Big data has very much become a core of B2C marketing programs. When leveraged appropriately, it holds the key to developing the highly targeted, hyper-relevant experiences that our customers crave.
But as many marketers seem to conclude, big data is in fact only big (worthy of investment) when it drives real, tangible results in campaign performance. When it truly allows us to answer not only the question, “Who is my customer?” but “Who is my best customer?” we know that it is adding real value and proving its ROI. The ability to connect the dots between big data and analytics as it relates to a holistic customer-centric strategy is the competitive edge that every company seeks today.
Do I Really Know My Customer?
Though marketers have developed more sophisticated methods of tracking and grouping data into the appropriate segments, challenges still arise in recognizing how to actually harness every piece of information so that it drives results and answers questions about what actually resonates with each audience segment. Our goal is to “activate” the customer to some point of engagement or conversion. And data can help us to do just that.
So where do the challenges stem from then? I can guess that we’re all fairly familiar with the aspirational customer--that one that we’ve cultivated into a loyal brand advocate. The one who engages with us across each channel seamlessly and converts when and where we expect her to. But we must ask ourselves, are we truly reaching that customer? Are we actually understanding her purchase journey by connecting her data points? Do we even know who she is, or worse yet, whether she exists at all?
Troubling questions for the marketer, but surprisingly more frequent than you’d think. According to research conducted by technology provider Signal, six in 10 retail marketers struggle to personalize customer experiences due to fragmented data and customer profiles. In fact, many still feel as though their data snapshot is disjointed or even incomplete. What ultimately causes this disjointed data environment? Often times, it’s actually our process that inhibits us. Believe it or not, some of the major challenges in leveraging customer analytics begin at home, in the application of simple first-party data that we’re able to gather all on our own.
Break The Silos For A Single Viewpoint
Break the silos. Not out of redundancy, but rather for clarity, I cannot stress these words more. For the big data environment to function and for it to unlock the methods of optimizing customer segmentation, the old siloed platforms of engagement must be relinquished.
Direct mail, email marketing, search, social, and display generate myriad data points about customers, but the key to leveraging them is by viewing them not in isolation, but as one. We can connect qualified data, but until we unify online and offline to build a single, comprehensive view of each customer, we cannot achieve the scale and efficiency our programs need. Basic in-house customer information--names, email addresses, sales channels through which customers engage and convert, products that were purchased--all represent a critical mass of data that lends us the first level of needed insight to strengthen our hold on big data and in turn on customer analytics and segmentation methods.
Now That I’ve Gathered The Data, What Next?
Now that this first level of insight is obtained, mapping the customer journey is the next step in applying the data.
Unlocking our customers’ path to purchase not only allows us to substantially enhance their experiences, but it also brings us closer to understanding exactly when and where they’re interacting with us and converting. And this, of course, is key to allocating our budgets to the channels that perform and reaching for new opportunities in those that aren’t.
Consumers today travel a far more complex road than the traditional marketing funnels we have relied on in the past. It’s largely because technology enablers have influenced drastic changes in behavior and expectations, and so our mapping processes must continue to adapt. While customer journey mapping is a fairly common procedure, it may hold more secrets about your customers than you think.
So what does the map look like?
Transaction Versus Engagement Points: Both Matter
Our desire to improve performance generally drives us to consider the monetary interactions with our customers first. These sources of data might surround promotions, campaigns, or channels of transaction--anything that allows us to see where and how our customers ultimately convert.
How did the messaging in a particular campaign influence one audience to purchase a product versus another that did not? Why is Customer A more inclined to purchase on her mobile device, while Customer B shows a preference to researching on desktop and shopping in store? These are the kinds of questions that can be answered through connecting the transactional data points across the customer’s path, which in turn becomes a key part of our ROI arithmetic. And it makes sense: We want to spend more where our customers are.
While mapping these points is of critical business value, they are not the only interactions that need to be considered. Marketers must have a sharp view on the non-monetary communications, practicing a shift in focus to engagement value. Arguably a more complex source of data, engagement metrics are actually the core of understanding why certain channels or campaigns perform better than others.
What email does someone open and engage with? What kind of conversations is a customer having with a brand on a social media site? What’s the language or messaging that resonates? What kind of in-store experience is a customer having versus the kind of interactions the customer had on a brand’s ecommerce Web site? What we can begin to detect are certain nuanced behavioral patterns that allow us to better identify key points on the customer journey and then define the strategies specifically tailored to each individual customer segment.
Time For Optimization
With all this data, marketers might feel overwhelmed. But now that it’s organized and clearly laid out, we have a new vision of both the monetary and engagement data points that matter most. Of course the customer journey is inevitably looking less like a smooth speedway and perhaps more like an off-road Jeep tour--fully equipped with bumps, holes, and detours. But the good news is, now we know where the distractions exist, and we’re in a far better place to take the opportunity to improve the experience before it causes more pervasive problems for the business.
In looking at the customer journey, what do you notice? Are customers receiving a cohesive brand experience across campaigns? Are you starting to see certain segments or groups come to life, based on device and channel preferences? Do any customers abruptly alter their path to purchase, and are you prepared to recapture their attention?
These are all great questions, most of which we are now in a much better place to answer. Because we’ve unified our view, optimizing campaigns for specific audiences is a task much more attainable. If you take anything away from this article, it’s that in-house, customer-level data holds a lot more value than we might give it credit for. Rushing to gain access to complex third-party data isn’t going to give you the answers you need without first understanding what’s going on within your organization and your own customers. Big data doesn’t have to be our greatest challenge; instead it should be our greatest enabler.