3 Assumptions Retailers Make About Customer Data
What assumptions are you making about your customer data and marketing technology that's limiting the effectiveness of your marketing efforts without you even knowing it? The ability to manage customer data is the lifeblood of retail customer journey marketing; however, many retailers are making assumptions about customer data that may impede their marketing efforts.
What was true a few years ago in retail marketing may no longer be the case anymore due to changing customer buying habits and new marketing automation technologies. Are there old assumptions about customer data that are lingering at your company? It usually takes the introduction of a new perspective or access to additional information to bring assumptions to light. Keep reading to see if your marketing efforts are being hindered by any of the three assumptions below:
Assumption No. 1: I have real-time access to all of my customer data.
Reality: For all of the rhetoric about “real-time marketing,” many retailers and marketers don’t actually have real-time access to customer data. As soon as data is replicated and sent to a software as a service (SaaS) marketing platform, it's out of date. It takes time for data updates to sync between databases. In addition, retailers have gotten used to cherry-picking data to be uploaded to their SaaS provider for specific campaigns — i.e., the data that they desire isn’t always able to be used. By the time marketers are able to get data in the right place for segmentation or personalization, the data can be days or even weeks old. Meanwhile, a real-time marketing opportunity has passed. While this is the norm, it's not ideal.
The way to have real-time access to your data is to use software that plugs directly into a centralized database. Historically, this has meant that brands must use on-site solutions for email, which has fallen out of favor in the last decade due to the emergence of SaaS. Cloud-based solutions allow companies to offload the “heavy lifting” onto the provider, but it does eliminate the benefit of having direct, real-time access to internal data.
Fortunately, new hybrid technology has made it possible to realize the benefits of both models. By combining cloud software with lightweight installed on-premises software, marketers can now tap directly into their centralized database. By accessing data directly from a centralized database of record, it's possible to create personalized, relevant and immediate messaging using the freshest data available from all consumer touchpoints. The result is true real-time access (not “near” real time) to any and all retail customer data.
Assumption No. 2: My email service is always available through my ESP.
Reality: Retailers and marketers typically don’t think about service level agreements (SLAs) on a daily basis; they expect their solution to work at all times, no interruption. When retailers do sign a SLA with an email service provider (ESP), having any guarantee of uptime sounds good and a guarantee of 99 percent uptime sounds great — until you find out exactly how much downtime that is. What you may not realize is that 99 percent of uptime translates to more than seven hours downtime a month. In case you didn’t do that math, that's about three-and-a-half days of downtime per year. Imagine three-and-a-half days of downtime during your busiest season! What most retailers really want is at least “four nines” (99.99 percent) of uptime, which means less than an hour of downtime per year.
How much does uptime really matter? Consider what could happen if your ESP wasn't available during your busiest time of year. ESPs that aren't adept at scaling are often most at risk of experiencing downtime during high-volume times such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. When this happens, well-planned marketing campaigns turn into lost, unrecoverable opportunities. The more automated your marketing is, the more complicated the fallout. A disruption in service may mean hours of sifting through data logs to determine which messages need to be resent and/or which data integrations need to be restarted.
Assumption No. 3: I’m not increasing my data security risk by using a SaaS provider.
Reality: Trust is the most important marketing tool that you have, so it's important to keep your customer data as secure as possible. Protecting customer data used to be the sole responsibility of the IT department, but marketers now have increasing responsibility when it comes to keeping customer data secure. The risk of exposing sensitive personally identifiable customer data increases as marketers continue to gather more information about customers in an effort to personalize messaging. Personally identifiable information can refer to any data that can be used to distinguish or trace an individual’s identity, either alone or when combined with other information.
SaaS marketing platforms can be just as secure (or at risk) as on-premises systems when it comes to storing customer data. However, one thing to keep in mind is that storing data in the cloud means copying your data and sending it to a third-party SaaS provider via the internet. While SaaS providers take precautions to keep your data safe, having someone else store information about your customers increases the exposure of data. A more secure option is to avoid storing sensitive customer data in the cloud, while still making use of cloud applications to handle resource-heavy tasks, such as message rendering and delivery.
Dan Roy is CEO and co-founder of MessageGears, an enterprise email marketing hybrid solution.