Marketers looking to secure a competitive advantage in 2014 need a strategy for data integration. Although 93 percent of respondents to StrongView's "2014 Marketing Trends Survey" plan to increase or maintain their spending on activities focused on customer engagement (up from 89 percent in 2013), data integration remains a formidable challenge. Marketers want better insight into everything from demographics (53 percent) to customer sentiment (23 percent), Web behavior (34 percent), Web behavioral data (31 percent), purchase history (49 percent), and shopping behavior (25 percent).
To develop a strategy for successful data integration, marketers need to adopt a CRM-centric approach. Unlike a channel-centric approach, which optimizes broad channel-specific metrics, a CRM-centric approach focuses on specific customers to gain insight into the experience of each individual.
Best of all, the CRM-centric approach doesn't require marketing rocket science. Here are three actionable next steps every marketer can implement to transition data integration from a marketing challenge to a competitive advantage.
Include Demographic Data for All Customer Touch Points
I've seen countless campaigns where customer registration forms ask for only a customer's email address or mobile number. Though effective for direct mobile messaging, this channel-centric tactic remains shortsighted. An email address or phone number alone provides a point of contact, but no information about how to personalize content.
Instead, marketers should include radio buttons asking for innocuous demographic and customer sentiment data during the sign-up process. Factors such as favorite products, zip code, or date of birth are ideal for delivering to customers targeted, compelling calls to action.
The same goes for loyalty campaigns. Rather than blasting out a coupon to customers, use two-way mobile messaging to request demographic information in exchange for the promotion. Customers realize that they have to give to get, and more targeted outreach will ensure that they feel comfortable with an inroad into their personal profile.
One quick aside: Those marketers worried about alienating customers with data requests need only ask themselves, "How important is quality when building up a customer database?" Today's customer demand for personalized experiences will render "spraying and praying" ineffective. Loyal, engaged customers are paramount for securing a long-term competitive advantage.
Create Individual Experiences Easily Analyzed in Aggregate
Web behavior poses problems for marketers due to their channel-centric view of the Web that results in attempts to extract individual customer information from general traffic trends. Take SMS and email Web links. Marketers send out mobile messages to customers with embedded links. They then track how the distributed link or target Web page performs to estimate Web behavior.
With a CRM-centric approach, marketers can flip this model on its head. Rather than sending the same link to everyone, they can use a URL shortener API to deliver a unique, personalized URL to every single customer. From here, they can track specific behavior for each individual, such as Web pages visited and length of time spent, and then map that specific Web behavior to the individual customer's profile.
Now, instead of general Web traffic data, marketers have access to individual streams of Web activity. At this point, customers can be put into specific buckets (for example, most active, nonactive, interested in a particular product—as they spent a significant amount of time on a mobile Web page), and marketers can send targeted mobile or email messages based on this behavior.
Integrate Systems Rather Than Maintaining Channels in Silo
Channel-centric marketers assign a marketing manager to an individual channel. For example, Facebook mobile marketers receive incentives for each new like, and app marketers receive bonuses based on the number of push subscriber or download numbers.
A lack of systems integration prevents this data from capturing customer-centric metrics such as customer lifetime value, a metric not only essential for calculating return on marketing investment, but also for understanding purchase history and shopping behavior.
Take mobile couponing, for example. The majority of marketers send coupon codes via various mobile messaging channels, measure open rate, and then use their point-of-sale system to track redemption rate. Unfortunately, two data points coming from different sources results in a time lag that muddles insights calculation.
Instead, marketers should integrate these two systems to generate a real-time view of mobile coupon campaign success. By integrating mobile messaging and the point of sale using an API connection, coupon campaigns become a closed loop. As such, marketers can validate coupon codes with their point-of-sale system before distribution. Once sent, each coupon code maps to an individual customer's mobile phone number or email address. Once the customer uses the coupon code and validates with his/her number or email address, the point-of-sale system instantly identifies the entire coupon campaign life cycle—from open to download, redemption time, and redemption channel.
From here, marketers use the same CRM-centric tactic: bucketing customers into various groups depending on their individual activity (for example, high-value spenders based on purchase amount or quick redeemers based on time of coupon receipt and validation). With these groups, it is easy to deliver targeted mobile or social messaging campaigns well-suited to a given customer's shopping behavior.
Though regarded as a point of frustration, marketers can integrate data easily and cost effectively. Just remember to think about data from a customer point of view, rather than how data relate to a specific channel. With this CRM-centric approach, marketers will position themselves well throughout 2014 and beyond. Various mobile channels will come and go, but customers will always be the ones making purchases.
Kane Russell is vice president of marketing at Waterfall, a mobile and social marketing enterprise software company.