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Data integration paves the way for consumer innovation

No matter which direction they turn, marketers are drowning in data. From mobile to social media, seasonal campaigns to traditional marketing channels, data spans all areas of brand engagement, often overwhelming marketers who don’t know where to begin. In fact, Sencha’s CEO Art Landro predicted that we’ll create more data in 2017 than the previous 5,000 years of humanity! That makes it more important than ever for marketers to be able to extract meaningful information from very large data sets. Enter consolidation.

Ideally, marketers should be able to look at all acquired data in one place, allowing them to paint a universal picture of target audiences and see customer preferences at scale. By consolidating these disparate data sets, marketers can make data-driven decisions when it comes to their customer communication strategy rather than the messaging-overload approach.

New brands have the advantage of utilizing any number of the CRM platforms for all their data from day one, while older brands are forced to approach this retroactively. However, the older brands have the upper hand if they’re able to consolidate legacy customer data. While such a prospect seems daunting, the reward is great, offering enhanced understanding of marketing efforts and identifying opportunities for innovation.

Understanding the Challenges

Before building a strategy around data integration and consolidation, it’s important for marketers to understand the challenges associated with combining multiple data sets, such as instituting infrastructure improvements without overreaching resources. While this undertaking grants a broader understanding of consumer needs, most brands don’t have the internal teams or vendor partners to compile it into one place. To overcome, marketers should dedicate a portion of their resources for integration and innovation, while the remaining resources perform ongoing maintenance.

When it comes to data mining, marketers are apt to stay with the disparate mediums they perceive to be working well. Email is a repeat offender; while it remains one of the most organized data sets and can provide brands with regular insights on readership and click-through rates, email providers aren’t able to access data from other channels without utilizing additional and more costly integrations. Moving to a mobile provider, the same holds true. Ultimately, this prevents brands from gaining a broader understanding of consumer behaviors. Brands that haven’t set up a one-view infrastructure are often in a situation where their data is not in-house, leaving them with no possession of their findings. Consolidating data, on the other hand, allows brands to find assets on a single dashboard that can be readily accessed and analyzed.

Creating a Consolidation Plan

It can be challenging for marketers to know the first steps in consolidating data, especially without dedicated resources. Marketers should begin by identifying an individual or internal team to conduct an audit of the brand’s data sets, but at the preliminary stage doesn’t necessarily require a database architecture specialist. Consider which team members have a high degree of organization and are the most familiar with the data sets — or are willing to be the primary line of communication between those who are familiar — and can help identify columns where data sets should be joined to build the most accurate and comprehensive data model, such as a project manager.

After the candidate has been selected, marketers must be sure to highlight all the channels in which their brand data lives, as well as the pieces of data that are more valuable to bring together. But note that while data may be the same, it may have different naming conventions. The audit will uncover these. If you use certain naming conventions for consumers, such as “user IDs,” “profile IDs,” “member IDs,” or “loyalty IDs,” make sure these are consistent and identify what data maps to other data, or even if those commonalities should be mapped, upon consolidation.

Uncovering Actionable Insights

If consolidated correctly onto one holistic dashboard, this is where the magic begins. Your consumer data will begin to unveil itself, offering a comprehensive look at the consumer experience and how shoppers interact with a brand. For example, a marketer may suddenly realize three messages with the same content were being sent each week from different channels. They can look to spread communication out to a user’s preferred channel and avoid messaging overload.

Having such vital data points on one dashboard gives marketers the tools to forge more meaningful consumer interactions as it allows them to cater to specific preferences. Brands are eager to post about the “seamless experience” they offer customers; however, such a journey is only possible if data offers a sole vantage point. The more data is consolidated, the more specific takeaways marketers are granted and the more personalized the consumer journey will be.

What to Measure For

Brands often design campaigns with aspirations for data acquisition or brand engagement. But digging deep into your brand’s data goals can reveal measurable drivers up front, allowing marketers to predict the end result of building different functionalities and campaigns. Data models working together enable marketers to take a more holistic look at customers, better understanding their app activity and purchasing trends, as well as vetting if those behavior trends are similar to those of other shoppers. These similarities can then be used to create consumer segments and integrate into future marketing campaigns.

Before launching an initiative, marketers should pool insights from loyalty programs, point of sale systems, Google Analytics, mobile databases, outside vendors and beyond. By analyzing consolidated insights, marketers will be able to get more specific in determining both internal and external goals, designing campaigns that ultimately drive better results for brand and consumers alike. No matter the medium it comes from, data enhances brands’ understanding of target audiences and equips them with the tools needed to better measure success and innovate future campaigns.

See more insights on IBM Think Marketing from HelloWorld.