What do innovative companies like Netflix, Amazon, and Peloton have in common? They are successful, digitally native organizations that have forever reset expectations around customer experience by putting the customer at the center of everything they do. Since their emergence, we now think of viewing, shopping, and exercising in an entirely new way.
But the real lesson behind their success is less obvious. It has more to do with the underlying value exchange taking place between company and consumer: namely, the promise and delivery of valuable experiences in exchange for the consumer’s authentication and consent to marketing and communication. It is this mutually beneficial experience that enables brands to foster lasting engagement and loyalty among customers.
If companies competing in traditional ways want to level the playing field with their digitally native counterparts, they need to start acting more like them. In fact, research shows that long-standing companies that are competing in new, digital ways (think Nike Plus and Disney MagicBand) are already outperforming those that continue to operate traditionally.
But as customer journeys become more fragmented, data silos grow deeper, privacy regulations get steeper, and third-party data becomes less reliable, forming loyal, long-term customer relationships has become harder than ever. That’s because the teams that are responsible for interacting with customers and/or driving growth for the business, such as marketing, ecommerce, analytics, and customer support, are increasingly handcuffed by a lack of access to the unified, actionable first-party data they need they need to keep up with customers and effectively orchestrate individualized experiences across all touchpoints and throughout every customer lifecycle stage.
The Cost of Inaccessible First-Party Data
Part of why digitally native brands have been so successful comes from their ability to unify all their first-party data in one place with the single customer view at the center of their business, and then act on that data immediately. Rather than operating from a series of siloed systems and disconnected sources, they have a data infrastructure that brings the customer’s full perspective into focus and allows them to take a holistic, end-to-end approach to customer experience.
Accessing unified, actionable first-party data is significantly more difficult for traditional brands, however. Some have lacked access to customer data, or have historically conceded it to other entities. CPG companies, in particular, face challenges when it comes to collecting and unifying first-party data into a single customer view because they have historically sold their products through retailers that limit the amount of customer data they are willing to share. It’s much like the relationship between travel companies and OTAs or publishers and the major browsers that enable access to their digital content.
On the other hand, some companies, may be sitting on a goldmine of data, but they are realizing the pain of trying to use legacy technologies to support a fast-moving, end-to-end customer experience. Since different teams use different systems, each with its own unique way of storing data and recognizing customers, they aren’t able support dynamic and reactive interactions with customers based on a full understanding of who they are and where they are on their unique journey.
Failure to address these issues can come at a considerable cost. In fact, 60% of enterprise companies believe the failure to deliver a positive customer experience results in decreased customer retention, and 57% anticipate a decrease in sales or loss of company revenue. Perhaps more unnerving are the hidden operational inefficiency costs tied to inaccessible first-party data. When customer-facing teams have to wait days or weeks to get data from over-burdened IT departments and costly external agencies, their efforts to deliver bespoke experiences across all touchpoints are effectively neutralized.
A Way Forward
All of these dynamics point to one essential move traditional enterprise companies must take: as they embrace new digital strategies and technologies to enable them, they need to build a single source of customer data truth that is accessible in real time and enables marketing and other growth-focused teams to easily and efficiently act on that data.
In an attempt to create this real-time single customer view, some companies are turning to legacy solutions, including master data management software, data warehouses, and data lakes. But these solutions were designed for operations, finance, IT, and other internal-facing parts of the business, and bids to repurpose them have proved ineffective for orchestrating customer experiences time and again. Marketing “suites” that claim to be comprehensive solutions have also fallen short when it comes to recognizing customers and helping cross-functional teams act in real time with data from across the journey.
That’s why more and more companies are investing in a customer data platform (CDP), which sets out to solve these longstanding challenges once and for all. Unlike other technologies, a CDP unifies first-party customer data from disparate systems at an individual level. Equally important, it delivers that unified profile data back to business technology users in marketing, ecommerce, analytics, customer support, etc. in a format their tools can use to not only improve how they engage with customers, but also how they build segments, conduct modeling and analytics, and more.
Moreover, by creating this glue between systems that didn’t exist before, CDPs enable far greater business agility and resiliency – a must-have competency in today’s uncertain business climate. With access to unified, actionable persistent-person level profiles that update in real time, business users can become more nimble in their day-to-day and quickly make adjustments to personalized messaging and programs when the unexpected inevitably arises.
Today’s leading digital natives have proven that value-driven customer experiences are the ultimate competitive differentiator. To level the playing field, traditional companies must put the customer front and center in every single facet of their business. By liberating first-party data from disparate systems and making it available to business users whenever and wherever they need it, the CDP has become the essential tool for companies looking to transform their customer relationships and drive business growth.