A SINGLE SOURCE OF TRUTH: SCALING CUSTOMER DATA INTEGRATION
Published on June 29, 2020
From the sites consumers choose to visit to the devices they choose to access certain services from, data points that reveal preferences and habits are the bedrock of any marketing strategy. Last year, Gartner’s CMO Spend Survey 2019-2020 found that CMOs have steadily invested in competitive insights and analytics, described as the “most important capabilities” supporting their strategies for the next 18 months.
How will this data help us to better understand our customers? How will it support our targeting efforts? What does it say about customer preferences? What does it reveal about our competitors?
These are the questions that marketers want the answers to when applying and analysing customer data.
Yet, if we peel back a layer, we enter into a whole other world—one concerned with the intricacies of data management. From the moment data is collected and applied, this involves examining how data is stored, managed, and shared across different databases for different purposes. Many leaders will know the plight of poorly managed data—it makes for inefficient, costly processes, impacts strategic decision making, can lead to poor customer experience, and can point to holes in your data strategy.
This is why customer data integration (CDI) matters.
In this blogpost, we’re going to unpack what CDI is, why it’s so important, and why marketers need to optimise their CDI strategies to ensure that they can be deployed at scale.
Well, what is it then?
In the wake of data privacy frameworks such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, marketers predominantly needed to revise their data management strategies. This involves ensuring that your customer data platform (CDP) is compliant in terms of storage, anonymisation, encryption, and retention requirements. Customer data integration (CDI), on the other hand, refers to the process that precedes storage.
CDI involves managing and aggregating consumer data across different consumer touchpoints to achieve “a single source of truth”. Whether derived from website and app data (cookies) or forms, integrating data across these sources allows you to ensure that you have the most up-to-date version of a consumer’s data at a given point in time. This helps with the management and upkeep of a CDP, ensuring that you can make better decisions on how to best interact, engage, and target your customers.
Sounds simple enough, right?
You’d be surprised at the different data silos that businesses unwittingly create for themselves which can later lead to inefficiencies down the road. For example, have you ever unsubscribed from a newsletter only to see another one from the same company in your inbox a week later? That’s as a result of poor customer data integration. Data silos can lead to such customer interaction faux pas as companies retain outdated, redundant data points across multiple databases leading to an inconsistent view of a given consumer’s profile and preferences.
A harbinger for dwindling consumer confidence, a poor CDI plan can severely impact customer experience. Having a robust CDI plan is crucial as it ensures that you can provide customers with a consistent experience irrespective of the interaction. When implemented well, marketers can maximise the effectiveness of all interactions with customers by personalising messages and targeting audiences accurately. This can lead to significant cost- and productivity savings.
With a myriad of touchpoints, it can often be difficult for marketers to scale their CDI strategies and ensure that data hygiene is maintained. As marketers look to divorce their data collection practices from cross-site tracking and third-party cookies, there’s been an increased emphasis on the importance of first-party data and how this is the key to ensuring that data is collected in a privacy compliant manner.
One of the commonly suggested approaches to scaling CDI is by centralising customer data. This is problematic from a security standpoint as it opens up the opportunity for security risks and data breaches. With a single point of failure to exploit, centralised storage systems—while convenient—offer a point of vulnerability for malicious actors to easily exploit.
At Aqilliz, security is a key aspect of our approach to ensuring that our clients can leverage the best of first-party data while remaining compliant to local data privacy laws. Our approach involves a decentralised data collaboration model which is based on the principles of data federation, as it involves aggregating data from multiple systems into a virtual database.
On the Aqilliz protocol, businesses can host a data node, allowing them to safely share data points that have been masked with cryptographic algorithms to ensure the utmost privacy. These nodes are then part of a federated network connected by federation nodes that can allow analysis to take place across the network in a decentralised manner—data will never leave its local storage and the outcomes and results such as interest graphs and audience profiles are stored in a distributed manner.
By allowing businesses to work together through a privacy-oriented approach, marketers can have a clearer view of how consumers engage with different services across multiple platforms operated by different companies. Through a federated approach to CDI, brands can maintain a consistent thread of engagement, informed by a data sharing model built with privacy in mind.
Right place, right time
The key to effective CDI is an approach that breaks down all data silos, whether that’s within a business or among industry peers. It’s only by working together that brands can benefit from one another, allowing them to learn from and leverage a valuable repository of consumer insights. This not only ensures that experiences are optimised at every step of the consumer journey, but that its wholly consistent and personalised based on interactions within and outside of a given brand ecosystem. With emerging technologies playing a central role in driving a more privacy-oriented view of data sharing, marketers are primed to make even better and better decisions of how to best reach the right audiences at the right place and at the right time.