Customer data has become the new power struggle within the enterprise. Business users seek greater data access to achieve their core goals, and in response many IT teams have pushed back to retain control over all enterprise data. No one wants to cede any “turf,” despite universal acknowledgement that a unified customer database is strategically valuable in an age of digital transformation.
Greater visibility into customer behaviors and preferences across functional and channel-specific silos can have a dramatic impact on organizational results, but legacy technical and organizational barriers must be eliminated before that can occur. This isn’t an insurmountable problem, but it is a critical one to solve if you want to remain competitive in the age of the omnichannel customer.
Data fragmentation hasn’t always been a negative. When specialized business functions began to proliferate in enterprises, splitting data into functional silos was logical. This data fragmentation allowed sales to sell, marketing to market, and product designers to design products without searching through data that didn’t seem relevant to the core mission of each group. Even within areas like marketing, when email was “new and special and different,” there was a strong tendency to create a specialty team that handled this. Because they were specific and different than traditional work, special teams (“silos”) were created naturally.
But then came the age of the omnichannel consumer. Customers today can engage with brands through dozens of physical and digital channels, which creates exponentially more data points than ever before. Customers engage through so many channels that 50 percent of customer interactions now happen during a multi-event, multichannel journey, according to McKinsey. Consumers now also expect brands to understand their entire history regardless of channel, which is something most brands aren’t prepared to provide.
This customer expectation has turned data silos into a barrier, resulting in brands falling behind on providing the kind of contextually relevant experiences that customers want. Miss this opportunity, and customers are likely to jump ship to a competitor. Brands can ill afford to retain data silos, or persist in internecine squabbles over data ownership, if they want to remain competitive.
Conquering data silos requires a two-pronged solution. The first one is gaining organizational alignment on sharing customer data, and is the more complicated of the two because of the power struggle between departments. The second part of the solution is technological, and involves unifying point solutions that interact directly with consumers at the data layer with a customer data platform (CDP).
The idea behind a CDP is to unify customer data across functional and channel-specific silos so every stakeholder can gain visibility into the entirety of the customer’s behaviors, preferences, and interaction history. At their core, CDPs offer an always-on, always processing unified customer profile at low latency across the enterprise to all touchpoints and users.
Think of a CDP as a “data hub,” ingesting data from any source, at any cadence, in any volume, and then using a combination of deterministic and probabilistic matching algorithms to identify a unique customer across channels and devices. This unified customer profile is then made available to other solutions within the technology stack, such as the CRM, email service provider, or data management platform, to be leveraged for any number of uses throughout the enterprise.
Access to customer data is vital for the modern enterprise. Without access to data in the moment of need, brands increasingly miss out on delivering the contextually relevant interactions that will increase customer loyalty and improve long-term results. But customer data as a political power struggle within the organization is untenable. Data should really be like electricity – a utility that you turn on and have immediate access to when you need it.
The insights you can gain from a complete picture into the customer’s behaviors and interaction history are too valuable, and too necessary, to keep locked in functional or channel-specific silos. Customer data platforms can upend that dynamic, empowering your company with the most up-to-date insights and analytics so you can react at the speed of the customer, deliver contextually relevant interactions, and thrive in our constantly changing world.