Digital MarketingStrategiesThe secret to developing a healthy obsession with the customer

The secret to developing a healthy obsession with the customer

The key to a customer-focused strategy is implementing a total customer experience that relies on first-party data and a 360-degree view of the customer journey

30-second summary:

  • To better understand the customer, brands will need to reevaluate how they interact with and track the customer journey
  • Understanding the high-value customers and their behavior will allow brands to enhance the customer experience and build long-lasting relationships
  • Data and digital transformation are necessary steps to transform the customer experience
  • Brands will need to focus on developing strong first-party data to ensure they can create a 360-degree view of the customer.

The traditional marketing mix – defined by the four Ps of product, price, place, and promotion – has given way to the “total customer experience” as the standard by which great brands are built.

It is created by orchestrating a series of individual, seamlessly integrated interactions that reflect and enhance the value of your brand at every touchpoint. All throughout the customer journey, the experiences you provide are either helping you build a lasting relationship with your customer, or helping you destroy one.

High-value consumer relationships are unique and complicated, but they can be understood and cultivated.

Ultimately, they are built upon moments in time – individual touchpoints blend together into a set of meaningful experiences that ultimately merge to form relationships. This is a simple but powerful truth, and the thoughtful use of data, analytics, and technology can deliver an actionable, tangible set of moments that can turn experiences into relationships.

The best brands in the world are tied together by a common obsession with the consumer. One of Amazon’s guiding principles is a “customer obsession, rather than competitor focus.” At Salesforce, a core value states “We’re obsessed with our customers’ success and take pride in their achievements.”

This kind of obsession can only be served by a level of hyper-personalization that follows a blueprint for developing, managing, and delivering on a customer-centric approach.

In today’s market, it is a critical driver of business success. According to Temkin Group research, customer loyalty increases in direct correlation to the level of experience provided by a brand.

There is immense opportunity for brands to control their own destiny. And to take advantage of it, they need to directly influence the customer experience across marketing, sales, commerce, and service.

Now more than ever, brands are determined to bring together a cohesive, 360-degree view of the customer.

But market forces, such as privacy regulations, the death of third-party cookies, the shake out of martech space, the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), and the emergence of cloud platforms like Google, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and others, are causing a shift in the way marketers approach customer centricity.

These forces are driving a movement away from reliance on third-party data and toward the predominance of first-party data and identity. Therein lies the greatest opportunity.

Going forward, organizations will need to fully maximize their first-party data assets through more productive interactions with their customers and prospects and leverage strategic partnerships to deliver second-party data. This will require a design for data maximization and a strong infrastructure founded on an enterprise-level identity management capability.

There will be big winners and big losers in this effort, and the companies that can master the total customer experience will have a true competitive edge, manifested in revenues, profit margins, growth rates, employee and customer satisfaction, and ultimately shareholder value.

To drive that competitive advantage, the CMO – and the entire C-suite – must employ a specific set of skills that revolve around data transformation, digital transformation, and their own organizational agility.

The formula for customer experience transformation

As brands build strategies to re-emerge from the COVID-driven recession and cater to a changed consumer, the way forward is through a customer experience transformation. Market leadership is built by implementing a strategy and infrastructure to support it.

The equation for success is:

data transformation + digital transformation = customer experience transformation.

The components of this equation are defined as follows:

  • Data transformation is the privacy-safe acquisition, management, analysis, and activation of valuable data that informs customer interactions in real time. Companies need platforms that enable the organization to work efficiently, effectively, and unbounded with vast amounts of first-party data.
  • Digital transformation is the design and delivery of customer experiences that are contextually relevant and personally informed. A core set of technology assets enables greater knowledge at each point of interaction, provides insight on why the customer is engaging, and informs decisions around how to best serve the relationship at a specific point in time.
  • The resulting customer experience transformation involves innovation that drives differentiation and measurable business results. It requires a careful orchestration of disparate functions within a business, balancing multiple strategies simultaneously and adapting to pursue common goals with a constant customer lens.

This formula can only be achieved with an organizational adaptiveness that transcends traditional media silos and divergent product-based or channel-based objectives, functioning as a connected ecosystem that is fixated on the customer.

From the boardroom to the front lines, the entire organization must be conditioned to put customer needs at the center of every decision, every action and every moment.  It’s about marketing, sales, commerce, and service working in unison to deliver a unified experience.

To seize this opportunity, you must change the way you engage with customers and understand their needs. It requires the ability to effectively connect data, implement automation, and coordinate internal processes.

Addressing these challenges requires enterprise-wide buy-in that starts at the C-suite and spans the entire organization.


Craig has been a member of the Merkle executive leadership team for nearly 15 years. In his role as Global CEO, he is responsible for the company’s many service lines, including customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise technology, data, analytics, performance media, user experience, performance creative, promotion and loyalty solutions, and customer strategy consulting. He oversees a staff of more than 9,700 employees in over 50 locations throughout the Americas, EMEA, and APAC.

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