A critical capability for digital marketers is to get a proper understanding of their customers and their behaviors to be able to design the right experiences, run the right campaigns and provide the right content. Of course, understanding your customer base to a highly granular degree where you can identify and appreciate the likely nuances of the behavior of different segments, is a challenge.
One of the key barriers to understanding customers is having adequate data about them. In medium and larger organizations it is not always that the organization does not have data about customers; it is more that the data is stuck in different silos and systems, making it very difficult to get a full, 360 degree understanding of customers. In the CMSWire/Simpler Media Group “State of Digital Customer Experience 2020” report, a survey of over 325 executives listed “Siloed systems and/or fragmented customer data” as the number one significant challenge relating to customer experience.
There are also other potential barriers and hurdles to navigate such as ensuring the privacy of customer data and staying compliant with GDPR, levels of resourcing and also system capabilities.
Six ways to reduce customer data silos
There are however some actions that teams can take to try and reduce the fragmentation and silos in customer data in order to gain a better understanding of customers. Let’s explore six of these areas.
1. Work on change management
Often trying to combine data from different systems is regarded as a logistical or technical challenge, but actually it can also be a change management issue. Product owners and managers can be surprisingly possessive of the data that they own; they can be sensitive about exposing it to a wider audience, in case it means their performance is either questioned or it means they lose control over the way they operate. Some change and stakeholder management activity may need to take place to get everybody to buy-in to the idea of gathering and then combining customer data.
2. Set up a formal program or initiative
Setting up a more formal program or initiative with senior management backing (and ideally budget) is a good vehicle to try to consolidate customer data, particular in any reporting that comes out of the initiative. Potentially this could be a Voice of the Customer program or the execution of a customer experience improvement strategy.
3. Start to integrate data into one platform
A way to reduce silos is to start to integrate data into one platform or a reduced number of platforms. This could be a Digital Experience Platform (DXP) like Sitecore or Episerver for example, where you can assimilate data from different sources and where integration with your CRM platform can add a lot of value, giving you the opportunity to drive a better understanding of individual customers, segments and overall patterns. Building an ecosystem like this can also change the mindset about integrating data too. It’s also worth remembering that no system like this will be perfect or complete, but some centralization will prove better than none.
4. Work on the reporting
If your data is stuck in silos just creating some kind of report that brings it together can add a lot of value, even if it takes some manual effort. This could be a PowerPoint, a spreadsheet or even a Power BI dashboard. Just having a simple, regular report can open the path to assimilating more customer data in the future and can even evolve into automated reporting.
5. Work on the processes that follow from the reporting
Reporting has little value beyond tracking success unless subsequent actions come off the back of it. Therefore, if you do take the trouble to introduce a reporting process, always ensure there are tangible and visible actions that come off the back of the report where success can also be demonstrated. This will help to advance a customer-first culture in your organization where understanding data has recognized value.
6. Weave in automation and personalization
We work with Sitecore and Episerver, and we know the power of personalization and the related marketing automation. These practices go hand-in-hand with understanding customer data because not only are the associated actions data-driven but the results also feed into further understanding.
Therefore if you are looking to break down your customer data silos then align your personalization and marketing automation roadmap to these activities; one effort can give momentum to the other and illustrate the value of taking a more coordinated approach to evaluating your customer data.
Reducing the silos is a journey
Reducing the silos in your customer data to increase your understanding is a common challenge. It’s important to remember that it’s not something that happens overnight, and often an evolution over time. Although saying it’s “a journey” is a bit of a cliché, this time it really is true. We hope some of these ideas give you food for thought. If you’d like to discuss how Sitecore and Episerver can help reduce your customer data silos and give you a more joined-up view of your customers, then get in touch.