Customer Experience Management (CXM) Unifies Data — and the Roles of Advertising and Marketing

Traditionally, advertisers collected data for a very specific reason — to create relevant messages and target those messages at the right moment to prospects and customers. It made sense. What brand wanted to send a promo code on a buyer who would never click “buy” to get those sneakers? Or waste an ad impression for a flight on a consumer who just booked her entire vacation?

Until recently, that’s how being a data-driven advertiser worked, and it was an improvement over more traditional advertising approaches — hitting a mass market with your message and hoping for the best (also known as “spray and pray”). Even so, this data-driven approach was limited.

That feels like it could have been a lifetime ago when you consider today’s pace of change. Particularly in the universe of customer experiences, the nature and use of data — what we collect and analyze, what we do with insights, and how advertisers and marketers take action on it — has evolved dramatically.

We’ve shifted from simply gathering and analyzing data we collect in disparate adtech/martech systems and optimizing future efforts, to building a more complete view of our customers. Today, we can understand context, location, demographics, preferences, and behaviors in real time.

Customer experience meets advertising and marketing

Today’s data-centric customer experiences are being created at a more holistic, customer-first level. It’s no longer simply about using data and insights to create the right advertising message — rather, it’s becoming ever more necessary to unify data from all available sources to better understand customers in real time and to intelligently reach them across all channels with the next best experience. That might take the form of an ad, but it might be another touchpoint, such as an email with customer service, on the consumer journey.

That’s where the importance of customer experience management (CXM) comes in. Done well, smart, strategic CXM makes a big impact. Eighty-four percent of companies working to improve customer experiences are increasing their revenue, and organizations classifying themselves as “very advanced” experience-wise are almost three times more likely to have exceeded their top 2018 business goals by a significant margin.

That said, trying to overcome fragmented, siloed data that’s living in different departments is no small feat — but one that’s necessary for effective CXM. It’s also a pervasive challenge considering 55% of companies say they work in silos.

Additionally, personally identifiable information (PII) has historically been separate from pseudonymous data collected online. Without reconciling and bringing all data types together — known and pseudonymous, data from varying devices, and more — it’s impossible to have a true, complete view of your customers.

So, the marketers and advertisers must responsibly manage all of this data and apply various rules governing it. For example, PII and pseudonymous data must be treated differently due to regulatory requirements. And while it can be hard to adhere to all of the governance and consent standards that each data source requires, it is an absolute must for brands operating in today’s regulatory environment.

Another byproduct of fragmented data is disjointed messaging that goes to market from different channels. This problem is furthered by the fact that there are always new channels adding another identity to the customer profiles you’ve already resolved. Getting to the point of having real-time unified customer profiles that can be activated across channels requires an intelligent and scalable system.

The impact of unified profiles on the ad experience

With a unified customer profile, advertisers can connect the data dots to recognize that these three email addresses, those two phone numbers, these four devices, and a cookie from an anonymous sign-in are just different identities of the same person. And, considering customers use an average of six touchpoints when making a purchase — and 98% of customers switch services daily — you likely have that level of intel about a single person.

Reconciling identity this way helps advertisers and their marketing counterparts take action to refine experiences by ensuring consistency and better sequenced messaging as that customer jumps from platform to device.

For the first time, advertisers and marketers can truly work together to orchestrate cross-channel campaigns. They can see the exact journey a customer is taking and know the best time to introduce a new touchpoint to the mix — sending that promotional email, presenting a new mobile offer, or pushing an app upgrade. That added layer of relevance can instantly deepen a customer-brand relationship while driving immediate, measurable results.

A future of unified profiles — and unified advertising and marketing

Thanks to unified profiles, customers no longer have to remind you what they want, need, and prefer, nor do they have to reset their preferences, complete their profile over and over, or restart a shopping session. And, finally, they’ll stop seeing ads for products they just purchased, something any e-commerce customer can get behind.

Unified profiles and overall data management let advertisers connect more to the customer experience development process, and advertising is just a piece of that CX pie. The goal should be for all channels to reach the customer through what resonates to each individual. That’s something everyone can rally around.

Through that lens, gaining a competitive advantage isn’t about speaking to your customers better than the rest — it’s about getting advertising and every other experience “right” by using customer data to the fullest.

The delivery of the best possible customer experiences — at scale, in real time, and in an open and intelligent system — is the ultimate unifier for sales, marketing, and customers.

Learn more about customer experience management and Adobe Experience Cloud.

This article first appeared in the MIT Technology Review.