The natural evolution of the vendor landscape and the resulting fragmentation have created an expensive and inefficient marketing environment, forcing marketers to think about audience segmentation from the list down, not the customer up. The forces of that evolution, however, are now meeting resistance.
As the mobile channel continues its rise to prominence among marketers and consumers, the lines between the digital marketing and the physical marketing worlds have become blurred. If mobile is meant to connect the two worlds, a new approach to data management is crucial for marketing to remain effective and relevant.
Customer-centricity starts with universal profile management
A customer is an individual. Rather than beginning the segmentation process from a top-level view of a single trait, marketers must begin building segments from the individual up.
Finally an approach to marketing data exists that avoids enabling the built-in waste most vendors charge a premium for and starts targeting customers better with messages that are individually relevant. That approach, a universal profile management system, is the foundation for all effective direct digital marketing.
Traditional direct marketing relies on smart data management and a postal address to deliver a marketing message, whereas direct digital marketing relies on smart, more-robust data management and delivers marketing communications to an email address, a Web-browser cookie, or a mobile-phone number.
Within the context of direct digital marketing, a universal profile management system is differentiated from other marketing data approaches in three ways.
1. Connect the data and the delivery
Without getting too technical, if an approach to marketing data is going to be effective in marketing to today's sophisticated customer, retailers must deliver their database marketing and their multichannel communications from the same software platform.
The broken approach described above has evolved from a series of specialist software platforms where one platform stores data in one location and then requires integration with multiple software platforms to deliver communications. That approach is both inefficient and expensive for the marketing organization;; moreover, it focuses on the marketing ecosystem rather than on the customer.
Retailers must focus their energies squarely on the customer, and using a universal profile management system not only to store data but also to target and deliver messages is ideal for putting the focus where it belongs.
2. Flexibility drives effectiveness
Some retail marketing organizations already have a centralized database. That does not mean, however, that using a universal profile management system should be dismissed as an effective approach.
Migrating from one database approach to another is neither a small decision nor an easy deployment. But the flexibility of a universal profile management system assuages concern about a transition by migrating per channel.
For example, use a universal profile management system only to segment and target dynamic email content and then measure and analyze the results in terms of both email-campaign effectiveness and improved efficiency within the marketing organization.
The flexibility comes into play when the same segment that is used to target dynamic content in an email campaign is also used to tailor a more-relevant website experience and operate a highly personalized text-messaging campaign.
Moreover, once a universal profile management system becomes the centralized marketing database, the brand experience that a customer has across those digital channels is always personal, always relevant, and always seamless.
3. Connect digital and physical channels
A universal profile management system—when combined with the ability to deliver targeted marketing communications through multiple channels—helps connect the digital brand experience that customers appreciate with the in-store experience that many still primarily value.
The mobile channel is the glue between the customer's digital world and the in-store shopping experience, but mobile data alone is not powerful enough to make the glue strong. Capturing mobile data such as location and coupon redemption is great, but the most valuable data is captured on the website.
Using data points usually reserved for use on the website, such as purchase history, is now used to power effective mobile programs such as sending in-stock alerts sent via text message or sending text coupons for a discount on a companion product to a recent purchase.
More-advanced mobile programs—such as allowing customers to access online customer reviews while in a store—deliver the type of value exchange that customers increasingly demand. Retail marketers are not just blindly chasing the cross-channel customer experience. It is within reach, but the data is the key.
A universal profile management system stores both known customer attributes, such as enterprise customer data, purchase-history information, and responses to forms and surveys, and behavioral attributes, such as website, email, and mobile activity, organic or paid search activity, and participation in online-advertising campaigns. Segments can easily be designed around multiple traits—2, 10, 20, etc.—that are shared by multiple profiles.
A useful segment is still created for the marketer, but it all starts at the individual level. Understanding the customer at the individual level—then demonstrating that understanding with targeted, coordinated direct digital marketing programs that are delivered through the mobile, website, and email channels—quantifiably improves near-term sales and sets the foundation for a long-term profitable customer relationship.
It is important to remember that because a universal profile management system presents so many possibilities, marketers must keep a steady implementation pace. The more targeted communications get, the more sales improve... but content versioning and production is affected. Fortunately, the investment in targeted content is worthwhile.
It seems simple because it is: Connect the database to the delivery. Those traditionally disparate functions should be housed together to maximize efficiency, improve a customer's experience, and increase campaign performance regardless of channel.
The momentum of a rapidly developing marketing ecosystem has prevented retail marketers from reaching their collective potential. The challenge retail marketers face is that customers—not marketers—drive demand now.
A universal profile management system, however, puts some control back in the hands of the marketer—and your customers will thank you for it.