The problem is that the systems that track and respond to customers were largely designed for single channel applications.

Data warehouses and enterprise data platforms support traditional retail commerce, but they are slow and less adaptable for the digital world. Digital analytics solutions effectively track website data, but integrating other channels is less efficient.

Even Facebook is jumping in trying to make the social channel more accessible for marketers. It recently announced that brands are able to access audience data from advertisers to improve social targeting.

This is an improvement for some marketers but in exchange for access to this audience data, marketers must provide their valuable first-party data to the network and in return only get back very broad segments for basic targeting.

Facebook provides those brands that have extensive first-party data the ability to opt out and not share their strategic customer data with the network.

As Mark Grabowski, entrepreneur-in-residence at Highland Capital Partners and former senior executive at Nanigans and Yahoo! commented about the announcement:

This is great for brands that may not have a deep first-party data asset as they will be able to benefit from data gathered on vertically relevant sites and apps.

Facebook is essentially giving marketers the ability to rent the data asset equity of the marketing leaders for free.

The ability to collect data across all digital channels and be able to incorporate even offline data sources is a key success factor in this new world. It is no longer sufficient to have a one-dimensional view of customers and provide them different experiences in each channel.

To compete effectively, marketers must enrich their marketing campaigns with omni-channel data or risk losing revenue and market share to competitors who are more effective in collecting, owning and activating data.

Last year Econsultancy surveyed marketer attitudes towards personalisation, finding that 94% of respondents think it is critical to success, with more than half (56%) expressing this is something they are not currently doing.

Interestingly many of the biggest perceived barriers was IT, a lack of technology or legacy technology and disparate data sources:

Data Makes the Difference

The ability to respond to customers with improved targeting and messaging completely depends on the quality of customer data collected across channels.

Non-personal identifiable information acts as the lifeblood of digital marketing: improving the relevancy and effectiveness of acquisition, retargeting, optimisation, personalisation and even loyalty and retention programs.

This non-PII data comes from multiple sources, including owned digital properties, campaigns on third-party properties, third-party data providers and owned offline systems.

Data management platforms and data aggregators filled a portion of this cross-channel void several years ago. They developed networks of customers to collect data from, and rented this audience data back to the same companies in the form of targetable audiences.

It improved the ability of marketers to track like customer groups and present them with more relevant offers and content.

Businesses have been relying on this third-party data extensively to fill the void of their current site analytics for look-alike modeling or site targeting from off-site ads based on major audience segments such as male versus female, or age groups.

The main issue with this approach is that the third-party audience data is not part of the first-party analytics data and is on its own separated platform. This approach leads to data silos, making the tracking of the customer journey difficult if not impossible.

Pulling it all Together

It is time to unite all customer data from all data sources, across all channels and devices, into a unified profile that the business and marketer owns as first-party to them.

Having this unified customer profile with data at the individual level and the ability to own and use that data in real-time offers significant benefits to marketers and enables them to achieve true one-to-one marketing.

Marketers can:

  • Personalise website experiences based on customer data from CRM, POS, analytics, etc.
  • Store segment definitions and information in browser cookies so that when consumers are served an off-site ad, their onsite experience is personalised right on the landing page even if they are brand new to the business.
  • Pass data from one website technology to the next for full coordination. For example: collect website survey data and launch a chat session in real-time based on survey responses. Survey answers can even be passed to the chat agent to improve the quality of the conversation.
  • Pull data from a third-party provider on the website, store it in the customer profile and then pull the profile into a different device for a true coordinated cross-device experience.

These are just a few of the examples of how leading marketers are now utilising technology to collect, own and act on their customer data. The world of marketing has changed.

The systems that marketers are using today may have been acceptable for a website oriented world, but they will not be sufficient to support a model that is expected to be 50% cross-channel sales and $1.8 trillion in less than five years.

The companies that deliver an experience that is relevant and personalised across their customers’ journeys – an experience that is informed by customers’ intent, device and channel, and purchase stage – will be the digital marketing leaders of tomorrow.

Customer experience is one of the central themes at Econsultancy’s Festival of Marketing event in November. It’s a two day celebration of the modern marketing industry, featuring speakers from brands including LEGO, Tesco, Barclays, and more.