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Humanizing 'Big Brother' - Integrated Customer Experiences in an Age of Privacy

  |  June 24, 2013   |  Comments

Marketers can use data to design shared experiences that guide people through the sales or brand journey.

Marketers can perhaps empathize with the NSA folks under scrutiny these days for accessing and analyzing consumer data. Our marketing actions are also often under scrutiny by regulators and policy makers who don't fully understand the value of data-driven marketing to consumers and the economy.

We feel our work is above board. We love and respect data - all kinds of data. We don't track and use it as an academic exercise. We use it purposefully for societal good. We know the power of data to improve customer experiences and increase sales and loyalty. We do not take our work lightly. We do it with pride and a sense of stewardship. We source and use and store data responsibly and we care about protecting our customers' privacy.

So why the scrutiny? Why is anyone confusing the valuable data-driven marketing that we do with any government intrusion? The problem is that data-driven marketing is so pervasive and so successful that its omnipresence often surprises non-marketers. We must correct the mischaracterizations about what data-driven marketers do and how we do it, or we will get caught up in the Washington backlash.

The answer has to be in marketers embracing not just the cool technology and the ability to use data in marketing, but also the mantle of stewardship to create meaningful customer experiences. We must not just act responsibly, but we must promote and communicate that responsibility. In a recent keynote at the DMA Integrated Marketing Week, Macy's CMO Martine Reardon talked about how putting the customer first is generated from a well-defined methodology for people, process, and technology - including a data governance program.

"We put the customer at the center of our strategy, and focus on knowing as much as possible about each customer," she said. This includes a "local intelligence" team that guides merchandise decisions by listening and watching customer behavior - in-store and online. Privacy experts sit on the marketing team to guide and protect these activities. Data is used to meet customers where they shop and improve the experience. Macy's has created an "omnichannel" data-driven media ecosystem where each channel can be both a starting point and a sharing point for any given customer. "You can push everything out to everybody and wear them out. We want to serve only the most relevant content to each customer, and recognize each uniquely," Reardon said. "This is not just a modern buzzword: a multi-channel buyer is worth up to two times that of a single channel buyer," she added.

Integration is important, of course, but Steve Arthur, Google's head of industry, retail, said in a later keynote at the same event that customer value can be driven by focusing on inconsistency, as some businesses are still succeeding even though they may be employing channel-specific strategies. Inspiration, Arthur explained, is at the heart of merchandising. But even with inspiration, businesses cannot afford to be siloed. Competencies, he said, must be horizontal, rather than vertical. That horizontal approach requires that data be used responsibly across channels and departments. Google also integrates data governance into the marketing team itself.

As the old maxim goes, no one likes to be sold. Smart marketers use data today to create experiences that are customer-driven, and often owned by the customer in ways marketers never could empower or track in the past. We've all become digital storytellers - and marketers can use data to design shared experiences that guide people through the sales or brand journey. The "moment of truth" is increasingly evolving, fragmented, and mobile. Responsible use of marketing data for marketing purposes helps us create the ultimate shareable moment for each customer in a unique way. We've done this so well, consumers don't even realize that it's marketing.

How are you creating analytics-driven brand experiences? What is your way to incorporate governance into that methodology? Pease share in the comments section below.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stephanie Miller

Stephanie Miller is a relentless customer advocate and a champion for marketers creating memorable online experiences. A digital marketing expert, she helps responsible data-driven marketers connect with the people, resources, and ideas they need to optimize response and revenue. She speaks and writes regularly and leads many industry initiatives as VP, Member Relations and Chief Listening Officer at the Direct Marketing Association (www.the-dma.org). Feedback and column ideas most welcome, to smiller AT the-dma DOT org or @stephanieSAM.

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