This post is sponsored by Oracle.

More than ever before, marketers have an opportunity to see and interact with customers and prospects across the largest number of channels and platforms. That provides more data to identify patterns in behaviour that can be leveraged to create better messages and interactions with them. However, these multiple touch-points have also complicated the viewpoints and decisions marketers make in relation to customers. That’s why it’s important to collect all those perspectives and create a single view of each customer.

1. Why is data crucial to marketers?

It’s clear that our data-driven world shows no signs of slowing down – data has opened many doors for marketers that would never have been dreamed possible years ago. But as the industry moves towards increased data-gathering, it is becoming critical for marketers to see which data is and isn’t valuable.

For starters, first-party data is a marketer’s most valuable data asset. It’s what a company generates through interactions with its customers, and builds the foundation of what you know about customers. First-party data is free and 100% unique to the marketer, and it provides signals that are not available to competitors.

It can include transaction data, website visitation, marketing, customer relationship management (CRM) data and more. All of these data sources can and should be used to inform your understanding of who your existing customers are and how to attract new ones.

For the most optimised campaign strategy, marketers can enhance their first-party data with third-party data, which is sourced from outside the organisation. This can include digital body language and data signals collected as customers connect with a brand across today’s omni-channel experience.

When used successfully, third-party data lets marketers expand their audience reach and extract more value from their own assets. The combination of first and third-party data delivers a one-two marketing punch that gives marketers a powerful view into the interests, preferences, affinities and behaviours of customers and prospects alike.

When marketers successfully combine and utilise this wealth of data about how and where their best consumers shop and conduct other activities, it becomes possible to attract new customers and retain existing customers in a highly targeted manner at scale.

2. How is customer engagement changing because of the varied touch-points?

“How do I maintain a single view of my customer?” – it’s a question that is top-of-mind for marketers as a result of this increase in customer-brand touch-points. The average consumer generates data based on their interests, purchases, location and brand sentiments across a multitude of channels all day, every day. The proliferation of channels – social, mobile, desktop, connected TV – has made delivering a seamless, cross-channel customer experience challenging.

Marketers can no longer rely on campaign-centric marketing initiatives. These one-off interactions based on targeting certain segmented contacts – with primarily “relevant” messages – limits the business to very transaction-oriented marketing.

Additionally, most marketers are trying so hard to manage the complexity of their ecosystem that they cannot effectively tell their stories with an impact. For example, many marketers spend hours consolidating data to gleam marketing insights, instead of focusing on rich customer engagement. Their data ends up fragmented, and their story diluted.

Customers today want to be engaged with constantly – with customer-centric marketing focused on the moments that matter – engaging customers based on their needs. Instead of segmenting their customer interactions, marketers would do well to utilise a single customer viewpoint to engage customers across the entire buyer life cycle, leveraging the insights collected to orchestrate deeply personalised experiences based upon context and skewed to delivering customer delight.

3. Why is a single viewpoint of the customer crucial to success?

More than ever before, marketers have an opportunity to see and interact with customers and prospects across the largest number of channels and platforms. That provides more data to identify patterns in behaviour that can be leveraged to create better messages and interactions with them.

However, these multiple touch-points have also complicated the viewpoints and decisions marketers make in relation to customers. That’s why it’s important to collect all those perspectives and create a single view of each customer.

By having this single customer view through the Oracle Marketing Cloud (OMC), cashback platform ShopBack was able to create dynamic and personalised content based on its understanding of individual customers’ purchases, interactions and behaviours.

Additionally, this data collected from the single customer view provides feedback on the campaigns and services ShopBack was marketing. This intelligence offers insights on what needs to be changed or improved, and insights into what other campaigns or services could be developed in the near future to increase audience interest and usage.

Without the need to run manual queries with its OMC solution, the three-person ShopBack team was able to run daily content as well as automate customer life cycle campaigns in seven countries.

The information provided on the single customer view could also be shared with other departments that interact with the audience, including IT and customer service, so they have a better understanding of how all functions are shaping that customer experience.

With access to this information across the entire company, there could also be a higher chance of continuity within the organisation on tasks related to customers. Even when someone may be on vacation, the customer still gets the exact same experience despite it being handled behind the scenes by someone who may not have serviced them.

The data may also assist with understanding where operational issues and costs could be addressed to simplify processes, speed up response times and strip out costs for a further competitive advantage.

4. What are the barriers to a single customer view?

While the benefits are clear, the actual migration to a single view of the customer is an entirely different thing. Unfortunately, existing technology may not always align with the ability to get a single view of the customer. That’s because existing legacy systems serve as barriers and make it more difficult to share data.

There are also data silos and lines of business that hold onto valuable customer data that may not be as flexible with letting go of that information. In the meantime, the number of devices and engagement channels march onwards and upwards. Disparate apps are plugged in, further alienating customer information.

5. How can brands deliver a truly connected experience?

There are a few things a brand needs to do well if it is to be successful in transforming its marketing and to deliver a truly connected experience.

Recognise that customers can be anywhere

Besides looking to technology as an enabler, the brand has to change its mindset and be open to a new way of looking at customers, believing that your target audience can be anywhere. Therefore, it’s important to share the value of doing so with all parts of the organisation, including quantitative and qualitative examples that illustrate the valuable insights that are gained from the single customer view.

Brands can also consider altering the decision making structure in the company to ensure there are no barriers to bringing all the information on each customer together into a single profile. Be sure to provide training and guidance so that everyone can buy into the new customer view and understand how they can facilitate it.

Adapt to customers’ unpredictable behaviours and preferences on the fly

Predefined customer journeys are a thing of the past. Today, a customer’s journey is unpredictable, so the ability to adapt to customers, however they decide to behave today, is paramount. Since the customer is in charge of how they interact with the brand, the experience delivered must be able to react and respond in real-time.

Deliver connected experiences that are compelling and consistent across every device, location, platform or situation

It’s not enough to simply recognise customers in all the different ways they might show up, and it’s not enough to follow them through their unpredictable journey. Marketers have to actually be able to serve up not just the right experience, but the experience that’s right for right then and there. This is where artificial intelligence comes in – intelligence that allows marketers to understand, on the fly, the specific context of what customers want at that moment.

Connect the entire marketing ecosystem and extended value chain

Delivering a connected experience today is becoming more challenging because the number of marketing applications a company has continues to expand. The idea of “putting customers at the centre” must assume there’s a broader marketing ecosystem at play, including sales and service.

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