crossing the bridge in Geierlay, Mörsdorf, Germany
PHOTO: Gunnar Ries zwo

Consumers shop both in the real world and online, crossing back and forth between the two without a second thought. But connecting the dots between online and offline data isn't quite so easy for brands, making it a problem and a priority. 

I hope you like building bridges ....

Seamless CX in a Fragmented Marketing Landscape

I came across a spreadsheet the other day that listed 126 potential marketing channels. While this list contained all the usual suspects (web, email social, paid search, mobile, physical ads, display ads, PR, etc.), it was by no means comprehensive. For example, it didn’t include advocate marketing, live chat, podcasts, Snapchat and so on.

Having to work in all of those channels makes marketing a fragmented endeavor, and the challenge is exacerbated by the fact that shoppers jump across those touchpoints like Frogger. Trying to make use of the data collected in those channels, each held in its own system and rarely shared with others, is a big problem for brands — particularly when they attempt to develop an accurate record for each customer or create consistent brand experiences.

Yet the problems are not limited to siloed data. Fragmentation exists on the execution side, too.

Social media managers, for example, will be concerned about their own data and responsibilities. They’re arguably less focused on how a recent social engagement could affect a forthcoming email campaign. In the same way, an email loyalty message might not factor in a recent complaint to a customer service team.

However, in the quest to become omnichannel operations, one of the biggest chasms exists between your online and offline channels and the data they collect.

To customers, you are one brand, no matter what channel (or channels) they use. When they fall into the cracks between touchpoints — meaning their journey “conversation” isn’t maintained — their customer experience is damaged. Such problems can potentially derail a customer on the path to making a purchase.

So how do you bring your online and offline channels together and start to build seamless customer experiences?

Related Article: Clear These 6 Data Hurdles to Achieve a 360-Degree Customer View

Attribution May Help Integration

One of the biggest factors contributing to the gap between online and offline data is a lack of insight into how offline touchpoints have influenced online stages of the customer journey, and vice versa. Brands need to think of ways to combine the two.

This could mean tracking the in-store movements of location-enabled mobile devices belonging to customers to whom you sent coupons. It could mean asking for online reviews of products purchased offline, or linking an online purchase to a loyalty account in-store with a “click and collect” service. It could be something as straightforward as encouraging people to visit a custom landing page advertised on a billboard or a print ad.

Unify Data in a Single Customer View

Efforts to connect online and offline marketing, as in the examples above, don’t necessarily merge data collected from different channels into a single point of reference. To solve the problem of fragmented data, you need to bring it all into one place. Then it needs to be clean, accurate, deduplicated, standardized and enhanced with a single customer view (SCV). With an SCV creating unified golden records, marketers can create personalized treatments across all channels.

It means that retailers, for example, can link website and in-store point-of-sale transactions to specific individuals in their databases. It means that they will know if a customer bought two dresses online but returned one in-store, and that they will have the ability to measure that customer’s lifetime value appropriately. It means they won’t send abandoned-cart emails to customers who later went to stores and bought the items that had been in their online carts.

Related Article: Omnichannel Retail and the Omnipresent Customer

Onboarding Offline Data to Create Relevant Campaigns Online

Data onboarding is the process of matching personally identifiable information (PII, usually the data in your own database) with non-PII data. This can include offline purchasing records and loyalty card data. This typically involves sending first-party customer lists to an onboarding company that will match customer identities with their offline data sets to create new digital IDs.

These IDs can then by utilized by a data management platform (DMP) to place online display ads. This could involve retargeting people who have visited your store by presenting them with ads on social media, or ensuring that visitors to a publisher’s news site are shown ad campaigns that reflect their online and offline behavior.

While DMPs are good for creating personalized experiences to “people,” they aren’t so useful when marketing to “persons.” For those types of engagements, where you’re communicating with a named individual rather than “Ms. X who likes Y,” you’ll want a customer data platform (CDP).

Related Article: Navigating Complex Worlds of Personal Data

Unified Decisions From a Single Orchestration Tool

A CDP lets you reference a single data source and make golden records visible to all your marketing tools. Yet as I’ve mentioned, having separate decision systems (and decision-makers) means there will still be a barrier to the creation of omnichannel customer journeys.

Once you have unified your online and offline data, it makes sense to be able to orchestrate and coordinate multichannel journeys from a single decision engine, too. This enables marketers to react to results from one channel by changing course in another channel (halting a promotional message to a customer experiencing a service problem, for example). Or it could give you the ability to adjust multistep journeys to different channels based on customer preference or performance.

Creating and coordinating marketing efforts that cross bridges between channels is just as important as developing customer profiles that can refer to an individual’s online and offline behavior. Do this, and no matter how big that marketing channel spreadsheet gets, you’ll never be worried about fragments — you will just be looking forward to another source of data to help you build ever more relevant and personalized experiences.