Big data: A marketer’s best strategy for driving relevant personalised interactions

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Even though data is what powers the insights and actions that drive meaningful customer engagement, most marketers don’t understand how to manage – much less capitalise on – their data.

Now along comes big data. We’re not just talking about a lot of data with big data; we’re talking about data in formats like real time click streams, geo data, social conversations, and images that don’t easily fit into traditional data formats.  What are marketers supposed to do with that?

Well, if they’re enterprising and want to take leaps ahead of their competition, they’ll meet the big data opportunity head on and – in collaboration with the chief data officer or data architect at their company – they’ll learn everything they can about how to pull all their data together into a data lake.  They might even dip into learning about Hadoop – the technology that makes a data lake possible.

But this piece isn’t meant to be a primer about Hadoop. It’s meant to help marketers understand what they need to do to take advantage of data – especially big data – to help them build better dialogues with their customers.

Big data keeps you in step

Today’s consumers control the conversation.  They pick the time, the channel, and the topic. As a result, most companies aren’t in sync with their customers: they operate at a different cadence. Operational inertia means they can’t respond with the precision required.  In order to stay in sync, they need a modern marketing architecture that is data-driven and that facilitates response across channels in real time. 

When companies respond in meaningful, timely, and channel-appropriate ways, consumers are often willing to share even more data about themselves.  With a modern marketing architecture, companies are in a position to capture data from different kinds of channels and sources, derive insights from that data and quickly take relevant action.

The benefit is: better conversations, longer relationships, and increased sales/loyalty.

But here’s the problem: an organization can capture all kinds of data but not be able to use or monetize it. There are lots of companies with “dark data” – troves of data that’s sitting in storage – untapped.  And there’s plenty of new Big Data that companies haven’t yet begun to mine. But with the technology available today, they can.

Big data can kick-start customer engagement

The reason it’s so important to understand big data is simple: it provides the key to unlocking new and important insights into who your customers are, when and where they interact with you, what they say about you, who else they talk to… and more.  With this kind of data, marketers can finally achieve a robust, multi-dimensional profile of each individual – and gain insights that can help initiate interactions that build sustaining engagement.  With the right technology, they can do it quickly, putting them back in cadence with their customer.  Isn’t that what marketers want?

Maybe not. Some seem happy with the status quo.

But sticking to marketing ‘comfort food’ (batch and blast tactics) won’t get companies far. Neither will setting up separate social media or inbound marketing programs, which may provide incremental lift, but aren’t scalable. Siloed efforts tie up data in separate systems, ultimately creating a disconnected view of the customer. In this scenario, for example, Sally’s negative experience expressed via Twitter and Facebook is not addressed in the email blast that’s on its way to her inbox. Sally has shared her frustration with her large social community, and even if the company has been monitoring it, it’s isolated data - buried in a silo. At best, she’ll ignore the email. At worst, it will reinforce her negative impression of the company.  

In order to harness the power of customer data for a complete, unified view of the customer, marketers need a modern marketing solution that is capable of extracting, transforming and manipulating data from every channel to produce actionable insights for data-driven decisions.

An architecture for the modern marketer: Use this to start a dialogue with your CIO

Modern marketers need a framework that is built for today’s omnichannel and data proliferating world. One that breaks down silos and cuts through the complexity of today’s fragmented marketing technology landscape:  a super-connected environment that links together everything in the marketing ecosystem: data, insight and action.

The Modern Marketing Architecture starts with a data foundation that enables marketers to build rich, 360° customer profiles by seamlessly linking together data from multiple internal databases, such as CRMs or ERPs, with unstructured, “Big Data” from sources such as the internet and social media. It is built on a powerful data management platform that can rapidly ingest, aggregate, cleanse, match and distill data from multiple data sources to resolve identities to a single record and generate a single view of the customer, but one that is dynamic and changes over time as customers change. The system preserves all of the detail from these sources at a granular level, so that marketers can segment – and even micro-segment – their customers as they learn more about them over time.

The second component in the Modern Marketing Architecture is In-line analytics. Many organizations are harnessing Business Intelligence (BI) tools to analyze operational and transactional data to gather insights about their business. Similarly, they are exploring the potential of big data to gain greater insights about their customer universe. In the Modern Marketing Architecture, analytics are embedded as an inline process, so they happen in real time. Every interaction with a customer generates information that is fed back into the customer data environment to enrich the profile and give marketers better insights into their customers’ preferences and behaviors. This solution is designed to leverage machine learning and sophisticated algorithms to drive next-best offers and actions in response to those preferences, creating hyper-personalized interactions.

The third component in the Modern Marketing Architecture is the Connected Execution layer. This is where multiple communication channels are brought together into a single point of operational control. This allows marketers to use a centralized console to build out multi-channel engagement strategies that traverse all customer touch points, such as email, web, social, SMS, etc.  

The Modern Marketing Architecture is powerful and transformative. By leveraging convergent technologies that link customer data with analytics, and enabling personalised interactions across multiple channels, the Modern Marketing Architecture allows marketers to fully embrace the opportunities available in the modern era and beyond.

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