If you're a marketer, you've likely heard the words "customer experience" tossed about for years. All the buzz is for a good reason: Positive customer experience (CX) increases profitability and improves employee engagement. But amid the spotlight on CX, many marketers are missing a key strategic element necessary to make their strategy successful: data.

Often, data management is seen as the realm of more technically inclined teams. In modern marketing, however, marketers have a key role in managing customer data. Data usage, privacy concerns and transparency are at the forefront of consumers’ minds. Increasingly, they are concerned about how companies are using their data. 67% of people worry about sharing their data online and 68% are specifically concerned about how companies use their data in marketing.

Changing customer expectations

In response to growing unease among consumers, we have already experienced some dramatic changes. In 2015, the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke – revealing Facebook had allowed Cambridge Analytica to harvest and use the data of 87 million people (about twice the population of California) without their consent. In 2016, the EU introduced GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) to govern data management for personal consumer data. Since then, Apple, Facebook and Google have rolled out significant changes to consumer data management to give users more control over their data.

While consumers reacted positively to these changes, many marketers feared that the onslaught of new restrictions would ruin their CX strategies. Interestingly, despite growing concern over data privacy, 80% of consumers report being more likely to make purchases from brands that provide personalized experiences. About 74% of consumers are comfortable directly sharing their data if they know they’ll get a more personalized shopping experience. Therefore, the average consumer's willingness to share their data with a company will likely depend largely on your CX strategy's quality. For marketers, data must be at the core of their customer experience strategies.

The role of personalization

Creating a world-class customer experience starts with knowing your customer, which means you need to make it worthwhile for customers to share their information with you. McKinsey states, "71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions. And 76% get frustrated when this doesn’t happen." One of the most effective ways to incentivize your customers to share their information is by transparently sharing how you'll use that information to improve their experience with your company.

Personalization at SAS

One of the ways we create personalized experiences at SAS is through our corporate website. With millions of monthly visitors, we want to deliver the right content to the right person at the right time for the best possible experience.

For example, we do this for our SAS® Academy for Data Science. The academy is an in-depth training and certification program designed to develop the skills of existing and future data scientists. The program consists of three tracks specialized in advanced analytics, data curation, and AI and machine learning.

One of the most effective ways to incorporate data privacy concerns into your customer experience is to proactively include transparent communication about how you use and collect data throughout their experience with your brand.

By using SAS Customer Intelligence 360, we capture real-time visitor behavioral data. Then, we combine that with previously collected data to identify people interested in data science content. With this information, we can give our customers personalized content recommendations as they browse our site. Depending on their needs and interests, we share content, programs and special offers tailored to them.

Our average click rate increased to 24% by personalizing the web experience. Marketing-driven registrations to the SAS Academy for Data Science also increased to 31%, which accounts for 5% of total registrations.

Personalization abroad

Another company employing personalization well in their marketing is SBI Insurance in India. They recently modernized their marketing approach to focus on personalization through SAS Customer Intelligence 360 and are seeing incredible results. By streamlining their data management, they’ve been able to target more than 4.5 million customers with personalized customer experiences. Simply by centering data-oriented personalization, they expect to see up to an 8% increase in conversions, a 20%-25% increase in customer engagement, and improved retention of 4%-7%. On this scale, these changes will translate into millions of dollars in increased revenue for SBI.

While these are simply a couple examples, they demonstrate the impressive power of personalization. By meeting your customers where they are and creating a tailored experience with your brand, you’ll increase loyalty, satisfaction and consumer willingness to share their data with you. Personalization makes customers feel you notice and respect the information they share with you instead of making them feel exploited by your marketing.

Software you need for your CX

As the chief marketing officer of a global tech company, I think there are a few key software elements for any customer experience strategy. Getting lost in the myriad of technological options can be easy. Look no further than Scott Brinker’s 2022 Marketing Technology Landscape and find 9,932 solutions! At SAS we have our own MarTech stack (if you want to see our tech stack for 2022, you can get a peek here in the 2022 Stackies awards.)

With CX and the customer relationship in mind, I believe the three most important software capabilities for a strong customer experience are AI, customer identity and recognition technology, and a data governance tool.

Creating a world-class customer experience starts with knowing your customer, which means you need to make it worthwhile for customers to share their information with you.

First, artificial intelligence (AI) and automation technologies allow you to accelerate and scale without losing personalization. Without that ability, you’ll slow your growth significantly or lose loyal customers.

Second, you'll need customer identity and recognition technology. Loyalty programs, unique shopper profiles and customer data platforms are essential to providing quality CX. Using this kind of technology to create personalized customer experiences will help you develop an emotional connection with each person while continuing to scale.

Third, every business requires quality software for governing data and ensuring consumer privacy. Protecting the data your customers share is ethical and critical for maintaining customers’ trust. It’s important to know your local data regulations and verify that your software is helping you stay compliant.

Once these core technologies are in place, I’d also recommend establishing or maturing your marketing planning and customer journey management capabilities.

Thinking about data ethics

Finally, you need to prioritize data ethics and transparency in your CX strategy. Responsible data ethics is not a “nice to have;” it’s a global business imperative. In a prediction extending through 2022, Gartner has estimated that 85% of all algorithms will give flawed outcomes due to bias in the data, the models, or the human teams managing them.

At SAS, we’ve established a Data Ethics Practice (DEP) with a charter to provide strategies that empower and inspire both SAS employees and customers to deploy responsible innovation that promotes human well-being, agency and equity. With a particular focus on minimizing harm to vulnerable populations, our DEP will institutionalize principles and ensure that SAS’ approach to data ethics is consistent and coordinated globally. Digital guardianship is a core principle at SAS, and we have mechanisms to meet rising data-privacy expectations. Model governance, data governance and data security protocols are established and rigorously maintained to protect the data entrusted to SAS.

This ethical concern is why I recommend that every marketing team have tools and software to govern data privacy concerns. Our Data Ethics Practice Director, Reggie Townsend, put it brilliantly:

In an AI-enabled marketing environment, the data collected, curated and utilized for personalization can offer consumer benefits. However, that same data may significantly harm the consumer and marketer, depending on the context. For example, geolocation data may benefit services targeting seniors or young children. However, the same data may be considered an invasion of privacy for middle-aged adults. Additionally, these views may change over time, given social consensus. Because the balance between ethical and unethical is delicate, the ability to monitor, govern and interrupt AI is paramount.
– Reggie Townsend, Director, Data Ethics Practice

As consumer sentiment and local data governance policies continue to evolve, it will be essential to have a proactive data governance plan.

Helping your customers trust your brand

In addition to ethical considerations, having an ethical and transparent approach to managing data is a driving force for who consumers choose to do business. Addressing consumer concerns about how you manage data is quickly becoming an expectation for buyers, which means it must be a key element in your marketing strategy.

One of the most effective ways to incorporate data privacy concerns into your customer experience is to proactively include transparent communication about how you use and collect data throughout their experience with your brand. Include data usage information anywhere you collect data – including email, cookie tracking consent and personal information they may offer you during their experience in person or online. When communicating how you'll use their data, try to keep your language short and free of legalese. Most importantly, clearly communicate the benefit they'll receive when they share their information, whether personalized offers, exclusive deals or an improved shopping experience.

The importance of CX for the modern marketer

The modern marketer plays a bigger role in a company's growth than ever, and creating remarkable customer experiences is a huge piece of the puzzle. You'll build customer trust and loyalty when you include data management and privacy as key components of your customer experience strategy.

Additionally, you'll be one step ahead of your competitors by intentionally curating your software suite to center on privacy and personalization. By making your customers feel secure when sharing your data and creating personalized experiences, you'll win customers to your brand for life.

If you’re ready to reimagine your customer experience, SAS can help. Check out our end-to-end solution available through SAS Customer Intelligence 360.


About Author

Jenn Chase

Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer

As CMO, Jenn Chase is responsible for leading Analyst Relations, Corporate Communications, Creative, Digital, Events, Customer Contact Centers and Go-to-Market teams around the world. Her 20-year journey at SAS, spanning R&D and marketing, has earned her a reputation of being data driven – often referred to as analytically curious! Along the way, Jenn has guided the modernization of marketing, aligned regional marketing efforts and strengthened collaboration between marketing and sales while cultivating a strong customer focus. Her belief is that great companies possess an intense desire to deliver experiences that far exceed their customers’ expectations every day. Leading by example, Jenn strives to integrate data and analytics to create experiences that are purposeful and lasting.

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