Unlocking customer data - How to drive customer experience transformation using data from legacy systems

How to transform your customer experience without breaking your systems

Digital-led customer experience transformation is one of the hottest topics for CMOs in today’s market. According to IDC, over two thirds of global enterprises are looking to make the strategic shift from traditional to digitally-led strategy, with over one third expecting to have fully adopted digital transformation by the end of this financial year.

As with many major strategic shifts, digital transformation is largely consumer-led at its core. Consumers are now demanding to deal with brands through their own channels of choice, and new market entrants are primed to disrupt industries that are slow to react to the pace of digital change. Senior marketers have been well aware of this trend for some time and have now started to lead transformation initiatives at the C-level.

According to recent research by Gartner, CMOs are now outspending CIOs, making significant purchases of marketing-related technology from their own capital and expense budgets as they look to engage customers through a rapidly-expanding number of channels. However, the purchase of modern marketing technology systems is only one part of driving successful customer experience transformation.

CMOs now have access to a range of powerful solutions to deliver great customer experiences across multiple digital and offline channels simultaneously. However, the performance (and ultimately payback) of these systems can be seriously impacted by an inability to access customer data.

In any large organisation, customer data is usually held in a range of legacy systems and databases, and in formats that end delivery platforms struggle to use effectively. Liberation of this data – and creation of the near-mythical Single Customer View – is often pushed to IT as a systems architecture challenge. As IT teams serve the entire organisation, marketing then has to compete with a range of other areas for resource, and data integration gets wrapped up into broader change programmes that can take years.

The challenge for CMOs is that their experience transformation programmes can’t wait years for access to customer data. This leads to executives purchasing a range of point solutions to meet the specific requirements of new and emerging channels, and ultimately, fragmented multi-vendor marketing technology stacks that don’t work together seamlessly. In fact, even single-vendor stacks have integration issues as they are often the result of a series of acquisitions by the lead vendor attempting to gap-fill capability and pull together an end-to-end solution.

Mixed vendor environments are, and will remain, a reality for CMOs in the digital age. The challenge isn’t really about technology consolidation, it’s more about working out how a range of technologies can work best together, using and enriching a common set of marketing data. The answer to this challenge is in an emerging sector of marketing technology, the Customer Data Platform.

Customer Data Platforms act to unify marketing data from a wide range of sources, transforming it into usable, targeted information. Essentially, they are the ‘marketing glue’ that acts to stick together a disparate range of legacy databases, third party data sources, CRM systems, and marketing delivery platforms, making the whole stack work together to deliver the end experience.

Of course, data integration solutions have existed in the market for years. However, many of these solutions are complex, requiring specialised IT support to maintain, and expensive data science resource to operate. The advantage of the Customer Data Platform is that it only looks at data relevant for marketing and is ‘owned and operated’ by the marketing department.

Customer Data Platforms optimise data specifically for marketing outcomes. Marketing-specific data integration isn't just a matter of getting two systems to talk to each other - the data also has to be optimised to make campaigns easy to implement. There is little point sending complex data models to delivery platforms that will then require in-depth work by marketing delivery teams to get campaigns live. Customer Data Platforms make the campaign deployment task easier by optimising data before it reaches the end delivery platform, reducing complexity and increasing the number of campaigns that can be deployed within a given timeframe.

Modern Customer Data Platforms, like the n3 Hub, are also relatively inexpensive and quick to implement. And as they are designed with easy integration in mind, they typically require minimal IT change – meaning they can be up and running, delivering value within weeks, not years.

Rory Watt