As marketing moves towards a data-driven future, a joined-up approach is the only option

A selection of Experian experts give their views on all things marketing and big data. From data strategy to sophisticated segmentation. Follow them on @ExperianMkt_UK

The acceleration of technology means that we now live in a world built on data – it is everywhere, forever growing in significance. If we can harness the power of data, it has the potential to make hugely positive changes to the way we all live and work.

In business, we need to make sure we are ahead of the curve as this data revolution takes shape. The change is going to come whether we like it or not, so ignoring it is not really a sustainable option.

Of course, with all this connected technology putting our customers firmly in the driving seat, there are clear challenges which will need to be overcome. People no longer expect, but demand a personalised customer journey when they are dealing with brands. There is a lot of pressure on businesses to provide a 360 view of their customers, to deliver on these burgeoning customer expectations.

Our recent annual survey of marketing trends threw up some interesting, yet familiar results. So many businesses are still finding it problematic to achieve that ‘golden nominal’ – the Single Customer View (SCV).

Of course, this is not really surprising. It’s a one of the biggest challenges presented by the digitalised marketplace. However, I think one of the key reasons why so many have trouble getting there is because it means that you need to make real intrinsic changes to the way you operate and wholesale changes to the way you communicate with your customers.

As such the SCV affects not just marketing but operations, customer relations, IT and more. Because of this we’re talking about reorganisation across multiple channels and multiple teams. You’ll need the right technology in place too, but the data needs to come from these varied sources and the benefits need to be passed back to them.

It is not only a difficult process but a potentially long and ongoing one too – as new data sets are constantly being created and more insights are required. The positive thing is that so many people in recognise that it is an important process. 97 per cent of organisations are currently looking to achieve a SCV.

As the number of touchpoints for customer interactions has increased, so too have the number of different ways you can recognise a customer via the data. We’ve come a long way from when an SCV meant managing only a customer’s name and address details – add to that the wide range of known and anonymous digital identities and the challenge gets much harder.

The two main challenges are presented by having the right technology to integrate data in real time, and an inability to access relevant data from across the organisation. The SCV needs to use all your insights from every channel and every touch point. Otherwise you’ll never be able to offer a seamless experience. If a single channel is separate or not included in your SCV how are you going to be able to communicate with them as a brand in anything but a disjointed manner? It just won’t work.

The ability to deliver a good customer experience is all about intelligent interactions. What we mean by this is interactions with individuals that are relevant, interesting and useful. The right message, in the right channel and at the right time. Customers don’t see individual channels, they see a single brand. When they tweet you they expect you to know and understand who they are. When they email, you should be able to identify their customer profile from your website. In order to deliver relevant experiences you need to be able to communicate with them as a single brand having a conversation with an individual.

Silos in organisations, or more specifically, when teams are broken out by channel, puts huge barriers in the way of this. To join up that view the data needs to be aggregated but if it sits with different teams (often in different locations) this is going to be extremely tricky... but not impossible.

It gets more complex when individual teams are measured on different metrics. If their KPIs are different – if their bonuses, commission and on-going employment rests on them hitting a target of a specific KPI they’re not exactly empowered to use their insights to power other areas of the company.

A major step forward is ensuring that all your teams are measuring the same KPIs or at least have KPIs that overlap. If you’re still doing attribution by channel you need to structure and incentivise your teams to work together. If you have channel conflict, price discrepancies or conflicting sales models you need to make it a priority to fix them. Having separate profit and loss statements and objectives designed around each channel only creates missed opportunities and gaps in the customer experience.

It’s going to be a hard process, but it’s one that needs to happen. To start with try encouraging your teams to work together more on individual projects. Push them to share their goals and share success. Sometimes different channel teams don’t even sit in the same building and sometimes they haven’t even met. Make sure this isn’t the case with you – start breaking down those silos and soon you’ll be able to own a single customer experience.

Tom Blacksell is managing director of Experian Marketing Services in the UK

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