Aggregate Data to Grasp the Whole Customer Journey

Without a holistic view of the customer experience, conversion funnels are inefficient. Marketers who truly know their customers can better cater to their needs, convert them and then identify opportunities to upsell and cross-sell them.

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By Randy Antin


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Few companies can connect the dots when managing their massive amounts of customer information. According to research by Econsultancy and Ensighten, only 10 percent of marketers have successfully aggregated data from social, web analytics, customer purchase history and in-store visits and sales.

Even the necessary centralization of that data is becoming more difficult. In a recent CMO Council study, 44 percent of marketers said they believe data aggregation is crucial for completing their picture of the customer experience. Even if an organization stores, collects and aggregates all of its own site's data, it still has a limited view of consumer behavior.

Most marketers don't observe customers' online activity beyond their own sites. According to Teradata, 87 percent of marketers believe data is a valuable yet largely underused tool.

Now is the time to start unleashing its full potential.

A lack of aggregation harms consumer relationships

Without a holistic view of the customer experience, conversion funnels are inefficient. Marketers who truly know their customers can better cater to their needs, convert them and then identify opportunities to upsell and cross-sell them.

For example, if an online retailer knows a customer liked a specific product on Facebook and made a similar purchase before, it can provide personalized messaging and product filtering on its site and provide relevant promo codes. Customers are getting used to this type of customized experience thanks to suggestion mechanisms such as those on Amazon and Netflix. Failure to analyze data properly leads to a lack of accurate customization options, putting the user experience at risk.

Related: Perform Powerful Personalized Marketing in 4 Easy Steps

I've learned that aggregating data is a fundamental step toward understanding customers. At Gap, I worked with various teams and agencies to combine paid search performance data with in-store retail purchase activity from our customers. Matching in-store transactions to paid online search activity allowed us to properly measure ROI regardless of where customers purchased and see how our online activity boosted in-store sales. Then, we expanded customer outreach by focusing on programs we may have shied away from previously.

Related: 5 Strategies for Understanding Customer Needs While Competing in Digital Marketing

Now that I'm at Jumpshot, my team uses clickstream data to set up KPI touchpoints across the internet. In today's cookie- and pixel-driven digital world, it's easy to measure reach, impressions, clicks and the resulting conversion events on a company's own site.

But what about companies such as Intel that primarily sell their products through other platforms such as Amazon and Best Buy? By having data from all of these touchpoints, marketers can finally understand the complete impact campaigns have on their audience and properly allocate money to the digital channels that are truly driving business.

Where to start with data aggregation

Companies that fail to recognize the same individual across social, search, email, and website visits compromise personalization and effectiveness; they also risk decreasing campaign optimization and advertising ROI. Here are four ways to aggregate data effectively to create a holistic picture of the consumer journey:

1. Identify current data sources, and bring them together.

Find the data point or points that different data sets have in common. Usually, this process is more complicated than finding a common customer ID across channels. Instead, observe how two data sets match and then use a different data point to compare how two other sets match. Once enough matching data points appear, piece them together in an intricate jigsaw.

Foursquare does this through a data-mining technique called "social network analysis." It uses data to find the most popular person in a group and targets its marketing efforts to that person. The technique assumes that this person will influence his or her friends. Foursquare analyzes not only customer habits, likes and dislikes, but also the connections between different people in a group, allowing the company to effectively advertise places, products and neighborhoods.

2. Find external data sources, and match them to internal sources.

Fully understanding customers means knowing not only what they do on company web properties, but also what they do when they are on other organizations' properties. Locate external data sources through a data onboarder, such as LiveRamp, Datalogix or Merkle.

LiveRamp, for one, partners with Google to integrate with Customer Match. Customer Match lets brands activate their first-party data to target across YouTube, search and Gmail. Once partnered up, look at the onboarder's lists of existing data partners to cover any company needs. This makes it easier to provide relevant content to audiences across channels and devices.

3. Get someone to analyze your aggregated internal data.

Aggregation requires a team to collect, manage and analyze the data -- then share the results. Either hire people such as analysts, data scientists or Excel experts or find a vendor or a project-based outsourcing solution such as Fiverr, CrowdFlower or Experfy. Once the data is analyzed, put it in the hands of the people who can get the most value from it.

One lesser-known advantage of analyzing internal data is new product ideas. Home automation and security company Vivint analyzed data from its doorbell cameras. The company found that families, especially those with young, cell phone-less children, were using its cameras most during late afternoons on weekdays. Vivint Ping emerged from this discovery: a two-way videochat children can use to communicate with their parents once they arrive home after school.

4. Establish KPIs and reporting.

Know what's important to the company and how it is measured; then, apply it to programs, data and overall marketing and CRM initiatives. Without effective measuring techniques, it will be hard to determine which marketing efforts are worthwhile.

KPIs vary across companies, but for most entrepreneurs, customer acquisition cost, lifetime value and profit margins are very important. Track the amount of money spent to acquire new customers, measure the lifetime value of each customer relationship, and analyze how much an offering sells for above its production cost. Once the metrics that will be used for measuring success are nailed down, apply them -- and make sure no updates or changes are needed for those metrics.

Related: 5 Steps to Creating Metrics That Matter for Your Company

A comprehensive view of consumers is impossible without connecting the dots between touchpoints. Aggregating data helps piece together a more holistic view of the customer journey. Then, use that information for long-term success.

Randy Antin

VP of marketing for Jumpshot

Randy Antin is VP of marketing for Jumpshot, a San Francisco-based marketing analytics solution that provides behavioral trend insights of its 100 million user panel by analyzing clickstream activity. He has previously held roles at numerous startups and more established companies, including Gap Inc. and Travelocity. His digital marketing experience includes everything from search to affiliates to structured feeds to retargeting.

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