Treat experiences like products and align data strategies accordingly

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Data is the core asset underpinning the way brands connect with their customers. But even among many of today’s most innovative companies, their approach to data – like their approach to other key aspects of operations and organization – is defined and aligned around selling products.

But product and product advertising are not the only driver of growth, nor are they even the most important. Today, customers are bringing their impressions of their entire experience, and the myriad moments that comprise that experience, into play when making purchasing decisions.

This new paradigm of the personalized experience – delivered at speed and scale across touchpoints and throughout the buying journey – requires brands to meet the challenge with more than MartTech alone. It demands a whole new vision of data.

Mastering data through a modern customer experience mindset demands that brands make a crucial shift in data strategy from a media-led focus on quantity to one designed to deeply understand customer needs, values, and motivations.

There are four key steps to making that shift:

1. Collecting new data.

Policies and legislation are rapidly altering the way brands collect and manage customer data. And while the end state of our cookieless future remains uncertain, one aspect is clear: the high value of first-party data.

How much should your brand invest to capture that value and data? That will be determined by many factors, including industry and business model. Ultimately, though, goals for acquisition, enrichment, and activation of data will help lay that foundation.

Ask these crucial questions:

  1. How will you use this data?
  2. How will you acquire the data you need?
  3. Are you providing value to customers in exchange?
  4. What data do you already have?
  5. If customers aren’t willing to give you data, why is that?

2. Thinking of experiences as products.

Another way to shift your approach to data strategy – especially for brands with an entrenched organizational and operational alignment to product-driven growth – is to think of your brand’s experiences as products.

For example, let’s say you have a great product demonstration on your site that drives a potential customer to ask a question. You will get data from this person in exchange, such as an email address, reason to buy, time of day, location, and inclination to purchase.

In this example, it is the experience of the demo and timely and helpful responses to the customer’s questions – not the product alone – that drives value for your brand. By orienting teams and operations around the design and delivery of these experiences, your data strategy will begin to align as well.

3. Making new connections.

Building desired customer experience requires a disciplined approach to examine not only how people experience your brand in their lives today as well as how you envision it be in the future. Identify the moments that matter and uncover gaps in the data (as well as processes and technology) needed to personalize, contextualize, and connect experiences across the full arc of your relationship with each customer.

For example, a bank could look at a 23-year-old customer who just landed her first job out of college and write her off as a low-income individual. But, thinking holistically, in the next ten years, that same individual will likely need financing for a mortgage, upgraded car, IRA fund, and more.

Investment in cloud solutions will create new possibilities for real-time and two-way conversations with your audience. The cloud enables will shape the future of how data is utilized in your marketing programs. This offers simplistic and cost-friendly options to scale as you grow compared to expensive on-premises data storage options.

4. Understanding your customer’s world.

Data holds clues to what your customers want from your brand. Your data analysis team should help unlock business-driving insights which could help develop a new product feature to target lapsed customers, improve messaging to reach a growing audience segment, or implement a new service offering exclusively for high-value customers.

Be clear about the fact that metrics are not insights. Insights come just as much from digging into the experiences of the customers you didn’t acquire as the ones you did. They require an understanding of what is happening in your customers’ world: which other companies are talking to them, their social dynamics, and how they are engaging with their communities.

Today’s marketers must redefine marketing measurement to incentivize insight development. What gets measured gets done.

The CX imperative

Command of customer data in the context of CXM not only enables personalization at scale, but it also gives customer-obsessed brands the ability to skate to where the puck is going before it gets there rather than chasing behind it. The result for brands is more lasting relationships, substantial lifetime value, and sustainable competitive advantage.

For a more in-depth look at the topics above and further insights on shaping customer relationships in the new age of experience, check out Merkle’s annual thought leadership flagship report, 2022 CX Imperatives: Shaping Customer Relationships in The New Age of Experience.