When M&S launched its Mrs Claus Christmas campaign earlier this month it illustrated a growing trend for brands to put customer experience at the heart of marketing efforts. The campaign was built around feedback from thousands of M&S customers into what they wanted from the brand at Christmas, which included warmth, empathy and a touch of humour.
M&S isn’t alone in its quest to resonate more with consumers. All marketers are searching for a true and comprehensive view of the customer, allowing them to understand their wants and needs. Theoretically the explosion of customer data should make this an achievable goal. But truly customer-centric marketing becomes problematic when the vast volume of valuable data marketers have access to is locked away in decidedly channel-centric siloes.
So how can data silos damage the customer relationship, and what can be done to integrate data so it can be used to drive seamless customer experiences?
The origins of data silos
Businesses collect huge volumes of data – from CRM information to campaign performance insights – but it is usually stored as disparate data sources that don’t talk to one another and don’t have uniform levels of granularity. Data is frequently siloed by channel of engagement, for instance website visitor data may be stored separately to email, social, or mobile data. Even where data from digital channels is linked, it is still likely to be siloed from offline data relating to in-store or catalogue purchases.
Each channel may also have its own marketing team with individual goals and priorities. This can lead to unwillingness to share data as teams compete with one another rather than working together towards a common purpose.
When a new channel of engagement is introduced this usually involves implementing additional technology with its own data source. Marketers use on average 20 different marketing technologies to collect separate sets of customer data and must segment and target audiences individually within each of these tools, which is ineffective and time consuming.
Data silos damages the customer relationship
Holding data in silos results in a fragmented view of the customer and their purchase journey. The inability to connect these individual data sources prevents marketers from measuring cross-channel marketing performance and understanding what is resonating with the consumer. This can result in irrelevant or inappropriate marketing messaging, for instance targeting a customer with a product they have no interest in or have already bought, which can negatively impact customer relationships.
Moreover, disconnected data sources frequently cause customers to run into boundaries during the purchasing process. Today’s customers expect a seamless experience whether they interact with the business online, over the phone, on social media, or in store, which is only possible when data is synchronised across all channels. Frustration caused by having to repeat or re-enter information between different channels can cause customers to abandon their journey altogether and switch to a competitor. Those that do stick around may minimise spend – removing the possibility of cross-selling or upselling – or spread negative sentiment in person, though reviews, or via social media, which can influence other customers.
Addressing data silos
It is simply not feasible for the majority of organisations to knock down data silos and start again with a single database. Only start-ups have that short-term luxury. This means organisations must instead find a way to bridge their silos and integrate multiple sources to create a fully correlated data set.
The most effective way to do this it to create a data hub using models such as Master Data Management (MDM) or data-centric web services. In this way marketers can create a single, logical view of key entity data that links multiple siloed data sources. The type and complexity of key entity data that is used to create this single view will vary from business to business.
Rather than constructing segments in individual data sources marketers can then build segments once, centrally, to create a single view of the customer. They can still use all the marketing technologies they already have and can plug in additional tools as and when they open up further channels of engagement. When key entity data is integrated it is possible to deliver a seamless, unified experience across all channels and throughout every stage of the customer journey.
Just as M&S’s Mrs Claus truly understands the wishes of children all over the world, marketers can fully comprehend their customers’ wants and needs when they have a centralised view of customer data. While data silos is virtually impossible to eradicate, data can easily be integrated into a central data hub, empowering truly customer-centric marketing and delivering positive, seamless customer experiences.
About Lindsay McEwan
Data and GDPR expert, Lindsay, boasts 20 years’ strategic leadership and commercial management expertise. A well-respected data leader, he is passionate about educating businesses to seamlessly integrate data to drive profitable cross-channel customer interactions. Previous roles include positions at Adobe Systems UK, Neolane Software, Oracle, TIBCO and Kana. Lindsay joined Tealium in 2014.