The changing face of customer data

Your customers can really tell when you’re missing data. Having to repeat crucial information when interacting with your business frustrates the experience, creates obstacles to selling, and ultimately impacts their overall experience.

But marketers can be forgiven for some of these lapses, right? After all, according to Salesforce, the median number of data sources used by marketers to deliver a digital journey grew from an already high eight sources in 2019 to twelve in 2021. That’s a lot of information to leverage – but customers expect you to be able to manage it.

Data is everywhere, and it is created in every interaction we have. It’s used across a wide variety of systems, and is accessed by many different teams of people for many different purposes. Sometimes our data is used for ad targeting, other times it is used by sales or customer service representatives. The leading modern enterprises extract value from their customer data by delivering personalized experiences across different channels and touchpoints.

We’re not lacking information, but we could be better at putting data to work.

Marketers need to activate data effectively to deliver the seamless, hyper-personalized experiences consumers expect. That means having the technology mix to create a persistent, unified customer database, available as a ‘single source of truth’ to the various teams and systems that need to use it.

But for a truly great customer experience, you need to think broader than digital. All customer-facing departments need access to valuable customer data if they are to deliver great experiences.

Using a Customer Data Platform (CDP) allows you to deliver a true omnichannel experience, both online and in-person.

At present, only 51% of companies claim to have a CDP, and even then there is the question of how well they are taking advantage of it. Most companies are still playing catch up, meaning there’s a big competitive advantage for those businesses that get it right.

The data gap and the need for a single customer view

No one likes repeating information that businesses should have already stored. For example, if you use a loyalty card program at a store, you’d expect any earned discounts to be applied. You also expect service providers, like healthcare or telecoms organizations, to offer you a tailored service based on your needs and usage. You shouldn’t have to go through your life history every time you interact.

But these ‘data gaps’ are incredibly common, especially between digital and physical channels. Employees of brick-and-mortar stores (which should be considered as another channel) aren’t hardwired into the digital infrastructure of their business. Instead, employees rely on terminals and mobile devices to retrieve customer information.

Your CDP must be able to deliver real-time data to these devices, so that in-person interactions can flow as smoothly as digital ones. It also has to be intuitive and easy-to-use on the job, with appropriate access rights given to employees on the floor.

To hit their goals, sales and customer service teams rely on such a system, which would allow them to anticipate customer’s needs and actions, regardless of the touchpoint.

But more than just having the CDP in place, they also rely on customer data being presented as a ‘single customer view.’ Customer data isn’t helpful if it’s spread over multiple profiles or records. No, your CDP needs to be organized so that each customer only has a single record to their name.

It’s only in this way that your business will be able to bridge data gaps and deliver a consistent, engaging omnichannel experience, no matter how customers interact.

Once this is in place, the next step is to develop a personalization, recommendation and decisioning engine that transforms customer data into customer experiences.

Beyond traditional personalization

Traditional personalization has laid a strong foundation, but the time for a more dynamic approach is soon to arrive.

Ideally, you want the customer themselves to guide their personalization, rather than leave it up to the assumptions of the marketing team. This is what we call ‘decisioning’ – that is, the ability for customers to forge their own path through an experience while still encountering relevant, helpful content. They do this by simply making choices, which are registered within the CDP and used to direct personalization accordingly.

Sitecore provides what we call a ‘Smart Hub CDP’. In addition to capturing and unifying data – a core requirement of all CDPs – Sitecore’s solution layers significant decisioning, experimentation, and personalization capabilities to activate that data.

A CDP like this can really enable decisioning like no other tool. In-built decisioning functions can use rules and predictive analytics to make smart decisions about the customers that are ripe for engagement. A Smart Hub CDP can help to create the next best experience using insight direct from the source, whether that’s a tailored offer, a discount, a simple push notification, or a piece of website content.

A true omnichannel customer experience, online and offline

Delivering consistent and engaging omnichannel experiences should be the goal of any modern business, and a CDP will be absolutely central to achieving it.

But a tool is only as effective as the strategy behind it. Businesses must ensure that their CDP is delivering a true single customer view, that this data is available to those who need it, and that it enables effective decisioning for marketers to really drive home their messages.

Sitecore’s market-leading CDP and expert support could be the key to unlocking the true potential of your customer data. To get started, read more about the lightning-fast capabilities of Sitecore CDP or visit the Knowledge Center.

By Jill Grozalsky Roberson

Posted: Friday 27 August 2021