Did you catch the 2018 marketing technology landscape slide, presented at the annual Martech conference this spring? It shows 6,829 martech solutions available in the market — nearly twice as many as the 3,500 solutions counted just two years ago.

With so much software available, marketers have continued to grow their martech stacks. In fact, the average enterprise uses 91 marketing cloud services, according to Mary Meeker’s 2017 Internet Trends report.

But big martech suites and huge martech stacks don’t solve a fundamental problem many marketers face — making the data you have about customers actionable. The data you have about customers is too often trapped in multiple martech tools and databases. As martech stacks grow, it becomes more difficult for marketing organizations to resolve those various data sets into one central database. If you don’t have a tool that lets you collect all your customer data in one central place — in real-time — you can’t accurately resolve individual customer identities. And you can’t deliver relevant, timely marketing.

The Problem of Fractured Customer Identities

With only fractured customer identities to work from, an automobile insurance company may email an offer for its service to someone who’s been a customer for years. In this example, the insurance company did absolutely nothing to obtain a new customer, or make its existing customer happy.

Here’s another example: You email a promotion for a specific product to a customer. But because your data sources are siloed, you have no idea that this customer just lodged an angry complaint — about the product your email promotes — with your customer service department.

If you’re working with siloed sets of customer data, you may also be relying upon data that’s outdated — or isn’t updated in real-time — which can also cause you to waste effort and miss opportunities.

Resolving customer identities is an important step toward solving the fractured customer identity problem. But it’s really just the first step. You need the ability to make informed decisions based on your customer data, and at scale. And you need an intelligent system that can deliver highly relevant marketing.

Related Story: 5 Reasons to Make a Customer Data Platform the Hub of Your Martech Stack

Why Relevancy is Critical

As with the examples above, fractured customer identities do nothing to build customer trust. Nor do they make your customers happy. And keeping customers happy is critical, if for no other reason than it costs 5 to 10 times more to acquire a customer than to keep one, according to data from MarketingProfs.

Research shows that personalization is an ideal way to create customer loyalty—and a loyal customer is a happy one. In a Business Insider report, for example, 44% of survey respondents said that a personalized shopping experience was more likely to make them repeat buyers.

Personalization is key because it’s the secret sauce in relevant marketing. Successfully delivering the right personalized offers, promotions, and other marketing content at the right time — and at scale — is many marketers’ top goal today, because what you’re offering is highly relevant to your customer. According to a report from Adobe and the Digital Marketing Association, 77% of brands believe real-time personalization of their marketing efforts is “crucial,” yet 60% say they struggle to personalize marketing content in real time.

When you can understand where a customer is in their journey and then personalize an experience — not just a message — to that stage of their journey, you’ve nailed the relevancy goal. But when you lack a unified view of your customers, you’re not likely to know where they are in their journey. And that can make the marketing content you deliver to customers completely irrelevant.

Actionable Intelligence Based on a Holistic View of Your Customer

Fractured customer identities are why real-time personalization is so difficult. To deliver highly personalized marketing content that will make customers happy throughout their journey, or turn prospects into new customers, you need a unified, holistic view of each customer, as well as the means to deliver the next-best message to them. And you need to do this at scale.

“The ability to accurately identify customers is the most basic prerequisite for marketing analytics, orchestration, and execution,” according to Forrester analyst Joe Stanhope, in his October 2016 report “The Strategic Role of Identity Resolution.” “And it’s becoming more critical than ever for firms planning to link systems of insight and engagement to foster seamless and relevant cross-channel customer experiences.”

Learning Opportunities

A single view of the customer tells you not only the ways in which the customer has engaged with your brand in the past. When combined with machine learning, a unified view of your customer can also help predict what that customer may want from you in the future--and allow you to deliver.

With one sophisticated, unified set of data about your customers — which encompasses insights from all the ways your customers engage with you — you’ll gain actionable insights to inform your marketing efforts. You’ll drive customer loyalty. And because your marketing initiatives show that you understand your customers, you’ll build trust with them.

Leveraging a Customer Data Platform as Your Hub

Many marketing automation software solutions are designed to help brands with personalization at scale. But rarely do these solutions integrate all the various types of data across all the various marketing platforms and employ advanced algorithmic logic to accurately unify customer profiles. Some tools may resolve customer identities to a certain degree. But the data — and the decision making that comes from it — isn’t portable to other platforms.

The ideal approach is to build your marketing initiatives with a Customer Data Platform (CDP) solution as the smart hub. The rest of your martech stack can act as the spokes, an approach that Gartner and others have espoused. With this approach, all your marketing initiatives begin with a unified view of your customers, instead of ending with a fractured view.

Some large enterprises build their own CDP to predict, say, which movie or TV show you might want to watch next or which book you’d probably enjoy reading. But these systems are expensive to build and maintain. And they don’t often deliver real-time insights. Customer needs and preferences change quickly. Many large enterprises have amassed troves of data and have a team of capable data scientists. But the time lapse between receiving data and delivering decision-support to marketers can be weeks or months long, resulting in insights that are outdated.

Fortunately, ready-to-deploy CDP solutions are available. With a CDP solution, you can quickly integrate all your customer data, regardless of how disorganized, disparate or siloed it is, into unified customer profiles that serve as the hub of your martech stack.

The ideal CDP solution takes advantage of machine learning to deliver even deeper insights into your customers’ journeys, such as the ability to identify audiences most likely to engage with your promotions. And by integrating all your customer data, the best CDP solutions reduce the complexity involved in capturing, managing, and operationalizing customer data.

Ultimately, with a unified view of customers, you’ve made all your customer data actionable. Now you can deliver the most relevant, personalized customer experiences, whether it’s via email, social, or another channel, and all in real-time. With the right content delivered at the right time to the right customer, you can increase sales, grow your business — and gain your customers’ trust.

Part of a 4 part sponsored article series from Lytics, an organization that helps enterprises automate personalized marketing experiences through the industry’s most advanced Customer Data Platform (CDP).