Deciding whether a centralized or decentralized marketing structure is the right approach for a business often comes down to which of the respective benefits are deemed more important. A centralized structure, usually defined as one with a single marketing team, is often more efficient and cost-effective. Conversely, a decentralized structure with different teams reporting into different business units or channels is often credited with being more agile, with each team highly in tune with the dynamics of its particular part of the customer journey.
Because each enterprise has its own objectives, there really isn’t a right or wrong approach. But in any healthy debate about what’s right for the enterprise, the overarching consideration should be the one person who – all things considered – will notice it the most: the customer. As long as the customer receives a consistent, seamless and personalized experience at any moment of interaction across all channels, the marketing structure is of little concern.
In a Harris Poll survey commissioned by Redpoint, consistent relevance across channels was a top priority for consumers surveyed. Asked to define a personalized experience, 43 percent said it was when a brand recognized they were the same customer across all touchpoints (e.g., in-store, email, call center, mobile, social media, etc.). Furthermore, 63 percent said they expect a personalized experience as a standard service – with 37 percent going so far as to say they will stop doing business with any brand that fails to provide it.
Centralized Marketing and a Seamless Experience
As it so happens, a customer-centric approach is often touted as a benefit of a centralized marketing structure. It makes sense; when there’s one marketing team devoted to the needs of the customer, the team can far more easily focus on customer-driven metrics rather than channel metrics such as opens, clicks or revenue per email.
A singular focus on customer-driven metrics lends itself to a more seamless experience for the customer versus various marketing teams each being responsible for delivering an experience on a different channel. The latter approach is a problem for the customer because, as the research shows, that’s not how the customer views their relationship with a brand; customers do not consider a call center interaction, say, as a standalone interaction distinct from how they navigate a brand’s website. Rather, the entirety of a customer journey is viewed holistically.
By Approach or Structure, Centralized Marketing Eliminates Disconnects
None of this is to say that a decentralized marketing organization must immediately reorganize. By adopting a customer-centric mindset, and with the right technology, it is possible to reap the benefits of a centralized marketing structure – namely, the delivery of a seamless experience across all channels – while retaining a decentralized structure.
Marketing teams responsible for – and reporting into – different business units can adopt a customer-centric mindset as long as the teams are all working with the same customer data. It may sound like a simple concept, but siloed data is often a byproduct of siloed channels, especially when marketers are incented by channel-driven metrics. And siloed data is antithetical to a seamless, personalized experience that customers expect across both physical and digital channels.
Consider a customer who visits a retail outlet and purchases an outfit for an outdoor summer wedding. In the meantime, an email marketing team happens to have queued up an email offer for a discount on semiformal summer attire. A customer who opens the email after making the in-store purchase may experience a disconnect – why wasn’t the email sent earlier? Can I still redeem the offer? Conversely, if the email marketing team is working in concert with the same real-time customer data as the physical location, it can perhaps use open time email personalization to change the email content to be more relevant to the customer journey stage. Maybe the offer is for a discount on matching accessories, for instance.
A Centralized Marketing Mindset and a Single Customer View
A centralized marketing mindset begins with a consistent single customer view that is accessible by every function or marketing department across the enterprise. A single view of the customer that integrates data from every conceivable source and is updated in real time provides a single source of truth that enables a decentralized marketing organization to act like a centralized organization in terms of how it delivers a consistent experience.
Eliminating data siloes to enable various marketing teams to act as one on behalf of the customer is more than just aggregating customer data from every source. A true single customer view also requires that data quality issues are resolved in-line (i.e., at the point of ingesting or earlier). Matching, merging and cleansing functions, including advanced identity resolution with both probabilistic and deterministic matching, are all essential.
One could argue that data quality is especially important for a decentralized marketing organization. Because there are different teams, robust data quality measures ensure the teams can trust that they’re working with the same data as another team – and that the data are consistent across the enterprise. Certain that customer data is accurate and updated in real time, each team can be supremely confident that when a customer appears in the channel they’re responsible for, they will be poised to deliver a next-best action for the customer that is optimized for the precise moment of interaction. There is no worry of an overlap, a disconnect or otherwise inconsistent messages or offers that often plague decentralized teams when they’re each working with their own sets of customer data.
Centralized Marketing Puts the Customer First
Centralized marketing – whether an actual organizational structure or as an approach enabled through a single customer view – is vital to engaging customers with a consistent, hyper-relevant experience across all channels. The Redpoint rgOne is an advanced customer data platform (CDP) that empowers decentralized marketing organizations to adopt a customer-centric approach and act as a centralized marketing team while also protecting their existing operational investments.
Customers view their relationship with a brand not as a series of disjointed interactions, but as a holistic experience that happens to span multiple digital and physical touchpoints. An organization may choose to have multiple marketing teams, but to meet customer expectations for a seamless, personalized experience centralized marketing is essential, if not as an operational structure than as an approach derived from a single view of the customer.