“Just because I bought a tent, doesn’t mean I like camping,” said Steve Lucas, senior vice president at Adobe at a recent conference, explaining why many consumers still aren’t happy with the digital marketplace.
“Making assumptions about your customers based on a single piece of data is not going to help you engage with them,” said Lucas.
Many costly marketing mistakes can be avoided with an enterprise wide data marketplace.
This enterprise view, compared to a siloed look at customer data, will forever help the marketing team as well as other employees across the organization – from sales to customer service to back office functions – more effectively consume data, create likely scenarios the customer may take and then anticipate their next move.
Breaking down these data silos and making data universally accessible is what data democratization is all about. And, given there is no denying data is the oil of the digital era, first reported in the Economist in 2017, businesses that effectively harness its flow will be unstoppable.
Likewise, CMOs who can tap into and leverage data from across the enterprise will be able to boost customer engagement, reduce churn, and improve profitability – all by aligning with consumer values, and subsequently, designing personalized experiences for every touchpoint.
But, CMOs first need a unified view of this data to monetize it. It’s not enough to have direct customer data from one-to-one interactions; nor is it enough to have second party data from partners or even third-party data from aggregators or credit agencies.
The real magic happens with deterministic data, when the business recognizes that unique customer across data types, devices and environments to make his or her experience friction-less. But data democratization has not been the panacea people envisioned.
Why? Because most companies have been slow to consolidate their fragmented customer data.
But, with mounting pressure to open it up to achieve a competitive advantage, while also protecting it, what can marketers do to help to democratize it and use it to improve customer experiences?
They should partner with the CIO and other members of the technical team to establish a single, unified platform for data integration and management that enables the marketing team as well as others across the enterprise to manage all data within a single environment.
With a universal “fabric” of data that stretches across data types and access methods, the marketing team can also leverage analytics, risk and fraud capabilities to protect Personal Identifiable Information (PII) and comply with regulations such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and other burgeoning privacy legislation in the U.S.
But shifting to a single, enterprise view of data isn’t easy.
Often, the fault lies not in the technology, but in the people, who hold back progress. Digital democratization pushes organizations to rethink how they manage, distribute, and interpret data. That often means driving a dramatic cultural change in the organization.
“You need to have a digital-first mindset,” said Richard George, head of digital marketing at Refinitiv, a financial technology company. Otherwise, a customer’s multiple interactions with a company will create a fragmented experience.
Sharing information within an “ecosystem architecture is imperative for creating a seamless customer experience and building communities that will interact,” he added.
To help these communities interact, data democratization programs shouldn’t require users to have degrees in data science.
To get around this issue, savvy companies are adopting dashboards to provide plug-and-play options for non-data specialists to understand different data sets.
Also, visual analytics such as infographics, interactive reports and even augmented and virtual reality are growing in popularity. Finally, conversational systems are also being used to enable employees to simply ask a chatbot a question.
But, the biggest adjustment may come from the shift we are seeing with consumer privacy concerns, which actually could be a good thing for marketers.
According to a Gartner study, by 2023, companies that offer user-level control of marketing data will reduce customer churn by 40 percent as consumers will be happier and more loyal to firms that use privacy in branding.
This comes at the right time as privacy laws in the EU, California and other countries such as Brazil (LGPD), India and Japan are pushing businesses to be more transparent about how they collect and use customer data.
These measures will help instill trust and feed the needs of purpose-driven buyers.
So, what’s the payoff of data democratization? It is really the key toward truly personalizing customer experiences to illicit the appropriate actions from them.
As Clay Johnson, executive vice president and CIO at Walmart Inc. shared, “With greater ability to connect and harness the power of our data, we can enhance the associate experience and create entirely new ways to serve our customers online and in our stores.”
Indeed, in many cases new business opportunities may necessitate democratizing data to realize its full potential.
A major B2B steel company, for example, recognized it was going to have to shift to more of a B2C model.
Driven by a government program to build 20 million affordable homes over three years, as well as a growing base of digitally-oriented consumers, the company realized it not only had unique insights into new consumer demands, but it also could target a whole new market of under-served customers if it opened-up access to its data.
So, the company launched a steel retail store in a new online space. This gave the company improved customer insights. As a result, the organization was able to make informed business decisions, resulting in higher profit margins.
In fact, the company’s new consumer-facing e-selling platform generated more than $14 million in sales during its first year of operation – gains that could not have been realized without data democratization.
But there is plenty of room for improvement. Most organizations still have business units pursuing their own data and analytics initiatives as stand-alone projects rather than taking an integrated approach, which is needed to develop enterprise-wide intelligence.
Ultimately, CMOs need to effectively partner with their CIOs and chief data officers to see the value of data democratization. To be unstoppable and harness the oil of the digital age, they can’t afford to wait.
Dinanath (Dina) Kholkar is Global Head of Analytics and Insights at Tata Consultancy Services. He is responsible for formulating the units strategy across its global footprint.
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