Article

Take Control of Customer Data

The days of batch and blast emails are gone. It has transitioned into providing timely, relevant, and personalized messages with the effective use of data.
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Imagine what would happen if you spent hours talking to a friend about the big game last night. If they are not a sports fan then they would not pay much attention to you. But if they are a sports fan, it becomes a much more interactive conversation. To know which way this would go before you begin, you could start with a question like, “Hey, did you watch the game last night?” But you could also try to determine their fandom from other things. Have they worn sports jerseys before? Do you know if they have been to similar sporting events? Have they talked about sports before?

 

Marketers need to think like this before sending each and every message to a customer or prospect. What do they know about the recipient that can help result in a positive response to the message? Data provides that answer.

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Good Morning, Data

From the moment a consumer opens their eyes in the morning until they close at the end of a long day, they are generating data. Lots and lots of data.

There is the intentional data like what emails they open, what web pages they look at, and what purchases they make, but there is also all of the unintentional data like the location monitoring from their phone, the number of daily steps from their activity tracker, and even the amount of time they brushed their teeth. Who ever thought toothbrushes would be connected to the internet to upload data?

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More Data Today, Even More Tomorrow

Ninety percent of all data created has been created in the past two years, according to IBM. If you look at the current consumer environment, you can be assured that data creation will accelerate, not slow down. More controlled devices at home, more messages sent to customers, more online transactions.

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The Real Benefit of Data Marketers

look at all of this data with envy and they want to take control of it. Nearly half  of marketers say that centralized control of data is the most important change that will provide value to their marketing with data. Not every marketing technology solution makes that possible.

Having easy access to data and the ability to use it in daily tasks has many tangible benefits. It can increase revenue per email, reduce customer attrition rates, and even lower costs of marketing campaigns. 

But the less quantifiable benefits may ultimately be more important for all who manage email programs. It allows stronger connections with customers and clients in ways that show you know what is important to them. Creating a  single profile with all available data sources is how to build a long-term relationship. This allows more relevant messages. More accurate messages. More personal messages. All of these add up to demonstrating a better understanding of customers. 

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Whaddya Know?

Often the first challenge is identifying what data is available. This can be done through a formal or informal audit process. We’re talking about first-party data, which is the data that a company has collected from its customers and prospects, for example on its website, e-commerce site, or in person. A privacy policy grants permission to use that data for specific purposes. This is the data that marketers can use more comfortably without running afoul of changing privacy laws. It is getting harder in the current climate to use data from outside sources – third-party data –  to learn more about customers.

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Where’s the Data?

Once an internal data source is identified, it must be located. And just because it is somewhere inside the company’s walls – or firewall – doesn’t mean it’s easily accessible. Some customer data is stuck over there in a proprietary system. More data is walled off in another network. And nobody can get access to it without submitting an IT ticket. Donuts could facilitate some requests, but not if the network engineers are across the country or across the world.

Installing a marketing platform that provides access to customer data from disparate systems can be the forcing function to collect and centralize all marketing data from any source or format, bringing a single view of customers together across all marketing touchpoints.

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Falling Flat with Data Structure

Working with the data itself can get technical, but the best way to think about it is in terms of its flexibility. Accessing data from other systems – and even within a system – can be managed in two different ways: in flat files and in relational tables. A flat file is a format that has a single row with all the data about a transaction. This could include customer information, order detail, item detail, payment information, and shipping information. Systems that only bring in data in this aggregate format – or store it this way –limit how easily marketers can manage this data.

Data that is stored in relational tables keeps the different types of data in different tables, but maintains connections between them. For example, the same order would have limited information in an order table and would have links to a customer table and an item table. This data model allows more efficient processing and added flexibility for using the data for communications.

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Ready, Aim, Message

Taking control of customer data is really about sending the right message to the right person at the right time. This is not news to marketers, but the right software is required to use data to do this well.

The more that is known about customers, the more relevant the messages  can be. Data is the key to segmentation, to  make sure that the right customers are targeted with the right message. Marketers who have learned to code in their spare time – or have mastered the art of submitting IT requests – can get this done in a system where programming is required. An email platform where this can be done in a drop-and-drag environment is a better option for most marketers.

Another advantage to having access to first-party customer data is the ability to personalize emails and messages with this information. The best way to move a one-time buyer into a long-term customer is to reflect their preferences in the messages. Don’t send an offer for something that they have never responded to. Retail customers should never get messages about men’s clothing if they have only ever browsed and purchased women’s clothing. Keep messages relevant to customers’ activities.

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And Finally, The Ask

If you are not currently using data effectively  in your cross-channel marketing, it is time to start thinking about it and asking questions. If your current provider doesn’t seem to be connecting with you and have good answers for fully implementing data in an efficient way, it could be time to talk to someone else.

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