The challenge of linking digital data: email, mobile, social and more

A friend mentioned the other day that he’d recently made a significant kitchen appliance purchase online with a large retailer, and the next week he received an email from the same retailer promoting the appliance for $300 less than what he paid for it. So he called customer services and asked for the discount. The retailer complied (which made him happy), but it made us wonder: what if he never knew about the discount? Would he have been any worse off? How many other customers did the same thing he did? What did his actions cost the company?

This is a common scenario for retailers because they do not have a 360° view of their customers across all digital channels, and therefore, are lacking an understanding of their customers’ behaviors. If the retailer was able to identify who my friend was across all channels and recognize that he had already made the appliance purchase, wouldn’t it have made more sense to send him an offer for something else — or at the very least, not show him a discounted price on the item he’d just purchased? What if that retailer was able to connect his purchase (he gave them his name, terrestrial address and email address when he bought the appliance) to their customer database and make the distinction before the discounted email went out?  An email thanking him for his purchase would have made much more sense, and he might have appreciated an offer for an accessory that he hadn’t initially purchased.

Marketers today face unprecedented challenges when it comes to creating and maintaining a holistic view of their customers across their marketing ecosystem. It seems that customer interaction points, particularly in the digital world, continue to multiply on a daily basis. Add in the pressure of customers expecting highly relevant communications when and where they want them, and the business goals of increasing the lifetime value (LTV), and it equates to an increasingly difficult environment in which marketers must work. Finding, consolidating and analyzing data to achieve optimal customer interaction has never been further from us — and yet has never been so close.

With a plethora of tools available, marketers can reach their customers through emails, online profiles, loyalty programs, social network profiles and more. What hasn’t been readily available is the ability to link these digital profiles together, reducing duplication in marketing databases, giving marketers a clear understanding of active and inactive customers, plus who is buying from them, where they are shopping and how they want to be interacted with.

On the surface, this kind of customer information integration seems like a fairly simple task. Underneath however, there are several nuances within customer identity resolution that make this a profoundly difficult task. This isn’t about appending data; it’s about using the data a company already has, housed in multiple databases, and linking it all together through sophisticated matching algorithms that leverage a rich repository of referential data.

To make an integrated marketing strategy work, you need to be able to:

1. Validate contact data in real time, as it is entered online, in-store and over the phone

2. Create linkage of disparate identities and data sets, using merely a single piece of personally identifiable information for any customer

3. Enhance your data with a 360-degree view of your customers

4. Cleanse your data to remove duplicates or inaccurate information

5. Profile your best customers and understand how they want to be reached: mobile, email, catalog, social and more

6. Identify more customers like your best customers

Organizations can build this infrastructure in-house, however the process necessitates a large investment in technology and resources. In addition, the ability to resolve identities would be limited to the pieces of information collected by the organization. By working with an experienced partner who can resolve your customer and prospect identities across mediums, marketers create consistent and coordinated messaging strategies, understand the optimal path to purchase activities, maximize return on marketing investment and create memorable experiences for their customers.