It All Starts and Ends with Data
By: Michael Lewis, Group VP, Retail, Zeta Global
Just back from eTail West, I can’t help but wonder if we, as technology solution providers, are pushing the right message to marketers in 2019. Marketing today is all about personalization and individualization, right? My immediate answer is: absolutely! But, after speaking with retailers from eTail in February and NRF in January, I have to change my answer and say, “No, it’s all about DATA.”
What are retailers most struggling with when it comes to reaching that level of personalization they want to achieve with consumers? Data. Data. Data – all day long, it’s data. So, while we can talk about personalization until we lose our voices (which is actually what happened to me), if the data isn’t available, the personalization will never happen.
Why is data such a struggle for retailers? There isn’t just one simple answer to that question. We know the struggles in our everyday practice with brands. Customer demographic data may be in one database, while point-of-sale data may be in another – no centralization. Or, you may understand the criticality of the data, but it may take you a weeks-long project request protocol to get it from IT – no accessibility. Or, perhaps the data is all in one place, and you have access to it, but you can’t engage with it – no activation capability. Or finally, the data you have doesn’t tell you enough to personalize effectively. When I sat down with Forrester’s Brendan Witcher at NRF he had this to say about some of these issues’ retailers are facing. And, the situation wasn’t any different at eTail.
At a private luncheon we hosted at eTail we surveyed our retail audience members about their current and future plans to implement more personalization into their marketing programs. We were happy to learn that roughly 50% of them do go beyond using “first name” strategies to deliver personalized experiences on their websites and/or email communications. This was consistent with what we heard in our report with The Relevancy Group earlier this year. But we were also disappointed that the other 50% can’t reach that level of sophistication – often due to data struggles we highlighted above.
Are you one of those marketers struggling with personalization? Perhaps It’s because you’re not getting your data right, or, getting the right data. The critical first step is to know what data you have and, more importantly, profoundly understanding what you currently know about your customers.
Before launching a personalization strategy, make yourself the following checklist, because without “yes’” to these, you can’t go far:
- Do I know where all my data is?
- Is my data organized in a clear, consolidated view? Do I have everything in one place?
- Do I understand my customers well enough to identify who is valuable to me and who is worth cutting loose?
- Do I know which data points can lead to memorable experiences for our customers and market-moving results for us?
- Can I activate the data in a personalized way in my marketing tech stack?
If you can answer “yes” all those questions, it’s time to focus on personalization and individualization. And, if you are just starting there, don’t fret. You’re with about 50% of all brands in the U.S. Here are my suggestions:
- Don’t try to be “hyperdynamic” on the first day.
- Know your customers as you have them, not as you perceive them to be.
- Test what data points are helping you identify the most valuable customers you have.
- Test what data points – combined with appropriate content – drive results.
- Consider looking outside for a partner who can help you “mirror” those valuable customers so that you can identify and win those consumers over to your brand.
Don’t let personalization and individualization leave you feeling intimidated. Review your data assets and strategy before you embark on a personalization journey. If you do it right the first time, you will undoubtedly succeed and turn your highly-valued customer data into individual connections who identify with your brand and want to purchase your products and services.
Consider looking outside for a partner who can help you “mirror” those valuable customers so that you can identify and win those consumers over to your brand.
Michael Lewis, Group Vice President, Client Services, at Zeta Global, leverages his expertise in retail and marketing to transform our clients’ customer relationships — helping them identify the right data to move from a “reactive” model to a highly personal and individual strategy that anticipates and predicts their next need with great accuracy.