Data Isn't Blinding Marketers, Technology Is

How did data end up sitting in so many silos? It comes down to these three key reasons.

Remember when it was a question of not having enough data? Today that problem seems almost laughable. Marketers have spent the last decade or more collecting every touchpoint they can about their customers in any place they can get it. Today, modern marketers have swarms of data at their fingertips that can provide the granular insights needed to truly understand audiences and the channels that matter to them.

In the digital, multichannel era, this insight is essential in optimising budget, personalising the customer experience and ensuring that messages are delivered appropriately and in context. So far, I've not said anything that will have shocked you. However, I'm guessing that you might also be thinking that this 'multichannel' 360-degree view of the customer is a pipedream, or worse an empty promise. It's understandable. In an age where marketing teams have never had more data and more touchpoints with customers at the very same time they have never been more in the dark.

The reason for this is a simple one: Data is not integrated. That's an understatement; data isn't even compatible. The full scope of information needed to create the ultimate customer experience sits in multiple databases that simply don't relate to one another. This manifests itself in a fragmented engagement with customers. Unable to join the dots, companies cannot connect a phone query with a query they received via email from the same person. Therefore, a customer can quite often receive more than one explanation as to why a problem has emerged, such as when an order hasn't been processed despite payment being taken. Such a disjointed experience destroys customer trust and advocacy in the brand. They only need to tweet or post about their experience on Facebook for their mirth to reach hundreds, if not thousands, of people in a matter of minutes.

So how did data end up sitting in so many silos? To my mind, it comes down to three key reasons.

First, the techniques used to identity customers across the digital sphere rely heavily on rudimentary web technology that was developed over 20 years ago. Whilst cookies might still have their place in browser based advertising, the challenges of devices, wearables and the Internet of Things makes clear that they are not the future.

Second, a lot of marketers find themselves working with a marketing stack inherited from their predecessor. It may have been the right solution for another idea in another time; but in all likelihood, you are going to have a different strategy and the old system can't scale or adapt to deliver what you need across multiple, and an ever growing number, of channels. This in turn makes it hard to demonstrate the value marketing initiatives are delivering to the business or why they should be investing in new channels. Without the data to back you up, it becomes harder to pursue opportunities that could be perceived as risks.

Third, regardless of who purchased the current system, the pace of disruption in ad tech makes it highly likely that the original developer has now been consumed and integrated into a bigger offering. As a result, the chances are that an element of inflexibility has been introduced into the relationship. Further, as those technologies are acquired they are rarely designed in such a way as to allow them to seamlessly integrate into the promised 'marketing cloud' solutions toted by their conglomerate purchasers.

You could argue that, yes, it is difficult and time consuming to pull together insights, and while it's not as immediate as we'd like, we're doing okay. The truth is that doing okay is no longer good enough. In today's world, immediacy rules and the customer is king. They engage with you on their terms. They are in thedriver's seat, not brands, and their terms of engagement are pretty strict. A seamless and consistent experience that provides added value to them as an individual is high on their list of priorities. In order to be able to meet expectations, companies need to join the dots and make connections across their businesses in an exceedingly fast amount of time.

Against this backdrop, it's not surprising that marketers are jaded and cynical about the multichannel dream they've been chasing for well over a decade. Yet in many ways, nothing has changed. Tech stacks are still held together with duct tape and chicken wire. Instead of making smart yes or no decisions that empower their organizations to capitalize on market opportunities, marketers are instead having to watch those opportunities drift on by.

The result is that creative people don't have the tools they need to execute. As more channels get added to the mix the problem only becomes more complicated. New technologies though are powering new ways of uniquely identifying the individual and tying the user experiencetogether to invalidate the unintegrated point solutions responsible forsiloed data meaning that much cherished multichannel dream can now become a reality.