Losing sight of the customer can mean losing out on business. By being intentional with the customer experience and truly being able to orchestrate it, the relationship between customer and company will grow stronger. 

“Digital technology, when connected effectively, is how companies can keep up with ever-increasing customer expectations for relevance, consistency and ultimately value in the customer relationship,” said Matt Parisi, director of product marketing at Tealium. 

Tealium is a customer data platform that uses tag management, APIs and other integrations to connect your data and manage digital properties, and it is a sponsor of Simpler Media Group’s recent Digital Experience Summit. To follow up on Matt’s session about first-party data strategies, SMG spoke with him.

Keeping Up with Customer Demands

Simpler Media Group: Why is digital marketing technology important to customer experiences?

Parisi: The customer journey is increasingly empowered by digital technology, in virtually every single industry. Not only is a significant chunk of the customer journey completed in a digital context, but digital technology can also better enable almost any customer engagement, even physical interactions. So in that way, digital becomes not only the most dominant channel, but also an enabling technology for any customer engagement. 

In case anybody doubted that, the pandemic really shined a spotlight on the companies that could harness digital versus those that couldn’t. It looks slightly different vertical to vertical, but the common thread is those companies that were agile with digital — and by extension their data — were the ones that thrived. 

SMG: How have digital marketing and tracking customer preferences changed in recent years?

Parisi: It might be easier to ask how they haven’t changed. The importance of first-party data, and the practices around it, have really undergone a seismic shift. While technology is constantly emerging to help solve these challenges, there’s also a constant flow of new restrictions to address. 

As I mentioned earlier, the pandemic really shined a spotlight on the importance and effectiveness of digital. Simultaneous to that, companies’ use of digital has been maturing, societal expectations have been shifting, governments have implemented regulations and customer expectations are constantly on the rise. 

Privacy has really surged to the forefront. You can see what Apple is doing over the last couple years restricting access to data. At the same time, customers still have high expectations for how companies deliver experiences, which largely comes down to how good they are at applying insights from the data they have access to. It really places a premium on trust in the customer relationship, and you’ll never be able to establish that trust unless you really prioritize how you use data across the customer journey.

Data Decisions

SMG: What do these changes mean for data-driven business strategies?

Parisi: It means you need to be really good at connecting and orchestrating the customer experience. Constantly closing the gaps of manual effort to deliver CX, so that you can always stay focused on the most valuable area to improve. Not only the experience itself, but how you come to learn and optimize the experience as well. 

I would say it points to the need for companies to really become intentional in how they manage the data that represents and drives the customer experience. That improved management and integration of data is the single most effective way to win with your customer experience.

That is certainly easier said than done as it’s simply not realistic to expect any single system, department, or team to take care of it. It’s really something that needs to be done holistically, and in many ways it does require new skills, new technologies, and — most importantly — the culture to match. If you don’t do it that way, ultimately it’s the customer who pays the price, and that is not the greatest business strategy at this point in time.

SMG: What do you see as the biggest gaps between the optimal digital experience and reality? How can companies do better? 

Parisi: The single biggest gap at this point in time is the culture that exists in an organization around the use of data. Compounding that challenge is the scarcity of talent for certain technical skills. By combining the right technology and partners with an organizational culture that embraces the use of data across departmental silos, companies can create an ecosystem that produces standout customer experiences without needing every employee to be a developer or data engineer. Much of it comes down to taking things that formerly were technical and accessible only to the privileged few (whether privileged due to skillset, or department or access to technology), and making the value of that technical tactic more accessible to the whole ecosystem. 

Learning Opportunities

There’s a big gap between how well companies think they’re doing and what customers perceive. Luckily, this is also an area where data can close the gap.

Illustration with red box and white lettering to top left saying DX Summit

Intentionality of Experience

SMG: What advice do you have for organizations who want to overhaul their digital experience as part of a digital transformation initiative, but aren’t sure where to begin?

Parisi: I think first off you have to recognize the connected nature of the customer experience and the need for something to underpin that. As you can tell, I believe the underpinning is the use of data and managing it in a channel-agnostic way. It’s important to have the whole lifecycle of that data in mind and not work at it one piece at a time. 

For example, the way you collect data does in fact impact how fast and the ways that you can activate the data. So if you’re talking about collecting data without thinking how it will be activated, that’s the first thing to fix. What connects the dots for the customer journey? 

From there, it’s thinking about the customer journey itself, and slowly but surely working to improve that journey at each step. Making the experience better, but also automating how it happens to scale. 

Over time, if you do this with data at the core, with an eye over the full lifecycle of managing the data (collection, governance, generating insights, activating experiences), you will master the use of data across the customer journey. As your mastery of data over the journey increases and you manage more and more pieces of the data, you will open up true orchestration of CX. 

Use case by use case, gaining control over the usage of data enables companies to deliver value quickly, while also building towards transformational change.

SMG: What do you like to do in your spare time?

Parisi: I’m somewhat newly retired from being an avid ultimate frisbee player, but have been coaching ultimate frisbee and playing disc golf with my newfound time. I’m on the lookout for new hobbies, though. I love sports, mostly football, basketball and baseball, so I spend a lot of time doing that. Hanging out with my dog, reading and gardening are some of my other favorite activities.

Watch Matt’s full Digital Experience Summit session on-demand here.