Elevating Brand Success Through Customer Data Management

Customer Data Management

Why Customer Data Management Matters

Creating a true, single view of each customer isn’t easy. It requires connecting disparate data sources and ensuring the data within those sources is accurate, fresh (timely), and easily accessible across business units:

  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Customer service
  • Business intelligence
  • And any other department that needs it

Yet creating a single customer view is more important than ever before. 

Important side note: Relevant, personalized messaging plays a major role in 60% of consumer shopping decisions in the United States, and it can reduce customer acquisition costs for brands by as much as 50%, saving brands billions of dollars every year.

Right now, the average American is inundated by non-personalized, non-relevant marketing that detracts from the customer experience. This leaves consumers feeling disconnected from the brands they patronize. To correct this problem, brands need a clear view into who the customer is and what the customer wants at a 1-to-1 level. Only by obtaining such a view can brands build rock-solid customer relationships that cultivate life-long loyalty and maximize retention. 

This is what makes customer data management so vital. Customer data management is how brands acquire the unified view of each individual customer required to achieve engagement across all online and offline channels. 

a graph depicting customer data management and the omnichannel journey
Source: McKinsey and Company

The Issue With Customer Data Management Today

Most brands silo customer data across multiple departments due to internal politicking or adherence to legacy modes of operation. 

Important side note: Brands are plagued by segmented customer data. Marketing owns one set of data. Operations owns another. Sales and Customer Service each possess their own data. The list can go on…

This segmentation makes it difficult for internal stakeholders—tasked with achieving various, customer-related goals—to do their respective jobs. 

It makes it harder for salespeople to win business when they don’t have real-time information on the customer’s behaviors and interests.

It makes it harder for account management to retain existing business when they can’t get the real-time insights needed to maximize the customer experience. 

It makes it harder for customer support to answer questions and resolve issues when they don’t have a full understanding of all the touchpoints for the customers.

As it stands, the majority of enterprise brands maintain a combination of systems and solutions to handle their customer data. It is a way of “doing business” that’s as antiquated and inefficient as it sounds—it makes creating a single, accurate view of the customer something between an impracticality and an impossibility. Worse still? When brands deploy disparate systems to manage customer data, it leads to unnecessary complexity that (more often than not) requires the acquisition of expensive consultants or “solutions experts” to resolve. 

“Can I have your email address, please?”

When a sales associate asks a customer for their email address at the checkout counter, they’re not doing it to become penpals. They are asking because obtaining a customer’s email during a brick-and-mortar transaction will allow the brand (e.g. Walgreens) to connect the offline experience with the online experience, and cultivate stronger brand loyalty in the process. Any future engagement that customer has with the brand—be it through an online channel or offline—will be enhanced by the data obtained (date of purchase, items purchased, total amount spent, etc.) during that initial transaction. 

Over time, additional information will be added to that customer’s data record, which can be used to paint a more holistic picture of who that individual really is and what they want from the brand. The more holistic the picture, the easier it is to forge a resilient customer relationship that drives optimal retention. However, that data can only be put to good use if it isn’t siloed across internal stakeholders. When data is siloed, brands lose out on opportunities to sell, upsell, cross-sell, and—most importantly—create an ever-improving customer experience that cements loyalty. 

The current soup of customer data management solutions…

Brands striving to create that all-important single customer view face the challenge of finding the right solution to meet their needs. There is no lack of variety in the options and functionality each provides.

Some of the more common customer data solutions available include:

Master Data Management (MDM)

Master data management is used by various departments within a business, from sales teams to customer service teams, to marketing teams. However, the known data of the customer is often limited to a name, an email address, a physical address, and any other basic known identifiers. To be of value, this data must be entirely accurate which means regular enrichment and hygiene are required. 

A graphic depicting the soup of customer data management solutions
Source: 451 Research Spotlight via Twitter

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Customer relationship management focuses on data from a communications perspective—it’s about the preservation of customer and prospect records for the benefit of the sales teams and marketing departments. In that sense, the ability to create segmented audiences using the information contained within a CRM is it’s greatest value. This is especially true when it comes to connecting with customers and prospects via perhaps the most important sales and marketing channel: email. 

Data Management Platform (DMP)

As far as customer information is concerned, the anonymized data collected and kept within Data Management Platforms can be linked to a brand’s first-party data, but that “enriched data” is only used to support the needs of digital advertising and paid media departments. For other stakeholders operating within the brand, the data is walled off. 

Customer Data Platform (CDP) 

There are many types of customer data platforms, and the definitions surrounding each of those platforms is ambiguous at best. Generally speaking, customer data platforms support data integration from various sources. However, the business operations and applications that can make use of what customer data platforms can offer are limited by the depth and quality of the data they contain. More often than not, the audiences and segments created inside the environment of a customer data platform cannot be easily activated.

The challenges associated with these data management solutions…


Fear of missing out (FOMO)

Hype-cycles—all too common when it comes to technologies related to marketing and advertising—can push brands to invest in ill-fitting solutions that don’t make sense for their goals.

Painful pricing

All of these solutions come with a price tag—the monetary and non-monetary costs (implementation, training, ongoing support, etc.) of bringing these disparate solutions online can be steep. 

Lack of flexibility

One size does NOT fit all when it comes to the aforementioned solutions. Brands in different industries with different operating models will require more flexibility than others—something not provided by the above off-the-shelf solutions.

Lack of functionality

Brands and marketing departments crave data standardization, normalization, hygiene, and enrichment. They also crave data that’s delivered in real time. The disparate solutions mentioned above can’t meet all of those needs.

Delivering a Single View of the Customer for All to Use

Going forward, obtaining a true, single view of the customer that can be used for all organizational stakeholders will be a top priority for brands. Constructing this single view means combining all known and unknown (anonymous) customer data—easier said than done. 

  • Known data derived through ID resolution technology requires hygiene and enrichment. 
  • Anonymous data derived through ID resolution technology requires unique data assets combined with data partners capable of offering depths and scale. 

These are two things a customer data management platform can do very well.  

An imaging illustrating how customer data management bridges the gap between known and unknown data
Bridging the gap between known and anonymous data.

Identity resolution

Combining disparate points of data (be it known or anonymous data) is one of the principal challenges of creating a single view of the customer. Known data is tied to an identifier that’s linkable to an individual. Anonymous data is tied to a unique identifier connected with a particular product, channel, or device (e.g. browser, smartphone, etc.) and acts as a proxy for an individual. 

Important side note: The most common digital identifier is email address. The most common analog identifier is NAP—Name-Address-Phone.

The value of known data is that it can be directly matched to an individual customer to measure things like authenticated behavior, ecommerce purchases, brick-and-mortar purchases, customer service communications, and more. The value of anonymous data is both its breadth (there is far more unknown consumer data available than known), and the insight it provides on things like site activity, browsing behavior, media engagement, and more. 

Important side note: There are common challenges with both known and anonymous data points including:

    • Multiple email accounts per individual
    • Name variations
    • Address variations
    • Persistency—identifiers can expire or be deleted)
    • Abundancy—thousands of anonymous data points can be the result of one individual with dozens of unique identifiers tied to them

Enriching identities

Collecting and managing both known and anonymous customer data is something every brand should do, but it’s only a starting point. Maximizing the value of customer data to create better brand experiences takes more effort. With known data, there must be a system of hygiene and enrichment in place to recognize variations, normalize entries, and add supplemental data for each individual customer record as necessary. Anonymous data must be graphed and matched given the high-volume of identifiers and data points involved—it’s the only way to obtain any actionable insights. Finally, known data must be connected with anonymous data to create a completely singular view of each customer that can be used across an enterprise. 

Forging this connection to achieve enterprise-grade identity resolution requires a number of things, including:

  • The ability to normalize and enrich known customer data.
  • A trusted data set of identifiers and the graphing expertise to manage the breadth of anonymous identifiers.
  • A data set that maps both known and anonymous data to create a single view (at Zeta, this is accomplished through a proprietary deterministic email data set).

What Are the Tenets of End-to-End Customer Data Management?

An image showing the 5 tenets of customer data management
The 5 pillars of customer data management.

Why Customer Data Management Matters?

What Brands Need to Do Going Forward With Customer Data Management

Rule #1 — Don’t get FOMO

The biggest mistake any brand can make when it comes to making a customer data management decision is getting FOMO. Do NOT chase a trend just because competitors are doing so. Chasing trends only leads to more data-management complexity, increased operational costs, and a whole lot of disappointment.

Rule #2 — Zero-in on the objective

When it comes to customer data management, it can be easy to get distracted—don’t. Brands should focus on achieving a single objective in the pursuit of a customer data management platform: getting the best understanding of the customer possible. 

Rule #3 — Make sure the solution works

Any customer data management platform needs to be readily usable by all internal stakeholders. In other words, the data it contains must be easily actionable and highly connected. If it isn’t, there’s going to be disappointment, guaranteed. 

How Customer Data Management Happens at Zeta 

Zeta Customer Data Management provides data management, identity resolution, profile enrichment, omnichannel activation capabilities, and more, all in one place. The result? Brands get an accurate, actionable view of every single customer.

An image depicting logos from Toyota, Samsung and other brands that lean on Zeta for Customer Data Management
Just a few of the many world-class brands that trust Zeta.

Obtain a 360-degree customer view

Zeta makes it possible for brands to create a holistic view of customers at the 1:1 level across all channels and campaigns.

  • Connect to a range of systems and build robust profiles of each customer that include key insights like transaction history and engagement across channels as well as devices.
  • Leverage any structured or unstructured data source with lightweight pre-built connectors, including popular CRM and ERP databases, to point-of-sale systems, contact center systems, advertising software, and much more.
  • Broaden marketing reach and obtain clearer customer-level insights by combining first-party data with the scale of Zeta’s Data Cloud. 

Engage in profile management and enrichment

Create consumer experiences that are more personalized and relevant than ever with continuous data collection, robust customer profiles, and real-time profile enrichment.

  • Elevate customer understanding through the delivery of compelling experiences that utilize activity across all systems, channels, and devices.
  • Guarantee data accuracy and precision through best-in-class data management and hygiene.
  • Resolve identities and always recognize customers across all channels by leveraging potent online and offline data sources.
  • Obtain a real-time understanding of customer engagement (including transactions, products of interest, likelihood to take action, and more) through continually updated customer records. 

Capitalize on actionable customer data

Better perform a range of activities across business functions with up-to-the minute customer data.

  • Deterministically attribute marketing results by targeting individuals across a multitude of addressable channels including email, direct mail, and television.
  • Discover new sales opportunities and create more meaningful messaging across channels by understanding the real-time interests of consumers.
  • Improve consumer interactions across digital and brick-and-mortar properties by ensuring engagement systems are powered by the most accurate customer data possible.

Looking to learn more about Customer Data Management with Zeta?

Contact us via email: info@ZetaGlobal.com or via phone: 212-967-5055.

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