3 Customer-Centric Hurdles Marketers Need to Clear

When The One to One Future by Peppers and Rogers was published in the mid-’90s, businesses took it to heart and set out to become customer-centric, a quest that has become a sort of Holy Grail search for marketers. But like that legend, this search has been filled with hopes and disappointments more than facts and results.

Since then, there has been a failure to execute on this promise—a failure by businesses to adopt the one-to-one architecture. They didn’t have the right business architecture, but they kept investing in CRM with IT providers, trying to find the magic elixir while spending a ton of money on technology and applications that no one used correctly.

Most of these programs ended up sitting on the shelf and some heads rolled along the way. A lot of money was lost with no real progress made. Then you started hearing less about it: When people fail, they don’t want to talk about it anymore, it becomes passé.

But customers don’t think it’s passé. Customers are no longer forced to do business with big companies like Apple or Amazon. They are in control. Brands that do customer-centricity well are winning, and they are winning big.

So here we are. It’s a time for marketers to look back, but also learn and sprint forward in new directions to close in on that longtime goal of one-to-one customer relationships.

Here are three hurdles marketers need to jump to get there, to achieve the state of being customer-centric and put customers front and center—from the view to the architecture to the money:

1. The Customer View Hurdle

You must have a full view of your customer. It’s amazing after more than 20 years how few companies have that.

In the latest wave of digital technology, brands’ clickstreams are going everywhere but in-house. Solution providers are putting their own tags and pixels on brands’ sites, then collecting data about the customers.

But there is a problem with this trend. Instead of a fully integrated customer in your environment that you own and control, this process doesn’t let you see your data; it’s given to you in a dashboard. You don’t have that full, integrated view.

In our e-commerce world, the best view of customers is online. But unless you’re Amazon, 85 percent of revenue is still occurring in the brick-and-mortar realm. So, the need for a total, omnichannel view is acute—and that means integrating data from all points of sale and contact, not just e-commerce, for a customer snapshot that is current and on-target.

We have a really good view of website activity, but the rest of it is dashboards that digital partners send. When presenting to the executive board, many CMOs are still cutting and pasting data into spreadsheets to create an integrated view. 

The result? You still have a myopic view of the customer. It’s working on one dashboard, but you’re not sure it’s working in the big picture. You can’t answer basic questions: Where is most of our revenue coming from? Where do we have challenges? Where do we need to improve? The marketer is left feeling pixilated.

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