The explosion of digital channels means consumers have more ways than ever to learn about and buy from the brands they love. Within minutes of my washing machine dying last week, I’d already compared deals on Which.com, confirmed the date of John Lewis’s annual white-goods sale, and received a handful of ergonomic machine designs from my wife over Instagram.
As consumers engage with more brands across more channels in real-time, the pressure is on for marketers to respond with relevant, tailored and timely messages, or risk losing out to faster-moving competitors.
Achieving this will be tough going until we, as an industry, find better ways to harness dynamic customer data gathered from the multitude of digital and lifestyle sources. This data tells us how customers prefer to be contacted and what life circumstances could impact their purchasing preferences. Of course, all of this information must be subject to the relevant permissions from customers and managed in real-time.
Our recent survey, conducted in conjunction with data specialist DataIQ, shows that while the UK’s biggest brands rank accurate data as the biggest factor in effective campaigns, seven in 10 are held back by poor-quality customer data. Achieving an up-to-date, accurate view of customers and prospects is not easy. But for organisations willing to roll up their sleeves and put in the work, dynamic data management will put accurate customer information at the epicentre of a customer-centric marketing strategy.
At the most basic level, brands can’t engage customers they can’t reach. Whether we’re talking email address, mobile phone number or postal address, the overwhelming majority of UK marketers work with either incomplete (70 per cent) or out-of-date (72 per cent) customer data. The good news is that a few simple steps at the front end will improve the accuracy and reliability of the vital customer information collected through both digital and traditional channels.
Websites are a key source of customer information for nearly 90 per cent of brands today. Both best practice and common sense tell us that validating this information on collection is the only way to guarantee its accuracy. However, less than half (46 per cent) of brands automatically validate customer information gathered from their websites, and just 45 per cent automatically verify data collected through internal CRM systems.
However, one in five marketers today report having no mechanisms in place to validate the customer data they capture. If customer data enters the CRM system with errors, it threatens to hurt much more than just marketing. Strategic decision-making, billing and sales are all crippled by inaccurate customer data.
Mastering dynamic data management
While the majority of brands collect data from static digital channels such as corporate websites and ecommerce platforms, far fewer brands enrich their customer insight with more dynamic data sources. Respondents to our survey said they use third-party databases (50 per cent), mobile phone numbers (30 per cent), social media (22 per cent), life events (17 per cent) and mobile apps (17 per cent).
Mapping existing customer data against dynamic sources or permissioned third-party data gives marketers the insight needed to identify particular purchasing triggers. Examples include those stimulated by a home move, a new addition to the family or making a major purchase.
In turn, these triggers and propensities to buy offer brands new sales opportunities and legitimate reasons to engage. Knowledge of a consumer’s channel preferences and state of mind are therefore critical to increasing a campaign’s effectiveness.
But with so few organisations actively collecting it, the implication is that marketers are ill-equipped to use real-time, dynamic data sources in their targeting or messaging. This reality must change if brands are to overcome their biggest challenges – finding new customers and reducing churn rates.
Our survey found that businesses lose, on average, 20 per cent of their customers each year. Plugging the hole to stop the leaky bucket is critical if marketers want to avoid spending again and again to regain lost customers.
Keeping in touch, remaining relevant
As customers demand more personalised and relevant brand engagement across an omnichannel landscape, it is no longer enough to rely on customer insight gathered from a brand’s static channels. Marketers who don’t keep track of customers’ preferred communications channels or life circumstances will ultimately take a step backwards in both retaining and attracting loyal customers.
Accurate, up-to-date, permissioned customer data is the new baseline for effective digital marketing. To succeed in this environment, it is essential that marketers combine automated data verification processes with rich data sources and dynamic business operations. Only then will they turn customer insight into relevant, timely and appropriate marketing communications that customers welcome and prospects get excited about.
By Jim Conning, Managing Director, Royal Mail Data Services
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