Great Customer Experience Requires a Single Source of Truth

A clear strategy to power your data-driven approach


oday’s marketers have no shortage of data. But what they frequently do have is a shortage of accessible, complete, and accurate data. Siloed information within marketing organizations can be a significant hurdle to turning data into action and delivering the kind of personalized messaging that creates a great experience.

What it takes is a single source of truth.

That phrase may be a mouthful, but it’s crucially important to integrate all the various marketing channels that are managed through your martech stack. The bottom line is you need to be able to know each individual that you have in your CRM and marketing automation system so that you can identify them as they move across the various online and real-world touchpoints that make up the current customer journey.

Unfortunately, that is often not the case. Most CRM systems are chock full of inaccurate or inconsistent customer data. They may have a person’s name spelled different ways; the address or phone number might shift; devices associated with the individual might be inaccurately attributed; the list goes on.

Then there are third parties that you interact with, and using their data may further create inconsistency. Just consider how large your advertising data universe is, with the various programmatic buying platforms you use, the media agencies that manage your buys, and the supply-side platforms of publishers that are available. The greater your reach, the more need there is for data unification and efficiency.

The bottom line is you need a single foundation for data activation. As more data proliferates, it’s critically important to have it as a foundation for your advertising investment, your owned media investment, and your earned media investment.

In other words, the single source of truth is not just about data. It is also about driving effective creative that leverages that data to create a great connected advertising experience.

A five-point strategy

The foundation to having a single source of truth about your customers comes from having a clear data strategy that can guide your marketing. This way, everyone in your company can be speaking the same data language.

There are five areas where you’re going to want to focus your data strategy.

Proprietary and first-party data—Everything should start with your first-party data, the information you have about your customers. This is perhaps your most important competitive advantage. Don’t make compromises when using it, and don’t give it away freely.

Closing the gap between data and creative—This is as much organizational as it is strategic. Creative and data teams need to work together. But often, when this occurs, everyone kind of panics a little bit and thinks the data team is worried that creative is soft-touch and it’s hard to quantify. The creative team, meanwhile, is worried data is just going to tell them things that just take the thinking out of the creative process. So your strategy should lay out the ground rules for their interaction.

Leading and lagging indicators—If you don’t have a very simple or short consumer journey, it’s important to understand how different metrics can ladder up to the end goal. Marketers want to determine if we’re driving interest, consideration and action, and constantly bring in new data sources to make our models more robust.

Transparency and control—A transparent model with business objectives and motivations aligned shows you who is using the data, where it is going and how everything is implemented. And do you have either control of strategy, or are you able to implement a first-party, data-first strategy? Ensure everything is working as you’ve planned, that you’re able to implement second- and third-party data when you want, and that you’re keeping all your partners accountable.

Creating a connected ad experience—Data must be actionable and serve a purpose. Using data for the sake of data is where a lot of brands get tripped up. By using all of your data and creative assets in tandem you set the foundation for a great customer experience via thoughtful cross-channel advertising.

Getting to the truth

So, what’s next? First, brands need to move toward an experience data lens. Advertising data was once about maximizing reach by suppressing customers that were already seen, but now that’s only part of the conversation. It is also critical to keep awareness high, leveraging data and your understanding of it to drive relevant experiences across channels.

Next, marketers need to master personalization at scale. Remember that every segment of your audience—your loyalists, your lapsed customers, your emerging prospects—requires a different creative message. Use your single source of truth to build out that personal creative.

Lastly, unite pre-visit and post-visit data so you can maintain your view of the customer both before they engage and after they buy. Pre-visit data includes valuable advertising paths. Develop an understanding of how those different paths are driving people to a site, and once they get there, how they are interacting. What are the valuable site paths driving revenue?

Once you have that complete picture, you can determine the valuable site paths, and the data becomes your foundation, with paid, owned and earned media on top along with elements like site visitation data, metrics within an analytics platform, and ad performance data to form your customer experience backbone.

That’s what will turn your data into a true competitive advantage that impacts not only customer experience but also your bottom line.

As a product manager on Adobe’s Product Marketing team, Ian Monaghan works with clients, product, and client services to develop strategy and marketing for Adobe Advertising Cloud products and integrations with other Adobe Experience Cloud solutions. Prior to joining the team, he was part of the Special Operations team based in Emeryville, and the TubeMogul London team for three and a half years as the Director of EMEA Operations.


Note: This article originally appeared on Adweek.

Ian Monaghan