The customer data imperative: Turning insights into action

In today’s digital age, customers are increasingly in control and they demand an end-to-end experience that is tailored to their needs, delivered on the channels of their choosing, and at times that are convenient to them.

As such, disconnected brand experiences across channels can have a negative impact on conversion rates. As a consumer, I’ve had good and bad experiences with brands, both of which left me with specific impressions of those brands. I cannot help but wonder why some got it so right and others so wrong? While most of us assume that marketers are capturing the data that we provide in order to personalise experiences, why is it still going wrong?

While marketers have made great strides in the area of customer data in recent years, according to new research with Econsultancy, only 34% have the ability to integrate different sources of customer data and deliver the right experiences across all stages of the customer journey.

Most brands have disparate technology platforms and processes, along with a lack of know-how, and siloed organisational structures to contend with. These are symptoms of complexity that force marketers to focus internally instead of on the customer.

In a world of increasing consumer expectations, customers are increasingly intolerant of brands that fail to offer them a unified experience across different touchpoints, whether through call centres, in-store, or via the web or apps. Simplifying martech will enable marketers to be best equipped to turn insight into action. Here’s how companies can achieve this:

  1. Marketers must take ownership of customer data to ensure they’re building the right connections with other business functions to help work towards a single customer view, including both online and offline data.

The research shows the value of a marketing-led approach to the customer experience and the customer-related data that increasingly underpins this. Leaders have a far greater stake in many aspects of customer data with the biggest differences appearing in the areas of data operations – including data integration, data flows, martech stack, data capture and data quality – and governance and compliance – encompassing privacy permissions, data access and controls.

A starting point for companies is to assess where they sit in terms of customer data maturity, and to take a view of ‘what good looks like’ for their organisation. Once business leaders grasp the customer data imperative and start to understand the nature of the barriers to success, they can start to address these issues and create a roadmap for success.

Ensure that marketing technology platforms are integrated: The research shows that companies defined as ‘leaders’ are significantly more likely than their mainstream peers to be committed to investing in marketing technology.

Integrated marketing technology is the cornerstone of a good customer experience. It helps companies achieve a more complete view of how prospects and customers are interacting with them across different touchpoints.

Marketers must lobby hard internally for investment in unified platforms, so that marketing technology is integrated as fully as possible with commerce- and service-related technology.

  1. Integrate your data for a complete customer view: Companies need to recognise that a great customer experience is powered by complete data integration from all sources to ensure the kind of relevance and personalisation that consumers expect.

To this end, brands should look to tackle process and know-how challenges by implementing integration best practices such as those available here. While some of this behind-the-scenes work isn’t as glamorous as the design and creative work that is more visible to customers, it’s just as crucial to perceptions of customer experience.

  1. Focus on incremental improvements while keeping an eye on the tech trends that will shape the future: Simplifying the martech stack is needed so marketers are best equipped to turn insight into action and have a solid foundation for delivering a great customer experience. However, when it comes to customer data, it’s worth keeping in mind that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Consolidating the martech stack will take time, so think about incremental improvements where harnessing the right data at the right point in the customer journey can provide real value while driving a consistent technology strategy.

Established companies understandably will find it more difficult to join up all the dots of customer interactions than digital-first businesses that don’t carry the burden of legacy technology infrastructures and siloed organisational charts.

Technical capabilities for consolidation should include customer identity, big data solutions, marketing automation, artificial intelligence and analytics, all of which form a solid foundation for the front office.

More companies need to recognise that a great customer experience needs to be powered by effective back-end integration in order to ensure the kind of relevance and personalisation that consumers are increasingly taking for granted. For a company with a transactional website, for example, this may be about ensuring seamless connections between marketing data and ecommerce-related information such as stock availability and transaction history.

Some of this behind-the-scenes ‘plumbing’ is not as glamorous as the design and creative work that is more visible to customers, but it is just as crucial to perceptions of customer experience.

Consolidating capabilities and creating a unified tech infrastructure can help marketers turn insight into action. The objective is to make the data-driven aspects of marketing take care of themselves so marketers have more time to focus on their customers.

By Roland Van Breukelen, UKI Marketing Director, SAP Customer Experience

Having spent the last 20 years of my career in the front office driving the growth and success for businesses using technology from the early days of my career, during the shift from mainframe to client server, to today’s online, mobile and IoT based environments, my passion remains the same as Marketing Director, UKI for SAP CX: Engaging with customers to drive transformation, now digital, while ensuring that the customer and customer experience are central to that transformation