As data enthusiasts, we tend to get a little excited about all the potential data offers – especially when it comes to helping businesses improve how they serve their customers. However, every now and then it’s useful to reality-check our enthusiasm with first-hand feedback from marketers about the practical challenges they face.
At the recent DMA &THEN Conference, we surveyed almost 100 marketing professionals to find out how they’re leveraging customer data in their current environment – specifically around the three dimensions we consider critical to success: data, insight and action.
We’d like to share those results, since they may reflect where you are – and where you’d like to go.
Data remains an obstacle for marketers. Not surprisingly, the majority of marketers we surveyed indicated that their data is siloed (56.2%). So while this doesn’t prevent them from doing basic segmentation (43.8%), it most likely limits them from using their data dynamically. In fact, only 14.6 percent are able to incorporate real-time updates into their individual customer profiles.
The good news is that 42.7 percent are integrating data from multiple channels into a centralized database, although nearly a third (32.6%) require help from IT to do this.
But progress is being made: our survey shows that 19.1 percent are able to create unified customer profiles, which is slightly higher than the results reported in The CMO Survey in which only 12 percent of CMOs reported having access to unified customer data across transactional, social and marketing data.
We didn’t ask them about their aspirations, but we would like to think most marketers would welcome having access to unified customer profiles that are dynamically updated based on their most recent interaction. This would enable marketers to respond to each customer based on their individual needs – whether past, present or future – and do it at scale.
Marketers’ “insight” challenges mirror what’s happening with their data: each channel has its own metrics. Seeing the big picture over the entire customer journey – from the time a customer first hears about your brand to the subsequent visits to your web site through their first purchase and beyond – is still a lot like a Rubik’s Cube. Stitching together the results from all of these touchpoints to determine precise attribution is a painstaking task – one that most marketers lack the time and resources to take on.
Many marketers can – and do – conduct offline analyses and build predictive models to maximize response and conversion rates (43.8%). But only one in four marketers have deployed real-time analytics that can drive next best actions and offers (25.8%).
First the good news: the majority of marketers are using multi-touch, multi-channel campaigns to engage their customers. The bad news: each channel is managed independently. According to TechTarget, in a 2014 survey conducted by Forrester Research, “…marketers identified communicating with customers across channels and obtaining a single, 360-degree view of customers across channels as more important than acquiring new customers or replacing existing ones.” So clearly marketers know where they need to go. They just need to find solutions that will allow them to get there quickly, before their customers lose patience with the unsatisfying experiences caused by incomplete information or inaccurate customer profiles.
The promise of automated insights is technically possible, with techniques like machine learning now being deployed in select business use cases. It won’t be long before computing power begins taking over the task of “learning” what customers want and then helping marketers deliver it when, where and how they want it.
So while there is a great deal of hype about data-driven, cross-channel marketing, the reality is that translating the theory into practice remains a challenge.
To facilitate true, real-time, omnichannel customer engagement requires an approach that relies on the ability to capture all types of customer data, combine and analyze it, and derive insights that automatically drive the correct action — action that’s timely and relevant to the individual and appropriate for the channel they’re using. Without the ability to master the data, the rest of the customer engagement process breaks down.
What does this mean for marketers today? It means that there is a tremendous amount of opportunity for marketers who are ready to master their customer data and execute data-driven marketing programs.
Are you a marketer experiencing a lot of what we just discussed or do you have an entirely different journey? We’d like to hear from you in the comments below.