After a turbulent 2020, we’ve emerged with evolved perspectives, new habits, and sharper preferences. “Must have” shifted from desire to necessity. “Know me” evolved from product recommendations to empathy. “Digital transformation” moved from the three year plan to the three week plan.
Unlikely brands stepped into the spotlight and thrived while others struggled to find their footing. Amidst these seismic disruptions, the sheer amount of data grew as consumers were dependent, like never before, on digital experiences to explore, research, converse, transact, review, and more.
In our daily discussions, we hear from marketers that they’re now finding themselves having to work harder than ever to maintain brand preference and to do so, they’re continuing to focus on the consistent delivery of a personalized customer experience. It is a critical element to their success. Not surprisingly, at the heart of this personalized customer experience is seamless data management, driving a comprehensive, single view of the customer.
This sets the foundation to develop the deep customer insights that inform the personalization of each customer touchpoint. Challenges exist though, as always. Many organizations have downsized teams and now find themselves challenged to manage, and more importantly activate, an increasing volume of data. There are conflicting priorities between running and operating the day-to-day business and investing the necessary time to analyze data and extract actionable insights. While many marketers have adapted and modernized their CX strategies to follow evolving customer preferences, others still lack a unified view of the customer, seamless integration between internal departments, and a clear understanding of the ROI of their CX initiatives.
What we're seeing: Back to the basics
Adding the onslaught of new data to these challenges, we’re now seeing marketers come face to face with the gaps in knowledge of their customer. In response, they’re getting “back to the basics” or back to the foundation of effective data management to evolve their approach.
Many of our retail clients have realized the need to manage and activate their data more effectively in order to produce a single view of the customer, consistently derive stronger insights, and ultimately spur new product development. To do so, multiple departments are now connecting to share data, driving customer centricity beyond marketing campaigns to form the foundation for new products that are the manifestation of an insights process. For these clients, enhanced data management will allow them to shift to data-driven decision-making and more aggressively strive towards new growth goals.
Additionally, data privacy and cookie deprecation are bringing increasing pressure, further emphasizing the need to prioritize data enrichment efforts. Collecting data directly from consumers through preference centers, surveys, and progressive profiling as well as third party data appends are all valuable ways to improve the customer experience.
Fast insights inform decisions and personalization
In a case with one of our clients with strong data management practices in place, they are now leveraging custom business intelligence reporting to keep a pulse on the key performance indicators that matter most.
Additionally, this client has opted to leverage data science capabilities to unlock new personalization opportunities: predictive models were developed in a machine learning environment allowing for full data transparency, as well as frequent rebuilds and scoring, to account for market fluctuations, business changes, and rapid customer behavior changes. Most importantly, these models have enabled the brand to improve their marketing relevance through hyper-targeting customers based on their predicted behaviors. Data is the driver.
Data is the input, customer experience is the output
According to our Pivot Report on how the pandemic has affected marketer perceptions, 93% of marketers rank data management as the most important function when it comes to the success of a marketing program.
While we often talk about data management as the foundation of a pyramid that builds to a connected customer experience, we’re seeing a renewed interest. Brands are taking a proactive approach to data management to “up-level” their customer experience and ensure they’re remaining customer centric.
A number of companies compete on CX alone and with the shift to digital, the next competitor is just a click away. Strategic pricing, free shipping, expanded options, and personalized offers are no longer a differentiating factor — they’re a given. To move beyond the expected, and find the exceptional, the necessary foundation is effective data management.
Todd Hatley is the Senior Vice President of Data, Insights, and Customer Experience at RRD Marketing Solutions.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in Martech Cube (MTC) online magazine on September 22, 2021.