Bart Heilbron
Bart Heilbron 25 January 2021

Three Resolutions Customer-Focussed Businesses Must Make In 2021

Although many of us have opted to forego making New Year's Resolutions in 2021, Bart Heilbron, from customer data platform BlueConic, suggests there are three resolutions that marketers should be making if they want to accelerate their digital transformation and drive business growth.

Given the unpredictability of 2020, making New Year’s resolutions might feel like a fruitless exercise. But there are three commitments that customer-focussed businesses must prioritise in 2021 if they want to accelerate their digital transformation and drive business growth. Let’s take a look at what they are.

#1: Reduce Reliance on Third-Party Cookies

The deprecation of third-party cookies has been most often felt in the context of advertising. But with each change in browsers’ privacy policies, the consequences are felt more broadly by businesses as a whole – whether it’s a retailer that relies on third-party datasets to create customised audience segments, or a global financial company that’s facing varying regional requirements for how data is captured and stored in light of GDPR.

To compete in a post-cookie world, companies will need to have a transformation strategy in place that prioritises the use of first-party data. This imperative is spearheading a growing interest from the wider C-suite in using customer data platforms (CDPs) to unify and activate their first-party data.

By consolidating data from disparate systems and making a single customer view accessible to marketing, ecommerce, analytics, and other teams responsible for engaging with customers and/or driving business growth, companies can improve the effectiveness of everything from their omnichannel marketing strategies and multi-dimensional segmentation efforts, to predictive model deployment and digital product and experience offerings.

Making first-party data a priority also requires investing in a solution that can handle the velocity, volume, and variety of data created by individuals in the digital era.

A CDP that not only streamlines first-party data collection, but also enables marketers and other business users to capitalise on that data in real time will help businesses keep their resolution to reduce reliance on third-party cookies. It will also ensure customer identity is at the heart of their engagement strategies.

#2: Improve Business Agility and Resiliency

While many companies have long been striving for greater agility, the pandemic emphatically reminded businesses of how quickly economic conditions and consumer behaviors can change.

The companies that prioritised agility in their people, processes, and technology have been able to survive, and even thrive, in the challenging business conditions created by Covid. But with the resulting economic impacts and consumer behaviour shifts set to last well into 2021, baking even greater agility and resiliency to business operations will be paramount for companies both large and small. 

Auditing your company’s technology stack and identifying areas for improvement is a good place to start. For example, reliance on data warehouses and compliance-orientated data management systems may actually stifle agility, since these solutions don’t store or organise data in a format that enables real-time utilisation.

Other execution tools, like campaign management systems and journey orchestration tools, don’t enable business users to efficiently analysesegmentmodel, and activate their first-party data when and where they need it.

To increase agility, companies will need to lean into strategies and enabling technologies that help business users become more nimble in their day-to-day and enable them to quickly make adjustments to personalised messaging and programs when the unexpected inevitability arises.

One of our customers, Belgian Cycling Factory (BCF), was able to put agility into practice when Covid forced its network of bicycle dealer shops across Europe to close. Using our customer data platform, the company was able to launch a new ecommerce store in just one week to help its dealer partners shift to online sales – an entirely new channel for them.

Perhaps more importantly, BCF was able to start collecting and unifying customer data from this new channel into BlueConic profiles right away, and use that data to gain insights about market demand in each dealer’s region. By demonstrating greater demand for BCF bikes, they were able to convince dealers to increase their inventory – and generate 10-15% more revenue as a result.

#3: Don’t Base Technology Decisions on a Tick Box Approach

No matter the size or complexity of their stack, everyone expects their technology investments will lead to improved outcomes. Yet one of the biggest mistakes business leaders make when evaluating technology is to simply compare the features and functionality of researched tools.

But decision makers must also consider the operational impact a technology will have on the business and how it can enable better, more efficient ways of working. For example, creating rich consumer segments and deploying customer lifetime value (CLV) models can be inordinately complicated for not-so-tech-savvy marketers, leading to time delays and heavy reliance on internal IT teams or costly external agencies.

How would giving marketers the ability to build real-time segments in one system impact current workflows? Would having customer scores readily available for use reduce the gap between having customer data and acting on it?

While technology can do any number of things, how it does those things is equally as important. By resolving to conduct more detailed assessments of who will use a solution and the impact it will have on key processes, business leaders can make more informed decisions about which technologies will work best for their business in 2021 and beyond.

Resolutions like the ones above often come from lofty ambition. But 2020 proved that deprioritising improvements to first-party data use, business agility, and operational efficiency is no longer a viable way to drive long-term business growth. In 2021, the companies that ‘win’ will be those that put the customer at the centre of everything they do and invest in the tech that helps their teams work faster and more efficiently—both today and in the long run.

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