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Why First-Party Data Is Pivotal

Michele is VP of marketing at BlueConic with over 15 years of experience in the digital marketing and advertising ecosystem.

Macroeconomic factors such as the current pandemic can have a ripple effect for years to come on how consumers behave and interact with brands. Nobody really knows which changes will be temporary vs. permanent. So marketing and customer experience teams need to be nimble, but they can only respond as fast as their internal processes and technologies will allow them to, and it’s usually not fast enough.

Legacy marketing tools and processes don’t allow marketers to easily adapt to rapidly changing consumer behaviors for one main reason: They were designed to support rigid, channel-specific outbound campaign strategies that attempt to “force” customers down a path that is slow to change and ignorant of the full picture.

Today’s customers walk their own path to purchase, and they take notice when you don’t keep up. To understand and effectively react to what’s happening in each customer’s unique journey, marketers need to move away from the stone age of channel-specific campaign strategies and make the transition to truly orchestrating individualized experiences across touch points and throughout every stage of the customer life cycle. But that means getting your first-party data house in order.

Accelerated Need For Digital Transformation

Thanks in part to Covid-19, digital transformation has even greater urgency. As more consumers shift to online and digital solutions to get goods and services, many companies have had to rethink how they operate and support their customers.

To adapt to these changing consumer behaviors, companies in nearly every industry have had to scale their digital experiences, or in some cases, like consumer packaged goods (CPG), embrace them for the first time. This trend is creating an explosion of first-party data within these companies, which can be wielded as a competitive advantage if you can unify and act on it fast enough.

But as companies embrace the need for digital transformation, many are realizing the pain of trying to use legacy technologies, each with its own unique way of storing data and recognizing customers, to support a fast-moving, end-to-end customer experience.

Disparate Marketing Technology Has Created Fractured Customer Experiences

In a rush to arm brands with new ways of engaging with their consumers, the marketing technology landscape has exploded over the last decade. This also had the adverse effect of creating many pockets of disconnected data sets as each new technology solution was designed for a particular channel.

Marketers and customer experience teams need to not only break down these silos but also find ways to activate the data to create mutually beneficial experiences for both their customers and their business. The entirety of their marketing technology (martech) stack needs to be referencing the same songbook as it were.

The Next Frontier: Customer Life Cycle Orchestration

In theory, campaign management and marketing automation tools were designed to solve this problem and provide true customer life cycle marketing capabilities, whereby marketers could use data to identify priority segments of customers and design programs that move those customers through defined cross-channel journeys to drive business results.

But each of these tools is limited by the data they store. In other words, they are built on a foundation tied to outbound campaigns, channels and messages that are unique to each system, rather than a macro and expansive view of consumer engagement. To be truly customer-centric, marketers need to move beyond channel-based tactics and instead organize and orchestrate touch points across channels in the context of customer life cycle stages.

I’ve seen this challenge from both sides — as a marketer myself and working with our customers at a company that offers a customer data platform. In order to effectively orchestrate bespoke experiences across channels and in every life cycle stage, a new approach is necessary, which involves: 

1. Operating From A Unified Customer View

By integrating the right technology, like a customer data platform, you can create a unified view of each individual customer, and make that data readily accessible to all the activation channels in your technology stack. This enables you to put your customers’ identity at the heart of your strategies.

When a customer can be recognized across channels, your marketing team members can use what they know about that person to create coordinated, targeted marketing interactions based on each individual’s unique journey.

2. Adding A Layer Of Intelligence To Existing Systems

You don’t have to throw away the entire machine. With access to a single customer view, you can send real-time customer profile data — including marketing consent preferences, behavioral events, transaction history, customer scores, etc. — to existing systems to make them more effective and efficient.

For example, campaign management tools are likely going to continue to house variations of creative for campaigns. But by leveraging a more complete picture of the customer, you can direct these systems to consistently deliver right-time messaging to customers and prospects based on a more complete understanding of where they are in the customer life cycle.

3. Eliminating Operational Inefficiencies

By integrating customer data and synchronizing it with other systems in real time, you can increase operational efficiency. With access to this unified, actionable data, you can enable marketing and adjacent parts of the business, including commerce and customer support teams, to effectively orchestrate individualized experiences across touch points with their customers.

In Summary

Customer behavior is constantly evolving, and marketers have to shift and change their strategies to keep up. By embracing the right technologies, marketers can gain the flexibility and agility they need to keep up with customers, as well as the ability to orchestrate bespoke, end-to-end experiences across every touch point.


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