You already have customer insight – you just need to know where to look

Knowing the customer has long been the goal of many organizations. Yet the proliferation of technology and the explosion of different communication channels have made it challenging to track customers throughout their journey. With the phasing out of third-party cookies, it has just become that much harder. As customers demand more personalized services, companies need to get better at using the data at hand to tailor their marketing and drive revenue growth.

The drive to know the customer is nothing new. Organizations have always sought to better understand the people that buy from them, whether they’re a retailer, a bank, a utility company or anything else.

Technology expansion and outdated modeling hampering opportunities

While the increasing digitalization of every aspect of life offered the potential of finally having a full 360-degree view of the customer, the reality is very different. Technology has added complexity, not lessened it. A proliferation of channels and ways of interacting has made it harder for businesses to track prospects across their properties, whether physical or digital.

Even increasing volumes of data have not helped many companies gain greater insight because, as a McKinsey article notes, “companies’ outdated data modeling isn’t able to capture these shifts with the necessary granularity and speed.”

The end of the cookie?

Then there’s the apparent end of third-party cookies. With Google set to end support for the data collectors on Chrome at some point in 2023, businesses’ marketing departments are having to revise their approach to collecting and using customer data.

“As cookie data collection stops, large portions of the digital data universe will be frozen in time. Advertisers may feel caught in a slow-motion decline as they grapple with a drastically different digital ad targeting landscape.”

Eric Schmitt, Gartner Analyst

That said, the last few years have forced many changes in how companies gather, store and use personal information. The introduction of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was the result of a fightback centered around the issue of privacy, one that businesses have had to adapt to across all their operations, not just marketing. However, the ramifications are still being felt, with Schmidt predicting that it “will likely take many years for a stable environment that balances standards-based data-driven advertising and consumer privacy to emerge.”

What could be achieved?

But businesses still have significant amounts of data at hand and enough flexibility within privacy regulations to use it more effectively. In a recent Hello!World panel discussion, Ada Serkirin, CEO of Europe at Business & Decision, highlighted the role of data in driving the sort of interactions that can become what she called “total experience.” This is a step beyond the personalized experience much prized by many companies, encompassing not only the tailoring of services but offering an engagement that is completely frictionless and immersive.

It is also the point where activities that would once have been considered marketing start to overlap with a customer service focus. As Serkirin said, “When we are talking [about] personalized experience, we don’t only mean personalized communication and offers tailored to individuals, we also need companies to gather all the available information to present customers with all the answers to all their questions and solutions to all their problems in one go.”

End-to-end data exploitation on the road to success

So, how do businesses get to that point? Chair of the panel, Vannina Kellershohn, Vice President of the Enriched Interactions & Collaboration Business Unit at Orange, pointed out that “Only integrated systems can exploit data end-to-end, so uniting your touchpoints and your data is your next step on the road to success.”

This is made much easier if the data in question is standardized, trusted and timely – not frozen in time, as Schmitt warned. The easiest way for businesses to get hold of this information in a post-third-party cookie world? Their own interactions with customers. That might be first-party cookies on their own digital properties; it could be in the physical world through the use of connected devices. It could even be via contact centers. Kellershohn said, “Contact centers hold a significant opportunity to build positive emotions that translate into customer advocacy. Because [they] are at the front line of customer interaction, they are a data gold mine.”

"Because [contact centers] are at the front line of customer interaction, they are a data gold mine."

It’s important to know which data to use, as well. Costa Rican Vacations, a travel company, used to focus on data averages: average spend, average length of stay, average number of travelers. But as co-founder and CEO Casey Halloran told one site, “Our overuse of average wasn’t telling us how dramatically different the outliers were from this average. In fact, there weren’t that many real customers who looked like this ‘average client’ at all!”

It adjusted its focus to look at outliers, those at either end of the spectrum. Looking at their behaviors, the company made changes to the website, such as increasing the total budget on the holiday finder tool, which ultimately increased the site’s conversion rate by 40%.

Other businesses are taking it further and using customer data gathered at the marketing stage to influence manufacturing. Alibaba, for instance, used searches for alcohol-based car cleaning supplies at the beginning of the pandemic to convince a car-cleaning product manufacturer to make portable sanitizing sprays instead. Supported by the data, the manufacturer was able to start production in three days, with more than 200,000 sold within the first 24 hours.

Getting better at data to know the customer

These are two examples of the benefits businesses can receive when they use data effectively. But it needs to be data that is timely, trusted and relevant. Privacy concerns mean that organizations have to be strict in how they use personal information. But by rethinking their approaches and looking at what they already gather, many could find they already have everything they need to deliver offers and services that resonate with customers.

Data is the fuel for all aspects of the digital organization, not just marketing. To find out how you could make the most of your data, take a look at our dedicated hub on transforming your data approaches.