Modern customer intelligence systems give managers the ability to track key success factors. This means they can make better decisions about the allocation of physical and financial resources and improve strategic planning. This blog post builds on previous articles about how customer intelligence can support marketing and discusses its integration into a broader ecosystem.
Improving strategic planning through integration
The level of detail available from customer intelligence systems means that businesses can dig down into individual channels, prices and customers and understand much more about each element. At the same time, however, they can also maintain an overarching view of the channel mix and what performs well. Crucially, they can also identify options for change to improve profitability. This allows for more strategic marketing and to see its effect on the bottom line.
This approach, requiring long-term involvement of analytical teams, is becoming more and more available to marketers using modern customer intelligence solutions. Changing the strategy may mean modifying several factors at once. With digital self-service channels, it is possible to measure efficiency much more effectively. And marketers can quickly test alternative scenarios with more flexibility, including advertising effectiveness, transmission to the customer and assessment of the presentation sequence along the customer’s journey.
Effective and significant participation in the digital ecosystem
Integration with the broader strategic planning system is useful. It is, however, difficult to imagine a customer intelligence tool that will be able to function independently without any external interaction in the modern digital world. Openness of the system and readiness to cooperate within the broader ecosystem are also vital.
The range of customer intelligence functionalities varies between organisations, although few have what you might call a blank sheet. We can simplify the discussion by considering two key mechanisms supporting openness and readiness to cooperate with existing solutions: replacement and enrichment of existing functionality within the ecosystem (embed) and the addition of a new, previously unavailable functionality (extend).
For example, to enrich the functionality of a specific communication channel, companies could set up new websites, add personalisation based on A/B tests or send highly personalised emails. To extend the channel's functionality, companies could consider real-time communication. This seems logical and obvious, but anyone who has to deal with complex marketing systems on a daily basis knows how expensive and time-consuming it is to extend functionality within a system or integrate it with a new one that offers additional functionality.
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Management of customer data, particularly customer profiles, is another important element. Different bits of customer data may be located in different places, including the CRM system within the corporate infrastructure, in the cloud or clouds, or even on one or more data management platforms used for reactive marketing. Maintaining and updating customer profiles on an ongoing basis can, therefore, provide significant architectural and operational challenges. The most promising direction is the introduction of customer data platforms (CDPs).
A ‘third way’ to integrate
Gartner analysts note that organizations have not yet fully implemented customer data platforms. But efforts in this direction have already resulted in a number of innovative alternatives to data warehouses and data management platforms, without some of the drawbacks. Though many organisations use data warehouses, their architecture and data layout often do not support the work of marketers. Data management platforms rely on supplier service and focus on current operational efficiency. Customer data platforms, therefore, offer a “third way” – in this case, a new way to organise customer data. Initial results are extremely promising, and expectations are quite high.
Customer data platforms have several functional criteria:
- Their data architecture focuses on achieving marketing goals, and so is easy for marketers to manage and modify.
- The customer profile is built around the customer - organisation relationship, but also takes into account indirect relationships drawn from data management platforms.
- It is possible to achieve real-time interaction while using iterative and interactive modes (multistage and multistep interactions).
- Built-in analytics is as important as implementing interactions.
- They can be extended, i.e., it is possible to propagate messages through data management platforms.
A new generation of customer intelligence solutions
To my mind, customer data platforms are, therefore, the most important element to recently emerge in this area. They are likely to form the basis for a whole new generation of customer intelligence systems. And they have the game-changing ability to combine and merge scattered fragments of customer information into a whole and then intelligently process it using built-in analytics.