The CMO’s New Secret Weapon: Unified Customer Data


unified-customer-dataThe domain of the chief marketing officer (CMO) has shifted. Where once CMOs governed only branding and creative, they are increasingly also responsible for the customer experience. In many enterprises, the CMO is the executive directly responsible for ensuring customer expectations are met and customer numbers continue to grow.

CMOs must leverage all the tools at their disposal to deliver business results and meet their objectives. One such tool is customer data. Understanding customer behavior, preferences, and interaction history – and using that to inform messaging – can accelerate attachment and drive higher revenue overall. The problem is that most customer data right now is disconnected, complicating efforts to improve customer engagement. CMOs must unify their customer data if they truly wish to achieve their goals and, more than that, need to provide that unified customer data to all parts of the organization.

The Drawbacks of Disconnected Data

Customer data has long been stored in functional and channel-specific silos. Data silos were appropriate when they were created because they enabled sales to sell, marketing to market, and service to serve without “irrelevant” information that wasn’t directly applicable to their goals. Siloed data remained viable as a strategy for decades, primarily because customers only interacted with brands through a minimal number of channels.

That all changed with the rise of the connected customer. The number of available touchpoints has exploded, and the modern customer interacts with their chosen brands through a broad variety of channels. The marketplace has already been altered irrevocably, with McKinsey recently finding that 50 percent of customer interactions now happen during a multi-event, multichannel journey. Despite this shift in the dynamics between consumers and brands, many enterprises have failed to adapt to the changing way customers interact with them.

Recent research from DZone found that 92 percent of organizations have 16 to 20 customer data sources, with data spread across multiple locations in multiple formats. This disconnected data is often incomplete and inconsistent, which prevents brands from engaging the connected customer in their chosen channel and leads to irrelevant messaging. There is a financial impact as well. Brands that have disconnected data suffer losses in revenue; Lemonly recently found that poor quality data costs organizations as much as 10 percent to 20 percent of their revenue.

Quality Data Makes for Quality Customer Engagement

CMOs need to have their customer data unified into a single point of control to successfully engage the modern connected customer. Master customer databases – updated nightly or even weekly – used to fulfill this requirement back when businesses didn’t need to shift their strategies as quickly as they do now. Rather than simply unifying customer data in a central location, brands now need a central point of control that is flexible, scalable, and adaptable for the future of customer engagement.

They need a customer data platform (CDP). CDPs unify customer data across silos, enabling an always-on, always-current golden record that facilitates a unified and complete view of the customer. CDPs ensure data quality as well, empowering the CMO’s team with master data management (MDM) functionality such as data stewardship to ensure that the golden record is at its most current and most useful. Only then can the CMO be confident of delivering timely and contextually relevant interactions to the connected customer.

Marketers who leverage updated and consistent customer data stand to benefit. Research from Forbes Insights found that data-driven marketing organizations are five times more likely (74 percent vs. 13 percent) to achieve a competitive advantage in customer retention, and are six times more likely to increase profits. CMOs who establish a data-driven marketing organization outperform their peers and are better suited to compete for a share of the connected customer’s wallet.

The modern CMO is far more than the executive who ensures the brand promise is clearly communicated. Increasingly, the CMO must also ensure that customer expectations are met and the company delivers contextually relevant experiences. Unified customer data plays a crucial role in meeting these goals, ensuring that the marketing organization has the visibility they need into behaviors, preferences, and interactions to deliver what customers expect when they expect it.

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