Rethinking enterprise customer data

A data-first strategy can transform the experiences you deliver—and perhaps your entire company.

Today, customer experience is a top priority for every brand. And for good reason. Research from Qualtrics says that companies earning about $1 billion in yearly revenue can expect to earn an additional $775 million within three years of investing in their customer experience (CX).

Building a great customer experience starts with unifying data as the foundation—which is no simple task for any brand. By way of example, when my team at Epsilon started working with a large jewelry umbrella brand, we realized it was sending the same customer messages and offers about engagement rings across brands—even after someone had purchased one. Call me crazy, but I don’t think most people need two engagement rings.

Creating a more personalized and relevant customer experience starts with having a unified view of your customer—and in today’s world that all starts with data. My team helps brands organize around the customer and their data quite often, and in our experience, we’ve found there are four key elements for getting it right:

1. Unite your data

The first aspect of creating exceptional experiences is uniting your data—not just dumping it in a “lake.” You need a 360-degree view of your customers (aka a golden record) that enables speed to delivery of algorithmically generated content, which meets a customer need at the time and on the device where transactions happen.

And data democratization is key to success. This single view of the customer must be readily available to everyone in the organization without gatekeepers (process or technology) standing in the way of serving that customer.

2. Federate data out to martech decision engines

Most marketers are used to having full control of the decisions made around campaign activation. But in the name of customer experience, you need to get comfortable delegating decisions to machine learning and artificial intelligence applications. Delivering experiences that truly align to each individual requires sophisticated decisioning that can happen in milliseconds, taking in information from live customer touchpoints, which is impossible to manage in a centralized silo.

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This also means making use of the right lightweight data sets that enable content decisioning to happen out in the channels. For example, we worked with a financial services brand to create an enterprise analytics environment that can access pseudonymized data for insights, decision-making and activation—all within a privacy-safe context. This allows the brand to deliver the most relevant messaging on devices, in sales and services scripts, and in branches for a coordinated, purposeful experience. Before this effort, legacy systems made it impossible for branches, call centers and mobile apps to treat the customer as an individual.

3. Use data to align around audiences—not products or divisions

We’ve learned that you need to build cross-functional teams to deliver on CX—no single business unit can create customer centricity. To that end, we’ve helped brands use data to build pods or dotted-line teams around particular customer segments instead of products or divisions. A pod might bring together competencies to design products, produce creative assets, deliver campaigns and manage inventory for one specific customer segment, taking a step toward a wholesale reorganization.

Read more: How do you break down data silos across teams?


As an example, we’ve worked with a major hotel brand to completely rethink its CX with a customer-first strategy. Instead of each individual brand messaging the same customers to vie for business (like the engagement ring example), we pulled data together across silos to give the enterprise a clear view of which customers are most likely to respond to which sub-brand (and to what types of messages). Now, it can engage each person accordingly. Naturally, this process will create a different prioritization of what messages to push and when.

This type of enterprise-wide identity strategy allows you to onboard and activate all data across the organization, aligning profile attributes to demographic, transactional and behavioral information on each individual.

The result

This approach places CMOs—and the marketing organization—as the first to insight and the first to create the end-to-end customer experience. The power of the data lends power to marketers, better positioning them to bring customer-centric thinking to the entire business.


Image credit: Stuart Kinlough/Ikon Images