Breaking the Silo Cycle: How to Compete Via Personalized Customer Experiences
Marketing technology has been moving away from hidden persuasion to personalization in messaging and content for decades, and the pace of this shift is accelerating. Today’s empowered consumers now expect frictionless, personalized customer experiences. For CMOs, CTOs and CXOs who are leading this shift, the biggest challenge is the way in which competitive marketing and customer journeys in the digital world — whether online or offline — are being redefined faster than enterprise technology and can keep up.
Brands understand that they are now competing on a personalized customer experience. Accenture Interactive’s 2018 “Pulse Check” of trends in personalizing the customer experience online surveyed 8,000 American and European consumers. Nearly all respondents (91 percent) said they were more likely to shop with brands who recognized, remembered, and provided them with relevant offers and recommendations. Eighty-three percent say they are willing to share their data, as long as a business is transparent about how it will use it. Consumers are clear on this point: they value personalization and are willing to pay for it.
No longer hidden persuaders, today’s marketing teams are becoming visible custodians of company trust and frontline collaborators with customers. As marketing iconoclast Seth Godin put it, “We don't market to people, we have to market with and for them.”
It is an ongoing challenge. A 2018 joint survey by RedPoint Global and the CMO Council revealed that just 5 percent of marketing executives said that their organizations are able to deliver hyper-personalized experiences across all channels and customer touchpoints. And 41 percent said the biggest roadblock to deliver this experience is fragmented platforms and systems that fail to connect or deliver a single view of the customer experience from data consolidated from all touchpoints.
A Single View of the Customer
Technology silos are the biggest contributor to the sizeable gap between consumer expectations and marketers’ ability to deliver against them. As consumer adoption of new digital technology accelerated, companies felt compelled to quickly implement new instances of these new touchpoints — social channels, devices and mobile apps — as fast as possible. Most brands did this through shortcuts, and so failed to integrate these channels and their underlying data.
A customer data platform (CDP) is foundational to accomplish the single view of the customer. A CDP breaks the cycle of data silos by combining data from multiple customer engagement systems and data sources: anonymous, known, structured, unstructured, online and offline. This complete customer profile, or golden record, becomes the single, detailed view of an individual customer’s basic profiling data, behaviors and preferences. Everyone in the organization sees the same record, and it offers a single point of control for the complete customer persona.
Comprehensive data collected on every customer, combined with machine learning and omnichannel orchestration, constitute the foundation of a modern marketing technology infrastructure that facilitates cross-functional management that delivers personalized customer experiences through a single point of control over data, decisions and interactions (see sidebar below).
With this focus on seamlessly connecting strategy, management and customer value, an organization can provide optimized and hyper-personalized customer experiences in real time, free of friction across journey stages and touchpoints.
CDPs differ from other foundational components of marketing technology, in that they can be installed and yield benefits in as little as a few weeks. They also perform robust identity resolution, such as using probabilistic and deterministic matching, which links anonymous to known customers across digital and offline channels, and reconciles different identities across different touchpoints. Working in concert with existing systems, a CDP requires few technical resources to set up and maintain.
The software can be configured with drag-and-drop tools (vs. coding), and it can be connected to data sources and engagement systems in phases. This is the breakthrough technology needed to overcome the siloed systems enterprises have put in place without having to rip out those investments.
Robust CDPs embrace an “open garden” approach that can easily incorporate new technologies and touchpoints as they emerge. CDPs can also be integrated with existing systems and configured to the needs of each company. Simplifying the installation and giving business users more control over the system reduces the time, cost and risk of changes in marketing infrastructures, all issues that are top-of-mind for CMOs.
A CDP-based golden record is continuously updated with detailed data from batch processing and real-time streaming sources, exceeding the capabilities of traditional data management solutions, such as data warehouses and data lakes that can only process data updates in batches.
This functionality is critical in today’s market, where more than 60 percent of consumers are always connected and readily addressable (Source: Forrester). Where it might have taken 24 hours to two weeks to batch-process purchasing data through older systems, data relevant to a single customer at the register can be transmitted to a cashier in real time. We have seen large retailers reduce the data update-to-decision cycle by 99 percent, reducing what took days down to minutes and seconds. This scales anywhere from 1 million customers to 400 million.
A single point of control over customer data enables retailers to coordinate their web and in-store interactions with customers in real time. A European home improvement company executes cross-selling strategies, such as offering a 20 percent discount on drill bits to a customer who just purchased a drill online, and is driving to pick up the item at a retail location. Update cycles for algorithms that support similar strategies used to take two weeks, which resulted in less relevant offers that created customer fatigue and friction. Now it can take five minutes, greatly increasing relevance and matching the cadence of the customer who can order online and within five minutes have the order available for pick-up in the store.
A leading CPG beverage company built its brand omnichannel strategy around a CDP — using it to collect, consolidate, and continuously refresh its knowledge of an individual customer’s purchasing patterns and preferences from multiple data streams. If the company knew that a customer “liked” a certain flavor or brand on social media, for example, that could trigger an email coupon or discount through a mobile app.
What’s Next for Marketing Technology?
Recognition in the form of relevant content helps to create a hyper-personal experience that delivers value to both the brand and the consumer. It’s clear that for the brand, this value exchange translates to revenue. One recent survey predicted that there will be a shift of $800 billion in revenue to the top 15 percent of enterprises that get personalization right.
The next step for marketing technology is to make personalization feel natural to the customer. With today’s silos, the gaps in a marketer’s systems and programs are greatly visible to consumers who are increasingly in charge of real-time, multi-stage journeys. Consumer experiences can be humanized by effectively using data, algorithms and orchestration technology in ways that mask the complexity of the underlying technology. Today’s marketing technology, creatively applied, is the only part of the experience that is hidden. Consumers complete their journeys in ways that seem highly individualized to them and free of any friction. In between the marketer and the consumer, the technology is invisible.
Whether driving value today or more humanized experiences tomorrow, the key for marketers is the single point of control over data, decisions and interactions that empower them to create great customer experiences — ones that are seamless, hyper-personalized, real-time and omnichannel. Creating experiences that meet these needs while being highly relevant are imperatives to being competitive in today’s market.