Customer Experience, Are Marketers Using Data to Its Full Potential? No Way“Big Data” has been an industry buzzword since it burst onto the marketing scene in the early 2000s. Unfortunately, more than a decade later, it remains a confusing buzzword for many marketers.

All marketers use data in some form, even basic metrics such as email open rates or website traffic, but few are capturing the full potential of data, analyzing it for meaningful insights that offer opportunities for true improvement. A 2012 Columbia Business School/New York Marketing Association study found that 60 percent of marketers face a “major challenge” evaluating the effectiveness of their marketing across multiple channels, and 39 percent said they collected customer data too infrequently.

Where to Begin with Big Data

In some ways, it’s a problem of where to start -- and how to turn complex data into intelligent, actionable insights. Most marketing organizations have collected more data than they know what to do with, but the idea of mining that wealth of information is so intimidating that marketers do little more than dip their toes in the water.

One key to getting things moving can simply be to start small. The term Big Data can be daunting, but if instead of big data, marketers start with a specific business challenge, such as “how can I optimize the customer experience for each channel or mobile device,” they will have some more manageable data perimeters.

There are also modern analytics solutions that can help marketers collect and analyze data more quickly and cost-effectively than ever before, whereas in years past it has been difficult, time-consuming and expensive to do so. These solutions are enabling some companies to move forward and turn their data into intelligent insights.

A broadcasting, publishing and digital media company that reaches 52 million Americans each week is turning its vast repositories of information including web, advertising and social data, into actionable insights that will ultimately help the company deliver a more rewarding customer experience across multiple channels.

According to a senior director at this company,

For content publishers, knowing our customers is a critical necessity. We aren't interested in segmenting customers into generic groups; we want to understand each individual’s journey, how they interact with us across multiple channels and what we can do to make their experience better.”

Creating a Unified View of the Customer

Customers now interact with brands across an average of seven digital channels, which makes it difficult for marketers to get a single, holistic view of the customer. If a customer engages with a brand from a PC, mobile phone and iPad, for example, the company may mistakenly see him as three different visitors.

These days, however, an advanced marketing technology called visitor stitching can link these multiple points of contact together into a single view of the customer, so companies can see that five website visits from three different devices were actually all made by the same person. From these individualized profiles, which comprise a full story of preferences and history, marketers obtain a complete view of their customers. From this they can create advanced segmentations that can be used to predict which customers are most likely to buy, what they are most likely to buy next and which ones are at risk of buying elsewhere.

The goal of all this is to enable marketers to create an improved customer experience that ultimately drives higher sales and profitability for the company. Research shows that more than half of customers are willing to pay more for a better experience. That’s why a strong understanding of each individual customer is critical for marketers today.

Say an imaginary online customer visits your retail website on her laptop, then again on her iPad. That same week, she makes a purchase on her iPad, calls in to a customer service center to make a change to her order and then tracks the order via laptop. Without data stitching, she might be treated as several different customers based on these interactions, and that can have disastrous results.

How would she feel if she receives an email offer for the product she just bought? Instead, marketers can use customer intelligence technology to visualize the customer’s actual journey, understanding her full history of interactions with their brands to build a more valuable long-term relationship.

Customers will only become more demanding over time, and the brands that know how to leverage big data to gain insights -- rather than simply using it as a buzzword -- are beginning to pull ahead.

Don’t be intimidated by data: Your organization may already have more than enough to work with. The key is to identify the right technology for processing, analyzing and creating links in your data to find the gems of information hidden inside. Armed with a comprehensive picture of your customers and your own marketing efforts, your data-enforced brand can provide the best possible experience.

Title image courtesy of Max4 (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Read another perspective on how marketers can successfully harness Big Data in Marketing: Bigger, Better, Stronger, Faster with Big Data Analytics