How to deliver experiences customers love by building your own walled garden

Delivering great, multi-channel customer experiences is becoming marketing’s chicken or egg question.

How do you anticipate what customers want and deliver the consistent experiences when privacy laws restrict what you can collect and customers are more hesitant to share their data than ever before?

A precious few have figured it out.

It has taken them 15+ years and billions of dollars in investments to do it. Companies like Google and Amazon—and to a lesser extent Netflix or Nordstrom—have found privacy-compliant ways to collect rich customer profiles. They can use these profiles to create the types of experiences their customers love and expect. It’s the type of data most of us dream about.

So, daydream with me for a minute. Imagine you are a clothing retailer and you know a customer needs to buy a new cocktail dress for an upcoming wedding. You can see she was researching trends and watching fashion videos online. And you know that she shopped with you in the past three months. What could you do with that kind of data at scale?

Asked another way, how would you transform your marketing if you had access to the same data as the walled gardens?

You may be asking yourself, what’s the point. It’ll never happen. There are only a few companies in the world that have access to that kind of information and the people who do will never share it. Even if they would, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) privacy laws prohibit sharing that kind of data.

If that'd what you're thinking, you are partially correct.

It’s true in a PII-based ecosystem, but if you strip the PII away and replace it with an anonymous identifier, a whole new world of possibilities awaits allowing you to connect your consumers’ online and offline behavior. This is what the walled gardens have spent billions to create. Now you too can too; creating a huge competitive advantage without the huge investment.

How to create your own walled garden

The first thing you need is elite identity, the ability to link a person to their device and still recognize them when they step away from the screen and visit you in store.

Everything breaks down without elite identity. The walled gardens know this. It’s why their enormous community of logged in users is such an advantage. Google generates cross-device linkages from all the people logging into Gmail or Chrome on their phone, laptop and tablet. Amazon takes it a step further and links devices to shipping addresses when a purchase is made.

Next, you would need predictive buying signals captured from around the web. The walled gardens leverage advertising networks and retargeting pixels to get a better idea of the sites you visit and areas of interest at any given time.

It’s the type of predictive data that powers their lookalike audiences and allows them to outperform demographic-based audiences. When you combine your own first party data with these types of signals, the insights you learn and results you see are completely transformative.

By mastering the world of the anonymous, you can build your own walled garden.

You can take your customer experience to the next level and accurately anticipate what a person wants. You can become one of those brands that customers love to rave about because they feel like you know them. You will be fundamentally different from your competition, the same competition that use all the same marketing technology that is limited by the underlying dirty data powering them.  

Here’s the rub. It’s not for everybody. It requires a sophisticated data science team. If you are still reading this, it probably means you have the capabilities to make it happen.  

The brands that learn to operate in both the known and anonymous worlds are going to have huge advantages.

We are in the early stages of this movement, but make no mistake, this is where the market is going. It has to. Privacy laws (rightfully) restrict the customer data you can capture and limit your ability to personalize, but customers don’t care. They still expect you to know who they are and treat them as people.

The brands that do this will win their loyalty. The walled gardens proved this and showed us the path forward. Now it is time to take control back and do it for ourselves, so we aren’t held hostage to their rules and restrictions (never mind that we are making them harder to compete with in the process).

Maybe we can finally answer marketing’s chicken or the egg question after all.