Kresten Bergsøe
Kresten Bergsøe 26 May 2016

The Big Disconnect Between Data and Customer Experience

Data is power - everybody tells you. And Big Data promise better experiences adapted to individual behavior and preferences. However, historically, these promises have fallen short of reality. So why does it seem that so many struggle with the most basic levels of personalization of the customer experience?

In previous posts I argued that the lack of personalization across the web is mostly a people thing. Lack of people who knows how to build personalized content and experience flows.

72% agree they ‘understand
importance of personalization,
but don’t know how to do it’
Source: Econsultancy

However research also suggest that many organizations see IT roadblocks and legacy technology as the two largest barriers for progress.

Data is power - everybody tells you. And Big Data promise better experiences adapted to individual behavior and preferences. However, historically, these promises have fallen short of reality. Investments in technology such as data warehouses, Data Management Platforms, Customer Relationship Management and Marketing Automation software have allowed businesses to capture and store rich customer data. However organizations hasn’t been successful in translating this data to better customer experiences. The ability for businesses to leverage their customer data to deliver individual experiences is broadly recognized as an massive opportunity and the essential step in realizing the value from personalization - but in most organizations it simply doesn't work.

So why does it seem that so many struggle with the most basic levels of personalization of the customer experience?

Delivering a real time personalized experience

Customers tell us, ‘We have all this data – we just haven’t been able to use it for anything'”. Businesses can pull all this data together in a place that’s accessible for optimizing experiences - but that is only a fraction of the challenge. Getting this information back to the applications that trigger and execute the personalized experiences is the real challenge.

Doing this in real time and in scale is a really really hard. In fact - when a visitor arrives at your website - you have to be able to get the full updated visitor profile, re-calculate segments, evaluate potential experiences with different variations of static or dynamic content - pull content templates, render the content and return it to your visitor in less than 25 ms. If you cannot do that - you are not capable of acting in real time and the experience will suck.

This is one of the core reason that many businesses are still struggling with the experience part of the journey - they are stuck in technical challenges. If your organization have opted for a traditional Data Warehouse or a DMP solution - it is highly unlikely that you will be able to deliver real time personalization without a huge investment in engineering - by people with a skill set not likely to be found in the average corporate IT organization.

Every organization will require a way to store their customer information from all of its sources - consolidate the view of the individual customer across channels to get the big picture - and use small data on individual level to render personalized content in real time - that's is pretty clear. But building the platform that does this and is capable of delivering a real time cross channel experience to visitors or customers are limited to the very few. 

Becoming a real time organization

Being able to deliver a personalized experience is only part of the equation of being a real time organization. When customer information flow to the organization in real time - the organization also needs to be able to act in real time. While all the typical applications that is running the enterprise do include open APIs - they all sit and wait to be notified that something happened before they can do anything. That is why you need a framework that enable organizations to trigger any internal application based on actual customer behavior - again in real time.

So when a customers behavior reaches predefined behavioral thresholds it will trigger a call to your CRM or marketing automation platform with information required to initiate the appropriate internal workflow. Typically it would be a task for the sales department or it could be a churn team that is initiated for a onsite chat session, email or phone call follow up.  Another use case would be entering the customer into a predefined flow in your marketing automation platform - like churn prevention, cross sell or triggering a series of emails that is centered around the customer's latest signal of interest.

In any circumstances - this is the stuff that future real time business is made of and the kind of proactive behavior you can expect in the years to come. For organizations this is a journey that includes engaging with a new kind of employees - people with insight into personalization technology, personalized content, dialog flow design and machine learning. For most it also includes investments in the technology, that connect the customer profile information with a personalized content experience - but the tech required is the simplest and cheapest part of the challenge - the major barrier is still the people with the right skills. They are in dire demand.

Kresten Bergsøe

Paul Martin
Paul Martin

Dear Kresten,

You are spot on with the chasm between the value exchanges of data. Like you, I observe this everyday as a marketer and, perhaps most importantly, as a shopper and consumer. Two things came to mind while I was reading your thoughts on the potential and underutilization of technology.

Aimia’s research concluded, similarly to Econsultancy, that while a high number of people freely and willingly gave data to organizations, only 8% felt that they were receiving better offers as a result of sharing their details (source: Aimee Loyalty Lens Report 2015). That means, marketers are making huge mistakes in the exchange value of data. Two things came to mind while I was reading your analysis on the role of digital technology.

First, Ratan Tata announcing that he will enter the ecommerce market with TataCliq. This Goliath of industry seems to have crept in under the covers and now is ready to create an ecommerce powerhouse that can scale globally with very few barriers to entry. He’s set to become the David of all David’s:
• With his presence in offline retail and shopper outlets he has captured and built mega-databases that will provide engaging and encircling propositions.
• With his significant technology and consulting backbone he has rapid analytics and real-time measurement platforms that will use data to make experiences relevant and personal.
• With his 25 or so investments in complementary and sometimes competitive offerings, he has a deep understanding of the ecommerce business and the richness of the data relationships that will give customers a broader experience and learn more about them.
This is an industry-defining event.

Second, I’m impressed with authenticity, intelligence and humor of Gary Vaynerchuk. His Goliath standing of growing brands and businesses on social media is the sum of all his David’s across the primary platforms and the emerging ones. Data is a relationship and value journey, not a one-time trick. Gary captures that beautifully in his book “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook” and I recommend it to everyone who wants to understand the psychology of value exchange in social media. Gary’s insights will close the gaps for online marketers in this value exchange economy.

The picture of the future you painted without change is bleak and a reality in many cases. Where there’s a gap, there’s a niche. And I think you are right that technology can defend those niches and create a better value exchange for marketers and consumers. Looking forward to hear and see what other think on this.


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