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Five stepping stones to a data management strategy

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11th Oct 2015
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It goes without saying that customer engagement is an important indicator for any brand looking to drive footfall or clicks. But for retailers, keeping track of how customers engage with their brand, and over what channel, can be challenging. While the data from these interactions presents a clear opportunity to build better multi-channel customer experiences, it also brings a number of problems associated with data management. More than ever, the pressure is on to get any data-driven marketing programme right, or risk losing customers. 

Below are my top five tips on how retailers can develop a data management strategy that will ensure they will get the best out of their data:

1. Understand what data you have

Before you can start to develop your data management strategy, you have to know what data you currently have, and how you are currently managing it. Whether this is from transactions or interactions, the starting point has to be the breadth and depth of data that you are collating.

To add to this, it makes sense to understand the quality of the data that you are collating is complete, accurate and up to date. Sometimes you can end up with what seems like a high opt-in with email addresses, but when you actually start to use it you get high bounce rates.

2. Understand where it is held

Customer data can be spread out across your organisation and it is important that you have a solid understanding of where it is, how it is being managed and the risks associated with this. If you have customer data in multiple siloes you need to consider what value it has in each of these locations and who has access to it throughout your organisation. A central master customer database or single customer view not only enables you to protect it and manage the information you have on customers, but enables you to get a complete view for insights and automation.

3. Identify what data would be of value in the future

You have some choices here based upon what you think you need versus what you can buy. Map out the desired data that will enable greater insight, but also enable you to act upon it. Insight is a valuable piece of any direct marketing but it becomes powerful when you can maximise and use this insight to drive growth and revenue. Identify and prioritise what data you can get from customers and how you could start to enhance your data, so that you can start to create enhanced segmentation or propensity models based upon segments. Social media data can play an important role here.

4. Review the entry points of customer data

Once you know what you have, the locations and the future means you could be faced with some challenges over data quality and how data is getting into the system. Try and identify how the data is being collated, at point of sale or online, to make sure that you are using the best methods of capture and that you are getting accurate data sourced. This could be through email verification or restricted fields for sign up or even training and incentivising your front of house staff.

5. Plan how you are going to use it to achieve your goals

Within retail there is a real data challenge, turning unrecognised purchases into recognised ones. Click and collect can help bridge the gap between online and footfall, or apps providing offers and codes to buy once in store. For some there can be a real barrier when it comes to POS infrastructure so start with what you have and then build out the business case showing the ROI achieved with what you do have.

Once you have this in place you should consider what the long term goal is to turn unrecognised into recognised data, potentially using content as the driver to get data, and start to increase your base. This could be a mix of great content, incentives or even a reward/ loyalty scheme in the long term.  

Without the right data, and the insight that this this can deliver, it is hard to make informed decisions on when, how and what is driving retention and increased sales.

A data management strategy may sound something for IT, or the data scientists, but it is important that marketers get hold of this as the impact it can have on their customers is phenomenal. According to an article by Simon Knox, Emiratus Professor School of Management at Cranfield University about Tesco’s growth: "The real change agent was the Tesco Clubcard that they introduced in 1995…The card also accrued points towards benefits for customers. But the real value wasn't in the discount and benefits, it was in the data made available by the Clubcard."

Guy Milsom is business development manager at Occam, a St Ives Group company.

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