insights come from many channels and tell a more holistic story when combined.
Proximity on purpose
Big data has a part to play in telling the story about how people interact with the brand—but it can’t be the only part. Efforts to reach the customer should be authentic and reaffirm the brand’s purpose and values. These should extend from the ways they gather information, to the experiences they create. When brands are engaging and empathetic in the way they approach people, it impacts how they ultimately incorporate and give voice to the customer, and forges a relationship that will withstand change.
 The Advertising Research Foundation 2015 – Insights2020
 Mckinsey 2006 – The moment of truth in customer service