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Everyone knows how important it is to collect data for marketing. But actually putting that data to good use? That’s a challenge that affects countless businesses around the world. According to The New York Times, data scientists spend as much as 80 percent of their time collecting and inspecting data, leaving them precious little time to apply that data to improving the marketing and customer service of their companies. It’s a broken system for many, but it doesn’t have to be.
With careful planning and an organized approach, consumer data can help you identify actionable insights that translate directly to improving the customer experience.
Understanding the Value of Your Source Data
Before you get carried away with attempting individualization, it’s a good idea to take a step back and look at your source data — the unprocessed, raw data that comes to your system through your usual data collection process. It’s tempting to try to draw conclusions right away, but doing so often does more harm than good. If you don’t understand your source data, where it comes from and what it ultimately does, you’ll never be able to parlay that data into individualized Marketing.
Odds are good that your source data is very valuable, even if you don’t know exactly what to do with it at this point. That’s why taking things slow is such a good idea. As you dig into your source data, you’ll understand what information you’re currently capturing, as well as how that information fits into your big picture. Perhaps even more importantly, going through this process will help you identify the data points that you need that you’re not currently capturing. You’re far better off picking up on something that’s missing now as opposed to six months from now, when you’re trying to figure out why your attempts at individualization aren’t working.
Taking this big-picture approach is essential as you attempt to understand what data you already have and how it fits into your company’s marketing objectives. In addition to seeing where you stand, you’ll also see how all of these pieces fit together — both from a technical and from an information perspective. Even the smallest of things, such as how each different system identifies the customer’s name, is a crucial element in taking your source data and turning it into something more. It’s only when you understand all aspects of your source data — as well as how it all works together — that you can take the next step.
Transforming Data into a Single Customer View
Developing an in-depth knowledge of your source data is a great starting point for your data integration. Understanding the nuances of your operation will help you to build on what you already have, enabling you to create a single customer view.
As the name suggests, a single customer view comprises the entire spectrum of activity between an individual consumer and your business. It shows all information you have about a given person, including their past purchases and interactions the individual has conducted with your company. Your ultimate goal in data collection is to develop this single customer view, and more importantly, to have a single customer view that’s accurate, up-to -date and can easily be modified to capture additional data in the future.
Your understanding of your company’s source data will help you establish this concept of the single customer view. However, the data by itself only gets you so far. What you really need is a way to string together all of the ways people communicate with your business across all devices. This cohesive approach is the best way to learn what motivates a consumer and, by extension, how you can best market to that individual person.
Of course, developing this model is much easier said than done. If the creation of a single customer view was easy, every company would do it. Understanding consumer intent is perhaps the best way to begin connecting the dots between each customer action and the events that follow shortly afterward. Doing this will help you to create several different paths to purchase that consumers typically follow as they interact with your marketing and eventually buy from your company. While not every consumer will follow these paths exactly, you’ll learn enough about your audience to segment them into different groups, based on which path they’re most likely to follow. This roadmap will be your guide as you start to move towards full-fledged individualized marketing.
Translating Insights into Individualization
The transformation of consumer data into individualized insights is best envisioned when you consider a pyramid structure. The bottom level, the foundation, consists of all of the aggregated data that applies to a given segment of the audience. You can’t make individualized observations at this level, but you can’t begin to make those insights without this baseline. The next level up, the middle level, is the information necessary to create the singular customer view we’ve just discussed. This moves on from aggregated data and gives you a look at each unique customer, but it doesn’t specify exactly what should be done with this knowledge.
The top layer of the pyramid is the one that really matters. This is where you’ll find the insights on which you can take actual action. This small data — for example, a consumer’s preferred device or the time they’re most likely to shop — is what will transform your marketing from merely good to something that’s truly individualized. This top layer allows you to meet each individual consumer at their own point on the path to purchase, and it’s what will separate you from your competition as marketing becomes even more data-dependent in the years to come.
When you can see these differing tendencies from different people, you’re ready to take a fully individualized approach. From here, the sky’s the limit. You can now make product recommendations to your customers on your website. You can send out promo codes via text message as opposed to email because your data tells you that this specific customer is more likely to respond favorably to a text message than an email. Anything that’s effective in moving consumers down their own path to purchase is fair game — as long as it provides actual value for that consumer.
That last point is key. Modern marketing is all about fulfilling the data contract you have with your customer base. Customers provide more data than ever to the companies they do business with, and it’s your job to make sure those people receive something in return for their contributions. This is a major reason why generic, cookie-cutter marketing is no longer sufficient. Your audience is more than willing to give you the tools you need to provide them with an excellent and individualized experience. You have to give them what they want, every time — and if you don’t, they’ll find what they’re looking for someplace else.
The Road to Individualized Marketing
The road to individualized marketing can seem very intimidating when you’re starting with lots of disparate source data that is hard to integrate and harder to decipher. Working with this data and seeing how it applies to your marketing goals is a fine way to get a better handle on your process and where it will take you. Creating common paths to purchase for your audience segments will take you further up the individualization pyramid, and identifying and executing individualized marketing actions will help you make the most of the “small data” that leads to the most consumer activity. Although the individualized approach requires a delicate touch and a great deal of planning, it’s impossible to utilize without the time spent understanding the data at the bottom of the pyramid.