Which Is Sexier, Data or Customer Experience?

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Both can make a brand hot stuff if marketers use data to steer CX, says one data scientist.

“The old models [of marketing and tech] don't play well in modern marketing, because marketers can't react fast enough to customer actions,” RedPoint Global VP of Product Strategy Jason McNellis told me shortly after he joined the data management solutions provider. “Some customer data, such as location, is valuable for only a brief period of time. What that data provides is what I call perishable insights.”

That perishable data is one reason McNellis, a veteran data scientist who was previously an analyst at Forrester Research and prior to that spent time as director of analytics for Supervalu and for Liftpoint Consulting, said that data isn't sexy, customer experience is. But, he said, marketers need data to build and deliver a stellar—i.e., contextually relevant—customer experience (CX).

McNellis recommended that marketers stop talking about data and starting acting on what they learn from it. “It's buzzword overkill time in marketing—hyper-personalization, big data, real time, cross-channel—but they make sense,” he said. “Taken together marketers have to think about what it means to campaign differently; to use all that data to deliver the optimal customer experience for a specific customer at that moment of truth. Marketers need that real-time contextual information to know what to offer to who and when.” That's modern marketing.

A modern marketing strategy needs multiple data structures, such as a data warehouse and a data lake, McNellis added. “Marketers may not store all their data, but will want perishable data to act on,” he said, adding that using a data structure such as a data lake, where all of a company's customer data is thrown in unprocessed, allows marketers to process that data to optimize CX.

McNellis cautioned that remodeling CX without thinking holistically can create more problems than it solves. “Your customer experience shouldn't reveal issues within your company,” he said. “For example, if customers can't return in-store what they buy online, there are clearly two P&Ls; or if customers can't see inventory online, merchandising and marketing don't get along.”

But that doesn't mean rushing to create integrations or to implement new tools. “Marketing resource management, for instance, may better than what you were using, but you could paint yourself into a corner if you rush and select the wrong technology. Marketing tech needs to play well together today; look for bidirectional APIs instead of integrations.”

McNellis is confident that change is coming in marketing, just not right away. “The market will evolve more slowly than analysts say, but there will be a reduction of batch-and-blast type marketing,” he said, adding that data issues such as cross-channel and context from mobile are essential to resolve to enable improvements to CX.

“We'll eventually move away from list-based marketing,” McNellis said. “But I don't underestimate the challenge of organizational change. When marketing teams shift away from channel-based titles and organizational structures and put customer first is when we'll see real change.”

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