The retail and consumer market landscape in Australia and New Zealand is rapidly transforming. Digital disruption, increased competition and increasing consumer expectations are placing brands under significant pressure. At the same time, barriers to entry are falling.

With access to technology and automation, and a wealth of data and insights through social media and other digital listening capabilities, brands have never been in a better position to connect with customers on a personal level and move with agility to develop new product and service propositions in market. 

To achieve effective CX transformation, it is critical for organisations to have an effective data strategy, understanding which data and insights to apply to the overall CX strategy and build an effective data foundation that connects to the entire customer journey.

Why it matters

Today’s consumers expect exactly what they want, the moment they want it — and brands must keep pace. Your customers expect the same experience with your brand, regardless of where the interaction takes place — on social media, online, in-store, on your mobile app, on your web site or through the call centre. If you fall short of these expectations, customers will easily jump to a number of better options, putting your business at risk. In hyper-competitive markets, customer experience is a competitive advantage.

Recognising your customer is one of the most critical components of any successful business strategy. Your future growth hinges on the ability to deliver experiences that map to your individual customers’ expectations. Recognising each customer as an individual with preferences, and responding at the right time and in the moment, requires a customer experience approach that is personalised, seamless and immediate — and results in an emotionally positive experience. 

Relationships shouldn’t be transactional or one-dimensional. With full flexibility and control of your data, you can develop an evolving view of any engagement, focusing on what matters: building friction-free customer experiences.

However, meeting these customer experience expectations remains a challenge for organisations for four main reasons:

  1. Omni-channel Customers Organisations are struggling to keep track of a single customer across a journey average of 5.8 interaction channels. 
  2. Scattered Information Customer data, interactions, support and tools are spread across the organisation, resulting in fragmentation and siloed channels.
  3. Unstructured Data Fifty per cent of customer experience data is unstructured or anonymised — such as audio, free text and social media. Ignore it and you miss half the picture
  4. Lack Of Measurement CX analytics isn’t driving action if it isn’t being measured. Three quarters of CX professionals don’t have the tools to turn insight into action.

Organisations must understand the entire customer lifecycle and will experience a failure in the process if they don’t. Business intelligence trapped in silos won’t highlight process failures to the organisation. Organisations must view a process through the “Customer Lens” to monitor and change the customer experience.

Getting your data foundation right 

Effective customer experience management and customer journey optimisation is predicated on having the right data on consumers. 

Today most brands have a plethora of data on each of their customers. From purchase data to email engagement to device information, the list of potential data points is endless. However, this data still remains unusable in many organisations due to the limitations that siloed channels have put on it. Brands have struggled to combine the information from in-store POS sales to online sales to email engagement and web browser behaviour and create actionable insights accordingly.

For example, many retailers struggle to measure the impact of web-influenced sales due to disconnected data, and therefore attribute appropriate investments to digital channels that are influencing offline sales. This problem can also directly impact the effectiveness of marketing technology investments, where disconnected data sources and departments make it difficult to get a complete picture of the customer and execute on omni-channel campaigns.

Poorly selected, underperforming or underused marketing technology forces marketing teams and agencies to rely on manual processes, which hurts marketing efficiency and effectiveness. Real-time data & analytics allow marketers to lean on the capability of machine learning and artificial intelligence to provide these insights and reduce time developing them — freeing up marketers to focus on managing and creating meaningful, connected customer journeys.

So what are the fundamental areas that organisations need to get right with their data?

1) Unify customer data across the enterprise 

Organisations need to collect data from all customer touchpoints, organising the data so that it can be tied a single profile of the customer. These customer data profiles shouldn’t be limited to historical data, either.  They should simultaneously record behavioural data, or the actions that consumers are taking on your web site in real-time: 

  • which device they’re on;
  • whether they made it to a product page, or category page;
  • if they’ve added items to the cart; 
  • which categories and/or products were visited;
  • whether or not they read product reviews;
  • customer feedback and sentiment.

2) Connecting the data to build customer identity

Organisations need to collect customer identity across every consumer interaction. Ultimately by linking together these data points (brands’ first-party consumer data with the individual consumer behavioural data) and connecting it all to the consumer in question, brands suddenly gain a singular view of their consumer. No longer fragmented across different channels and devices, brands can finally visualise consumers as real people first and foremost, replacing the need for — and far exceeding the power of — anonymised cookie-based data.

The fact that they are consumers who then engage across various devices and channels as part of their single journey to conversion becomes secondary and unlocks the omni-channel view. Matching data and identity across multiple channels, platforms, and devices will enable marketers to build the personalised experiences that consumers expect. Building an identity asset also allows marketers to move with their customers. Buying decisions are made within minutes, not on a campaign-by-campaign basis. Create long-lasting customer profiles that update instantly with each interaction to reflect the most current data.

3) Activating the data

Where data is siloed and fragmented, marketers struggle to connect relevant data to activation platforms. They are missing half the picture when engaging with customers. By building an owned customer identity asset that can enrich continuously and over time, becoming more robust and valuable with every customer interaction, it allows marketers to stay in control of their customer data and identity and then take the most relevant next action by connecting these insights to decisioning and activation platforms. 

Marketers are then able to leverage their first-party customer data across all platforms, bridging the gap between adtech and martech environments. An identity asset is portable, giving marketers the flexibility and control to select the inputs, outputs and metrics that tell the best stories to their customers, and enabling individualised communications across the organisation. When customers share information with you, you can guarantee total control of your data — and their security. Using cloud-based architecture that handles real-time data, analytics and decisioning, marketers can personalise engagement with customers across the organisation.

As a result of the above approach, brands can automate their marketing approach across all devices and all channels under a single cohesive marketing strategy, centred around the individual consumer and anchored by the collection of real-time behavioural data combined with first-party brand data. With a customer identity approach, brands can ingest and respond strategically to consumers in real time across devices and channels, unifying the customer journey, unlocking a new source of revenue and achieving a truly omni-channel business. 

The Result

There are many examples of global organisations that are delivering strong omni-channel experiences. At the top of the leaderboard you find a focus on customers as individuals and on digital experiences that both collect customer data and use it to remove the friction to drive a connected, personalised and convenient experience across the entire customer journey. Companies such as Dominos, Best Buy, Hilton, Crate&Barrel, Nordstrom and others.

All of these brands share a commitment to making their brand the most convenient through a strategy of continuous technology innovation, giving consumers not just one but multiple ways to interact. It’s the total customer experience that matters, and each mode of interaction must be integrated with  the rest of the customer experience to succeed.

A simple but very clear example of a step toward true omni-channel marketing comes  from Starbucks and its loyalty rewards program, which helped drive revenues to $2.65 billion. By adding a mobile aspect to the coffee shop experience, Starbucks leveraged a new channel with which it could engage with its traffic. But the story doesn’t end there. A huge piece of Starbucks’s success stems from the fact that the mobile experience translates to the store experience — coffee lovers can scan either their phone or their rewards card to gain the those points. It’s an experience that functions across their wallets and their phones — the physical and the digital.

Finally, you can’t go past Amazon and other digital-first businesses that have data hard-wired into their DNA to see the benefits of leveraging data and customer identity at scale. The world’s most customer-centric retailer has the ability to know its customers literally as individuals it can identify on a 1:1 basis within its ecosystem, and is therefore able to personalise engagement across every channel and device.

Armed with identity, Amazon exploits every bit of information customers leave behind to develop new product lines and services that fewer and fewer consumers can live without — its Prime premium loyalty program totals an estimated 90 million subscribers in the US, up 25 million in one year.

The challenge for other brands is that they are playing catch up. Heading into 2018, look for brands of all shapes and sizes to build out broader data and customer identity capabilities in a battleground to compete. 

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