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Multichannel marketing means being able to deploy not only campaigns but content across channels in an integrated fashion.

It is recognized that to communicate effectively across channels, customer information must be also shared effectively within the organization.  

Data sharing was the a topic at Econsultancy.com's recent Big Data Roundtable in London in February. What is less well-known and understood is how to get to a shared data repository as an organization.  

This blog post discusses my research results on data sharing. For more on the topic, Econsultancy has a great report on how to achieve shared data in a corporation.

"Shareability" is the key

We can think of this ability to share customer information as the concept of "shareability." What we found in our research is that not only is it difficult to share information across channels, but it is equally difficult to measure.  

I am referring to two separate studies that we have conducted over the last decade. The first study I referred to in my last blog post on Why Doesn't Everyone Do Big Data?, in which we surveyed 206 software and financial firms and developed the concept of CIS (Customer Information System).

This determined how well companies managed their customer information and linked that capability to firm performance through the management of marketing metrics such as retention rate.

Part of the CIS construct was a concept known as shareability, the ability to share information about the customer throughout the organization. We know that this is a difficult concept because of how low the scores were on shareability compared to the other aspects of the CIS(items such as information quality, the ability to disseminate information, etc.).  

On a five-points scale, where five was a high capabilty, the mean on data sharing was below three (2.9) and was one of the capabilities on which companies reported the lowest scores in the survey.  

In addition, further analysis of the questions used indicated that the scale could have been improved to better measure this concept of data shareability.

How to ensure data sharing in the organization

So like all inquisitive researchers do, I took the next step.  I embarked on the journey to measure shareabiltty in a more organized fashion.

The next research, which has just been published in the Journal of Interactive Marketing (Peltier, Zahay and Lehmann 2013) asked the survey participants (166 firms in the banking and financial services industry) the following three questions and the results indicate that these three questions represent a solid scale for measurement.

  1. Are all customer databases are integrated in a single data repository?
  2. Are all customer databases are available in a single data query tool?
  3. Are all customer databases are easily accessible by those who need them?

From this perspective, 'broad data' is more important than 'big data,' as I mentioned in my last blog post. While not discounting the efforts of those who are trying to analyze every piece of data in the corporation, our research focuses on the data and processes that really matter to corporations.  

The research also provides insight in to how to become a company that manages data well. In this case, we are looking at customer data sharing capabilities.

Step one is to integrate data in a single data repository. There are a number of different choices for data management systems, depending on the size and focus of the organization.  

Marketing needs often get lost in the shuffle so it is important that marketing have a strong advocate when systems are being selected.  

The same holds with, step two, data query tools, in that marketers often prefer to get to the answer quickly and prefer drop down menus and easy-to-use data visualization tools.  

In step three, the organization must make sure that those who need the data can get to the data, when and where they need it.

These three questions are the determinants of the ability to share data in the organization.  Companies have their work cut out for them, as shareability capabilities were still below three on a five point scale (2.58), even in this most recent study.  

It is not easy to integrate legacy systems and then provide a tool that even the most unsophisticated person in the company can use to get the data they need, when they need it with the goals of be able to deploy the campaigns and programs that are required and to interact with the customer in the way that is needed.  

Only when we have shareable customer data will we have true multichannel integration. Answering these three questions honestly can help your firm recognize where weaknesses lie and how it can best achieve customer data shareability.

Debra Zahay-Blatz

Published 25 March, 2013 by Debra Zahay-Blatz

Debra Zahay-Blatz is Associate Professor of Interactive Marketing at Northern Illinois Unviersity and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

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