Faced with the challenge of finding new, safe ways to interact with their customers in a global pandemic, retailers across almost every sector have experienced record levels of digital transformation this year.
In ecommerce alone, McKinsey estimates that we witnessed 10 years of growth in the space of just 90 days. And as the number of digital interactions increased, so too did the volume of customer data coming in from every touchpoint: a gold rush for some businesses, and a major headache for others.
In this newly-digital economy, that data has become a retail marketing team’s most valuable asset. The challenge? Knowing how to manage it.
From social media to live chat, customer data now flows into your business across a myriad of digital touchpoints. Connecting the dots is vital, otherwise all it amounts to is a big, noisy mess with no real value to offer.
Access to reliable, actionable customer data is essential if you want to get the best return on your marketing spend. In spite of the upfront cost, it’s well worth investing in technology that can sort and filter your data to turn garbled raw material into valuable insight.
To understand what’s best for you, take a look at where you stand today. How are you currently managing your customer data? Is your marketing team’s tech stack built on a solid data foundation? And how does that fit in with how data is being managed in the organisation at large?
Invite a technical colleague to review this with you, as their perspective could be surprising. Is the IT team having to spend hours setting up and maintaining each of the martech tools you need populated with customer data? Is the back-end of your data infrastructure a tangled mess?
The answer, for so many retail companies, is yes. That’s often because their data stack is a palimpsest built up over time, or because the tech team isn’t big enough to build and maintain a consistent data infrastructure. In other cases, it’s because teams have been thinking about customer data in silos, without connecting the dots between product, sales and marketing.
Happily, there are now a number of options on the market that can solve all of this. While Customer Relationship Management (CRMs) and Data Management Platforms (DMPs) offer some of the answer, your best option for a centralised, reliable real-time view of the customer is a Customer Data Platform (CDP). This ensures your data is clean and, because it’s a single customer data backbone for your business, it avoids silos, duplications and blind spots.
And as a sweetener for your colleagues in IT, CDPs are a scalable solution that easily allows you to integrate further data-driven tools in seconds, without needing engineering support or maintenance.
You can collect, clean and centralise all the data in the world, but then you need to do something with it.
From email personalisation to channel optimisation, there are thousands of independent martech tools on the market today. In fact, Scott Brinker’s map of the martech ecosystem, which showed just 947 tools in 2014, now lists 8,000 and counting.
With so much to choose from, it’s important to keep your options open. You’ll want to continue building and re-shaping your stack of martech tools as your brand priorities evolve, so whatever you select now, make sure you take a flexible approach. Look for tools that can easily be integrated into your existing stack, and that are easy to plug into your customer data foundation.
Wherever you can avoid it, try not to get trapped into vendor lock-in, lumping you with a suite of tools that quickly outlive their usefulness, or that simply fail to provide your marketing stack with the differentiation needed to power your marketing efforts.
Once your team has the right tools in place, it’s time to establish an insights strategy so that you can leverage your data to make a real impact.
A real-time dashboard of key metrics is a great way to ensure your team is up to date, as well as making it easy for you to share high-level performance indicators with leadership and other stakeholders.
These can be simple, quick and easy to use, and are a powerful way of tracking your progress as you test out new tactics. As they pull in customer data in real time, you can easily monitor how campaigns are performing and optimise as you go, vastly improving your marketing ROI.
Remember that your colleagues across the wider business will also see value in the customer insights you’re gleaning, so make sure that you’re regularly sharing data visualisation with the wider company.
An opportunity not to be missed
Whatever happens over the next few months and years, the shift to digital is here to stay.
It’s a given that your customer data is going to continue ballooning. That’s a resource more precious, they say, than oil - but only if you’ve got the set-up in place to make the most of it.
Tido Carriero, chief product development officer, Twilio Segment