Marketers all over the world are heading to Dreamforce x’ San Francisco this week to learn about the latest technologies and hear inspirational stories centered around the connected customer journey. With so many new tools enabling marketers to run sophisticated (and sometimes bordering on creepy) campaigns, this is an exciting time to be a digital marketer. However, what is frequently glossed over during keynotes and stories are the challenges faced with creating these advanced customer journeys.

Lipovac Dreamforce Inspiration Customer Journey

The one thing tying these customer journeys together is data. Most marketers face two primary challenges when they start working down the path of smarter and more sophisticated campaigns. First, they won’t have the analysis done on their current customers to know what their customers’ journeys are, when it’s happening, and what the relevant communication points are. Second, after dreaming up the perfect customer journey, and the communications to support them, they’ll discover the data either isn’t available to support these campaigns, or it’s incomplete, incorrect, or insufficient to justify the effort needed.

So, how do you know if you have the data to run successful automated campaigns, and how can you overcome these challenges?

Know What Data You Have

Complete a comprehensive data audit to start understanding what data you have available. This commonly means working with the teams that support your CRM, point-of-sale systems, IT, e-commerce teams, and retail teams. The goal of this audit is to first identify all of your data sources and then to take it one step further and actually review the data set. An effective data audit will result in a complete understanding of all the potential data sources you will want to use in marketing campaigns and additional insight into the quality of the data set.

Fix Bad Data

At the end of your audit, you should have a data dictionary with all of the available fields and potential values within each of those fields. You’ll likely start noticing at this point that there are inconsistencies and bad data in your available data set.

Things to look for:

  • Inconsistent formats
    • Date fields and addresses are commonly stored in many formats.
  • Combination fields
    • Having data combined in ways that’s difficult to use in marketing. Keep an eye out for things like first and last name together as one field instead of two.
  • Multiple variables with the same meaning
    • A common issue is having your gender stored as Women, W, Female, and F all within the same field.
  • Old and unknown data
    • Some of your data might be so old and dated that you doubt it’s still accurate. You should reach out to customers to have them verify it’s correct.

Getting your data organized and consistent will help make building a cohesive customer journey easier and more effective.

Get More of the Data You Want

Before investing in planning, content, design, and development resources for your connected customer journey, you’ll want to analyze your data to see how many customers would qualify for your campaign. You might identify at this point that you aren’t collecting enough data on your customers to power your most impactful campaigns. To increase your data set, you can run data collection campaigns, use third-party tools to append data, or increase your ability to collect data at key locations such as in-store, preference centers, and the web.

Knowing your data, fixing your data, and collecting more data are the key starting points to building your connected customer journey. The groundwork of building a reliable data set will position you to not only develop effective campaigns now, but also make new tools and future campaigns easier to tackle.

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