In today’s digital-first era, the customer experience is central to every decision a marketer makes. This was not always the case, and in the early days of digital, prospective customers were greeted by slow-loading and tricky-to-navigate web portals and e-commerce sites that, had the novelty of the web not still been lingering, would’ve sent the average customer running for the hills.

The growth of digital sales channels, in turn, led to the rise of data-driven marketing because brands were garnering so much data about their audiences that it made sense to try and harness this data to give them more of what they wanted and less of what they didn’t. Fast forward to 2018, and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that some brands have forgotten this central adage, either by letting the sheer volume of available data cloud their vision or by spreading themselves too thin with under-optimised tactics across multiple channels.

Indeed, despite the continued emergence of new and better mobile devices, and the imminent mass adoption of 5G, many online shopping sites are not yet optimised for mobile users. Marketers across the board make the mistake of seeking a universal approach across channels when in truth they need to adjust their tactics based on the distinct needs of each platform or device. A truly optimised omnichannel marketing strategy deploys tactics tailored for maximum efficacy on each channel. If a brand doesn’t have the necessary tools to extract insights from prospect and customer data, their understanding of the customer will be muddled. This confusion carries over into their resultant marketing and engagement tactics, likely to the detriment of the customer experience.

Much of this worrying trend of misinformed marketing stems from a growing reliance on second- and third-party data in an attempt to bolster lead numbers and deliver increased scale to campaigns. These additional sources don’t always deliver the precision and outcomes that they promise, and there’s a risk of detracting from the focus of creating differentiated experiences for how prospects interact and engage with your brand.

First-party data

To establish a lasting connection with the customer and foster brand advocacy, marketers need to take a step back from the temptation of scale and impressions and explore ways in which they can do more with their first-party data – the data gleaned from actual, real-time and historical interactions between customer or prospect with the brand.

First-party data offers more contextual information specific to each customer’s identity, preferences and interests. Traditionally its effectiveness has come under fire for offering limited depth and scale, yet much of this criticism neglects to look at the full range of first-party data sources now available. By building a marketing strategy informed by every interaction each customer has with your brand – from first impression to purchase and then onward toward establishing a retained relationship – marketers can garner a far better sense of who their customers are, what they like, their purchase behaviour and, crucially, how satisfied they are with each interaction.

Consider your business’s CRM system as an example – it likely has the vast majority of this information logged and recorded, yet may well be going underutilised from a marketing perspective. Marketers may rightfully have privacy concerns over the use of the CRM files for ad targeting, but there are standardised methods for bringing this data online and stripping it of all personally-identifiable information.

Real-time data and analytics

For another example, take a look at advanced web analytics. Recency, frequency, time spent looking at one item – these are all valuable in understanding the customer. Marketers should capitalise on these insights to make informed decisions on whom and when to re-engage with relevant messaging. If you want to ensure a great customer experience, make sure that a return site visitor is greeted by the information and content you know them to be most interested in.

Customer-specific data can give you these powerful insights, in real-time, while CRM profiling can provide an immediate understanding of each customer currently on the site. Combined, this information helps marketers provide the type of interaction each customer may want to have with the brand. If you’re a hotel brand, a “20% off your next stay” offer isn’t needed to entice a loyal customer who already stays with the chain frequently. That loyal customer can be given a room upgrade or free nights, while the user who has been to the site twice before without purchasing can be presented with the discount.

Investing the time to carefully analyse first-party data can help a brand better understand its customers. By leveraging all of this data, marketers can tailor their approach to individual customers across channels, maximising resonance and ensuring memorable customer experiences along the way.