We need to humanise our approach to data management

Charlotte Banister
By Charlotte Banister | 15 January 2021

Charlotte Banister is head of adtech and audience at Mindshare.

One of my Strategist-friends said to me recently that there’s only two groups of people in this world which call their customers “users” – one I won’t go into, and the other is digital marketers. This got me thinking. It’s no revelation that cookies and data have become commoditised. But as an industry, we have become obsessed - how are they changing, what will they become, what will they be replaced with? These aren’t really the questions we should be asking. These questions aren’t customer centric – at no point in any of these, is the person behind the data considered. Collectively, we’ve started to lose sight of those people. Those people are smart. GDPR, CCPA and all the great efforts made to set a minimum standard for the treatment of data, has meant people now have more informed control than ever. They have great expectations from the brands they interact with each day. They expect personalised experience, they want their brands to customise every interaction at every touchpoint and they get frustrated when things aren’t ‘easy’. In a recent Adobe survey, 74% of people said they ‘expect’ customised experiences. So, what’s stopping businesses from living up to these expectations?

Our digital ecosystem has enriched over time, but with enrichment comes complexity. The desire for a scalable, cost-effective and personalised single-user (sorry, “person”) view, is a problem tech and audience-marketers like myself are trying to solve every day. In response to this problem, we’ve seen a rise in single-entity platforms (platforms that don’t rely on third party cookies). These solve the problem in the short-term, but brands start to realise that the infrastructure of the ecosystem they’ve spent years building becomes impacted, due to the innate inability of these platforms to talk to one another. Entering into the next era of privacy, as part of the web 3.0 and open-internet efforts; and on top of getting our tech working in unison, we now, rightly so, must also consider privacy even more seriously than what we once did. Putting it simply, the ability to both target and measure effectively are impacted and these are two key components in getting customer experience right. For businesses, working out a future-proofed ad/martech infrastructure, which will help them, and their brand surpass customer expectations, is now more important than ever. Getting ad and martech working in unison isn’t the ‘silver bullet’, there’s still going to be gaps, but it can be powerful in helping businesses start to understand and live-up to the hefty expectations of their customers.

So, where should businesses start? Here are five areas I believe businesses can begin to make greater efforts in, to address customer experience:

  1. People: This seems like the most obvious, but it’s the hardest to get right. Does your infrastructure allow for the most optimal connections between marketing, adtech, martech? Do your marketing and tech teams ‘sit’ together? Is technology involved in solving traditional marketing challenges? Ad and martech have the capability to enable marketers to do their jobs more effectively, efficiently and empower them to make more informed decisions. Whether you’re in-housed or working with an agency, do you have the right talent for the job and does your process fully support your people?
  2. Digital Footprint: Customers are sending thousands of signals to your business every day. Do you have the tech in place to really see and understand all the signals which your known and unknown audiences are sending you? If not, get it! Get it and future-proof it as much as possible. Having long and short-term roadmaps to address this is imperative – these two should work at separate speeds; the short-term should allow you to understand the now, pre operating system changes and browser edits – but these short-term solutions are not sustainable. Your long-term roadmap should be focussed on incorporating solutions which work towards your target state, setting you up beyond the next 12 months.
  3. Value Exchange: Having principles for data management is critical. All these principles should direct back to the value exchange. Brands should be asking “every time I process this data-point, what is the customer getting in return?”. People entrust brands with their data – no matter how deep or broad; i.e. from telling brands who they bank with, to how many children they have. Use it wisely, respectfully and make sure the PERSON is getting something valuable back in return.
  4. Identity and Profile Management: No one has fully cracked it – yet – although some businesses are definitely closer than others. Efforts being made in our industry the last six to 12 months have been good; whether it’s buy-side tech investing in white-labelling or engineering resource to build proprietary tools, or it’s martech partners developing experience platforms and investing in cloud more heavily, it’s promising to see broad alignment right across the ecosystem and all its contributors. What brands need to do is make sure they have a piece of that pie. Interrogate your tech. Are you working with the right partners that will build with you, help develop you and have an aligned objective themselves of a responsible, future-proofed approach to getting customer experience, right?
  5. Interrogate Churn: COVID has forced greater emphasis on addressing churn – but the businesses who didn’t have a handle on the triggers which contribute to churn, are the ones who have fallen behind. The ones who know those triggers, are the ones who have good connections between the dollars being spent to reach eyeballs and the technology which helps inform the decisions to reach them. By knowing this, you can intercept the customer journey at the most imperative time in that customers experience with your brand – right at the time they are showing they about to leave you.

Humanising our approach to data management, should be a priority for businesses now. We are at an intersection of socio-economic change and big technical ecosystem changes. Customer Experience is no longer a competitive differentiator, it’s a business imperative. Businesses must make the shift away from campaign management; talking to customers in silos, to Customer Experience management. We must all make collective efforts in this space, whether its interrogating what signals make up data segments or how the data is sourced, to questioning if a new integration is going to add value to the person at the receiving end of it – and above all, we must stop thinking of our customers as ‘users’, and starting remembering they are people. We must do this so we can deliver on the great expectations’ which the people who sit in front of our businesses, have come to expect and deserve (and so that my Strategist friend, never associates us with the ‘other’ aforementioned group ever again!).