Can You Really See Your Customers?

The more data we get about our customers, the more we realize we don’t really know them. Because there’s no way to put all that information together and see them in one 360-degree view. Some tech providers and marketing consultants promise a view of the customer journey, but it’s really partial at best.

Businesses are spending more and more resources, and depending more and more, on a wide range of digital innovations aimed at increasing convenience, intensifying experiences and tracking involvement with brands. AI, AR, and VR lead most conversations and conferences, and investment keeps escalating.

According to recent research by Accenture, one-third of companies are planning to increase their innovation related investments by more than 50 percent, as worldwide spending on technology and services to enable digital transformation reaches approaches $2 trillion by 2022. Similarly, ADWEEK published a summary of leading applications. And Gartner published a spend survey showing that 63% percent of CMOs expect their innovation budgets to increase in 2019.

At this rate, you’d think we are making quantum leaps in marketing efficiency and customer development. But all the investment is actually falling short of the grand expectations that B2C and B2B technologies have created.

The biggest problem, despite years of focus, is the inability of organizations to establish the user’s identity across the ever-increasing channels, devices and data sources. Forrester recently confirmed that the ability to establish users across data sources remains a top-priority problem for businesses. In other words, we still can’t really see our customers. No amount of what magic from the Internet of Things toolkit can overcome this fundamental problem.

So what good is it to advance marketing innovation if we don’t know who we’re marketing to?

If we don’t establish user identity, we can’t accurately profile behavior across channels or journeys across multiple sites. That makes it impossible to budget and communicate optimally to the right audiences, particularly for those companies that have many distinct brands with offline presences. What’s more, it compromises the quality of automated experiences they can offer customers.

When you can see your customers, it’s transformative. Unlocking the profile and journey of users showed a show company it was misdirecting its marketing at 20- to 25-year-old men when married women were actually buying for their husbands and sons. But the overwhelming majority of marketers end up like the growing digital commerce electronics company that still struggles to find what its consumers are doing just before landing on their website. Were they searching on Google or commenting in Facebook? Were they making mobile purchases, and what banks and payments systems did they use?

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to seeing customers is the irony of the FAANG proprietary systems we now refer to as walled gardens. While they allow marketers to operate from unprecedentedly clear vision on their platforms, the customer vision stays inside the wall. The user data provided by platforms amount to a pinhole vision; typically, small cohorts of users specific to channels rather than a 360- degree spectrum of behavior across digital, offline and real-world action. DSPs, CRMs, and DMPs all provide value, but none deliver a unified user view in a cross-media, cross-channel, cross-device, online and offline arena. Many third-party sources readily offer a list, but by the time that data has been segmented, joined, uniquified and optimized for user identity, weeks pass by and the prospect has long disappeared from the business radar.

But what if we had one universal user ID system? Using blockchain, it would be possible to establish and maintain a single view of user identity that evolves with activity. By consolidating the various user tracking pixels, event emanating scripts and other first-party data generators, we could unify first and third-party data. We could see customers across platforms and technologies.

It’s possible. Privacy concerns can be satisfied with anonymized data and the security of blockchain technologies. And the intensely competitive walled gardens can come to realize it’s essential to the growth of their businesses when marketers give them no choice. Because in the years ahead, marketing innovation and business growth will depend on how clearly and completely we see our customers.

About the Author

Shiva Kris is currently working as Chief Technology Officer at Ad2pro Group. Prior to this, he has worked at Yahoo!, Hyperion (Oracle) and [24]7.ai in US and in India. He has more than 20 years of rich experience in engineering, product and program management, data science. Shiva is passionate about technology, especially AI and big-data.

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