May 16th, 2018

Is Your Data Giving You a Clear Customer Picture?

This article was originally published on AdAge.com on April 16, 2018.

Brand teams get fixated on the latest data trends, including marketing measurement optimization and unified analytics. It makes sense — after all, there is increasing demand for accountability, with the business impact of every impression, exposure and click subject to scrutiny. But while companies are right to invest more on the analytics to measure cross-channel engagement across every campaign, placement and creative execution, the focal point of those data-driven efforts often gets lost.

The customer has to come first. To do that, customer-obsessed brands need to take a hard look at the quality of their data.

Unfortunately, today's data strategy and measurement often work backward. We concentrate on measuring channel, platform and publisher performance, which makes seeing what the customer is doing across those touch points harder to piece together.

Think about it. As a marketer, you begin every campaign by considering your customer and asking: What does that customer need? What messages will make the most impact?

The problem is that most brands take the opposite approach to data strategy and marketing measurement. We have data measuring traffic on the call center versus the website versus in-store. But we often can't measure what counts: Are customers using those various touch points for different but specific purposes? Is one channel used for information, and another for transactions? Are they connected?

And that's just the data we have in-house. Fragmentation of data in paid media is exponentially more complex.

It's often impossible to see the customer through these scattered pieces of siloed data. People become the online and offline identifiers that may or may not accurately represent them: desktop cookies, a mobile device ID, an address for your TV set-top box, and at least one phone number and probably a few email addresses. Each of those potential points of interaction creates data every time the customer acts by clicking on a website or performing a search or phoning a call center. But each single set of data just provides a piece of the total picture. Without a way to stitch all the consumer data together to form a single view, all the analysis in the world will still not give a brand meaningful, actionable direction.

In a world where brands are trying to be customer-obsessed, as engaging and relevant as possible, many companies have trouble connecting the data back to each customer. That's where quality customer data comes into play — having those unique identifiers in the underlying data, from the start, allows you to reach across those access points and stitch together the data for a connected view of the customer.

If you're not focused on pulling together that full view of the customer, you're not going to succeed at customer-centric marketing. That must be the foundation of your strategy.

Coincidentally, that complete, accurate view is what customers are demanding these days. They don't want to be treated as anonymous cookies; they want more relevant messaging and experiences, the type that are created when a brand understands its customers.

Here's an example: A global tech services marketer was stuck. Like many brands, the company was conducting a huge amount and variety of online marketing and measurement, but had to confront the fact that 80 percent of business still was occurring in stores. The company had tons of CRM data across business lines and across channels, plus piles of channel-specific measurements, but had no single, unified view of what the customer or prospective customer was seeing. How, for instance, were online ads connected to what happened in stores?

The brand tackled its data management problem, working to build one of the most expansive data lakes we've seen. Every piece of online data was stitched together, along with things such as TV, direct mail and in-store activity. The end result was a true 360-degree look at all the ways a customer could engage with the brand — and an opportunity to trace the customer's journey across all these different interactions through to the purchase.

That seamless, big-picture look yielded unexpected insights. For instance, the brand found that old-fashioned direct mail pieces often were sending people into search mode — and then in to stores for a purchase. Who knew that direct mail would be connected directly to digital activity?

Many “a-ha” moments like these are revealed when a brand team can look at all its data together through the lens of the customer's journey. Examining data from the right direction allows you to understand who your customers are and what they're looking for — and helps you use that data in your brand's ecosystem to react quickly and address those needs. That's true marketing measurement optimization in action.

On the flip side, many brands are investing huge sums in data collection, storage and analysis but missing the key ingredient: true customer connection.

As an industry we are getting better at linking the enormous amounts of data being generated in order to see the customer more clearly. But at the same time, the market continues to evolve, whether through opportunities in addressable TV or the newest social platforms. That means management and measurement must continue to evolve — because tomorrow there will be another new channel, another new customer touch point we need to incorporate.

The bottom line: If your brand doesn't have a connected data strategy, start now. The finish line gets farther away while opportunities for customer-obsessed marketers continue to grow.

 

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