One of the most difficult parts of improving customer experience (CX) is integrating the data from multiple touchpoints.
In our recent survey, CX Maturity in Australia & New Zealand, marketers said that ‘difficulty unifying different sources of customer data’ was one of the top three barriers preventing organizations from improving CX.
To make things even more challenging, unifying data typically requires help from the IT department which has its own priorities to manage.
So how can marketers move forward with data-driven CX initiatives under such difficult circumstances?
To find out, Econsultancy recently invited dozens of client-side marketers in Bangkok, Thailand for roundtable discussions to discuss this and other customer experience (CX) topics.
About the roundtables
The roundtables covered three topics all related to CX and were moderated by subject matter experts from Econsultancy and our event sponsor IBM.
Client-side marketers brought experiences from many different companies and industries and openly discussed their success stories and challenges with the group.
Below is a summary of the main talking points taken from the table which discussed joining up online and offline data channels.
Challenges when dealing with IT
Participants first stated that joining online and offline data is essential for companies who want to provide a consistent customer experience (CX) across touchpoints.
Doing so, however, is difficult as marketers often need help from the IT department to get a single view of customer data.
There were a number of reasons mentioned why this presents such a challenge and a few examples of how attendees worked around the problem.
1. Limited budget
Participants reported that when they start a CX initiative that requires online and offline data integration, the first thing they typically hear from IT is that there is no budget for such a project.
A 2015 survey conducted by IDG of more than 1,000 IT professionals backs up this notion.
When asked about the challenges that they face with data-driven initiatives, the most popular response was ‘limited budgtet’.
Additionally, the Econsultancy CX survey of marketers from Australia & New Zealand showed that nearly two-in-three (65%) have not allocated budget for CX.
So what are marketers to do?
One way that participants got around this problem was to launch the CX data collecting initiative at low or no cost.
That way there can be no objections when it is getting started and, hopefully, its success will attract attention and funding.
One fashion retailer encouraged offline staff to get customers to use its online systems, such as product search and account registration, when shopping.
That way, marketers were able to get both offline data from customers in the store and online data from when customers used the website later.
2. Legacy systems
A few of the marketers said that their IT departments are wary of any new initiatives because of the difficulty of working with legacy systems.
Again, the IDG survey shows that many IT professionals agree. More than two-in-five (41%) IT leaders of companies with more than 1,000 employees said that ‘legacy’ issues was a challenge with data-driven initiatives.
Problems with legacy systems are difficult for non-IT people to understand, much less fix.
What can marketers do to overcome this barrier?
First off, attendees noted, make sure you have someone in marketing who understands the IT systems to some extent.
It’s impossible to have a serious discussion when you don’t understand the issues.
Then try to find a compromise. One participant argued that it’s often easier to read data than write it, so start by just taking data from legacy systems.
Another marketer mentioned that his company was able to improve its CX to a great extent just by making its ‘reward points’ available via an app.
The points were still collected and spent using the old IT systems, but marketing gained a huge CX win just by making it easier for customers to obtain their balance.
3. Data silos
Most businesses, attendees noted, are not customer-centric. Instead, they are divided into different departments and each has its own technology and databases.
Because of this, each department has its own customer data, in its own format. As a result, there is no single view of the customer in the organisation.
This is made worse when each department has its own IT people and so there is no motivation for anyone to combine customer data.
How can you get around this?
One approach, attendees noted, is to think first about how marketing can deliver value to the customer in a way which also collects data.
This way, marketing will then have a valuable data asset which can be used as a ‘chip’ when negotiating for data from other departments.
One participant mentioned that her company was able to collect valuable data from customers when they were in the retail store, even without point-of-sale integration.
Once the popularity of the app took off, the department responsible for sales data offered to integrate in exchange for access to the app data.
Customers expect brands to be able to deliver a coordinated online and offline experience.
The best way to do this is to make sure that online and offline data are integrated, despite all of the barriers.
According to one attendee, it’s up to the companies to rise up to the challenge and overcome internal technology hurdles in the name of meeting our customers’ high expectations.
A word of thanks
Econsultancy would like to thank all of the client-side marketers who participated on the day and our sponsor for the event, IBM.
We would like to extend a special thanks to the moderator for the ‘joining up online and offline data channels’ table: Nuttakorn Rattanachaisit, co-founder & MD of Predictive Co. Ltd
We appreciate all of the helpful discussion points participants provided on the day and we hope to see you all at our upcoming Econsultancy events!