You’ve probably heard the popular myth that people only use 10% of their brains. Hollywood loves stories of scientists tapping into new corners of the mind to make us superhuman or tales of Jedi who can bring all of the energy in the universe together with the Force. While these abilities are sadly fictional, there is one powerful source of truth that we’re constantly struggling to bring together and see its true power — customer data.
Today, brands are collecting more data from customers than any time in history. With the explosion of digital channels and widespread popularity of smart devices and streaming services, businesses are investing heavily in technology to help them collect and analyze all their different data sources. And the fact that brands have all this data isn’t a secret to customers. But by collecting and storing their data, customers also have an expectation on how that data will be used. They expect that when they fill out a form or unsubscribe to an email that this data will provide an improved customer experience (CX). More so, they want the experience to feel unified no matter the channel or interface they interact with. This statement from Bridget van Kralingen, Senior VP of Global Markets at IBM, is right on the money: “The last best experience that anyone has anywhere becomes the minimum expectation for the experience they want everywhere."
Yet brands often fall short of these expectations. According to Forbes, 87% of executives today are not confident that they are effectively leveraging all of their customer data. The data problem gets even more complex every time a business buys or builds a new channel-specific tool to engage with. These systems are usually disconnected and only provide awareness of specific interactions on specific challenges, rather than a view of the true customer journey.
When teams don’t have the appropriate insight into customers, the answer is often to “do more.” Send another email, buy more ads, run another social media campaign. Yet the result for the customer is what we call the Labyrinth problem — inconsistency from one experience to the next. Our communications may end up contradictory or not relevant based on previous brand interactions. Rather than lead the customer down a clear path in their journey, we lead them into a confusing Labyrinth of interactions, making it harder to achieve their desired end goal.
Let’s bring this to life with an example. A customer who recently ordered a product online is looking to check the status of their online order. Unfortunately, that information lives outside of the website, so they can’t find the answer there. Instead, they message a chat bot for help to check on the delivery status only to be greeted with a pre-set generic robot message and made to re-type all of their contact information they entered online. The impression your brand leaves is disjointed, confused or worst of all, indifferent. Though it’s just one small example of the dozens of types of negative interactions customers have, the lack of consistency between each channel or touchpoint means your customer gets lost in the cracks. And a lost customer means lost opportunities.
Without a way to unlock these data silos and get a clear customer view, you can’t keep up with customer expectations and deliver that critical next best experience. So how do marketers help customers forge a path forward out of the labyrinth? It starts with unifying 100% of your customer data.
Unite Data From Everywhere For A Clear View of Your Customers
Most marketers are highly skilled professionals, and like to think that they “know” their customers. But if some of your customer data is kept in your CRM, some in your call center records and still more in your marketing automation and email databases, then you can’t get the full picture. Without the full picture, you can’t make the most informed decisions and campaigns. You need a customer data platform that can integrate with each of these tools and communicate this data from one system to the next. No more getting blocked by the narrow walls of closed marketing technology. Opening up data silos also requires making the data accessible and actionable to marketing teams in real time, rather than waiting hours or days for the newest batch of data to be uploaded or data analysts to pull updated reports.
An ideal solution won’t just bring together all of your data points, but it will ensure that your customer database is clean and standardized. This happens via powerful identity resolution which stitching together partial or duplicate records and matching customer identities down to the individual and household level. This means you won’t end up sending multiple email offers to Jane S., Jane Smith and Ms. Jane Smith. Keeping the real person or groups you want to reach in view at all times means your customers are less likely to get frustrated by irrelevant messages or confused about what path they need to follow in their journey. One customer, one next best action on the right channel.
Machine Learning Made For Marketers Leads the Way for CX Success
Unlocking all your customer data and gaining that 360-degree perspective of the customer will help customers reach their intended destination through clearer customer experiences. However, with overwhelming amounts of data coming in every second, your customer journey needs to stay on point, not take wrong turns with extra messages that are contradictory don’t provide any personalized value.
To return to our Star Wars imagery for a moment, marketers need an intelligent robot companion or some other robust source of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to sort through massive amounts of customer data to identify overarching patterns in customer behavior that can inform the direction of future marketing activities. An open data solution equipped with machine learning models allows marketers to understand and learn from their data over time. Predictive ML models can more accurately segment and evaluate enormous quantities of customer data much faster than any marketing team can alone.
“The proper leveraging of AI as a part of your digital marketing toolkit will help you stand out with your audience and improve your customer experience by building loyalty, confidence and joy in buying. We know scaling personalization beyond a few use cases can be overwhelming and time-consuming, but we can simplify it through artificial intelligence. In fact, it’s never been easier to understand consumers and create personalized offers by adding AI capabilities on top of a digital experience platform,” said Seth Dobbs, CTO at Bounteous.
Predictive machine learning technology helps marketers align their efforts on the customers and campaigns that will generate the most valuable outcomes — getting customers through the labyrinth. When teams have confidence that they’re targeting the right content to the best customers at the perfect time, they can work smarter. Getting the most value from your data allows you to spend time on projects that have a meaningful impact, namely boosting customer lifetime value and creating those personalized connections people are searching for.
For more on how an open approach to content, data and technology helps brands escape digital experience silos, see our e-book: The Quicksand, The Labyrinth and The Hydra: Overcoming Your Top 3 Digital Transformation Challenges.