Customers just want to be known and understood.
One of the ways that companies use data to improve targeted marketing and engagement is to develop a complete view of its customers. Using big data to create value for customers — not just target them, is a fundamental part of developing what marketing experts call a “360-degree customer view.”
“From a practical level, being able to develop a 360-degree view of your customers requires integrating the data sources that come from all of your customer engagement points,” explains Nate Smith, product marketing manager for Adobe Analytics. “An important part of that is understanding what data points are important.”
Integrating your company’s databases to include information ranging from customer engagement to purchasing is a key factor in developing a complete view of your customers. Real-time data provide insight about everything from trending customer touchpoints to online conversion rates. “Once your data are integrated,” says Nate, “you can use it for analysis to understand audience behavior.”
Getting started: begin at the beginning.
As the king told Alice in Wonderland: “Begin at the beginning, and go on ’til you come to the end. Then stop.” Of course, for companies that are constantly adding customer data, there is no stopping. But Nate suggests that the best strategy for integration is to “start small and expand from there.”
The first step toward integration is to identify all the first-party data sources in your company and assess whether they are — or need to be — integrated. A good starting point, says Nate, is to define and categorize your data. That includes not just marketing data, but operational data, such as inventory levels, behavioral data, and customer purchasing history.
“The idea is that everyone in an organization is responsible for the customer, and for marketing, in general,” says Nate. “Also, it’s not just different marketing groups that may have different data silos, you need to look at other types of data that your organization collects.”
Ultimately, a full listing of all data and, subsequently, data integration will enable a company to connect everything from customer and operational data with analytics and social media metrics. “By combining all of this data in real-time, it creates a powerful 360-degree customer view,” says Nate.
The next step: don’t go it alone.
Creating a 360-degree view of your customer requires the ability to integrate different sources and types of data on a single platform. There are three fundamental data categories that need to connect in order to help you paint a complete picture of your customers — internal company data, data from partners, and data you obtain from third-party sources.
First-party data consist of internal information from sources such as your customer relationship management (CRM) and web analytics solutions. Second-party sources include information you share with partners. For example, airlines that offer branded credit card programs share data back and forth with their financial services partners. Finally, third-party data represent additional customer information you buy to supplement your internal customer data.
Once you have a handle on all available data sources, the next step is making all of that data available on one platform. “Most companies will want to start by integrating these three categories because they represent structured data sources that are easier to manipulate and integrate than less structured data,” says Nate. “Unstructured data types, such as information from social media activities, can also be useful. But that data sometimes require more work to integrate.”
Make everything better with data.
Data is part of the marketing center-of-gravity for Condé Nast. The consumer publishing company is investing in technology to better integrate and understand its customer data. They use an end-to-end marketing solution to gather rich data — what the consumers’ preferences are, how they interact with the products, what type of content attracts new people, and where target audiences engage.
One way Condé Nast better targets its marketing is by using an integrated analytics platform that can leverage customer data from all interactions to help maximize customer engagement across Condé Nast’s online presence.
For example, for fashion-oriented audiences, the publisher gathers data to understand specific interests and then gears content to those interests. “For people who are interested in fashion content, we have a personalized experience explaining how a subscription of the GQ Magazine can help you dress better — sort of up your fashion game,” says Daniel Stubbs, digital analytics director of Condé Nast.
The publisher doesn’t stop at just one channel or touchpoint. Instead, it strives to create a cohesive brand experience across every channel. Condé Nast tracks incredibly detailed analytics around its social media channels, where millions of brand followers receive content daily. Here, Condé Nast can introduce people to the brand and then direct them back to the website for a daily experience to feed their fashion interests.
Final steps: put your data to work.
When you have a 360-degree view of your customer, you can use predictive analytics to anticipate and respond to customer needs in real time. When it comes to data and marketing best practices, every company needs to understand the ways customers engage with their brand. “Understanding customer relationships is a big deal,” says Nate. “It tells you as a marketer which customers are really serious about buying from your company.”
Integrating your data is a powerful tool for being able to use what you know about your customers to fine-tune your marketing and create better customer experiences.
“Based on your data,” adds Nate, “you can actually predict what’s going to provide the most compelling experiences for engagement.”
Customer data is essential to your digital strategy.
Understanding data related to your customers should be an essential part of every company’s digital strategy. “We are a people business, and we have to be able to communicate with our customers through any digital platform,” says Nicholas Drake, senior vice president-digital at T-Mobile. “Our customer obsession is connecting with customers anywhere that they want to engage with us.”
For T-Mobile, replacing legacy technology systems with an integrated platform has enabled the company to consolidate all its mission-critical data into one platform. “Everything else we’ve traditionally cared about, particularly in the industrial area, including profit and loss, is precipitated by how our customers feel about their interactions with our company,” says Nick. “If you make customer experience your primary metric, I think everything else falls into place.”
The path to delivering those great customer experiences starts with the ability to use your data to get a true 360-degree view of your customers.