Every marketer knows the classic funnel: AIDA—Awareness, Interest, Decision, Action (or some variant of this). It’s traditionally been visualized as a linear process:
Thanks to the rise of mobile technology and omnichannel commerce, these phases of the traditional buyer funnel now take place across multiple channels. This fracturing of the customer journey has killed the linear buyer funnel, and replaced it with a non-linear, multi-device path:
With the death of the linear buyer funnel, marketers are adapting the way they do business to meet a more complex and challenging environment and high customer demands. Today’s customer expects that companies will interact with them one-on-one; they expect to be treated like an individual. And this means knowing a customer’s preferences, interests, and history.
Yet the technological challenges involved in accomplishing this are easy to underestimate. Marketers may be tempted to say that, for example, a Master Data Management solution that aggregates multiple databases into one is the answer. Or a CRM that plugs into multiple apps and mines multiple data silos. Or an attribution tool. Or a customer journey map. What these marketers fail to understand/acknowledge is that their problem is not with the tools they’re using: it’s with the underlying data powering those tools.
Companies collect a tremendous amount of data on their customers. Yet, the data flowing into businesses usually doesn’t paint an accurate picture of customer behavior. This is because most customer engagement now happens anonymously (i.e. not logged in) across multiple screens/devices, with each separate device looking like a different customer. So instead of seeing one shopper looking at shoes on a phone in the morning, a tablet at lunch, and a laptop in the evening (a common non-linear journey); a retailer sees three shoppers each looking at shoes one time (a very different picture!). One small example of the domino effect this has on your data is an artificial inflation of your unique visitors metric: in this case, your data shows that you’ve had three times the unique visitors that you’ve actually had.
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR MARKETERS: CHANGING PRIORITIES
Delivering an omnichannel experience means more than just serving customers marketing material in multiple channels. It is not enough to have great user experiences in each channel separately; there needs to be a common thread that binds all channels together in one ever-continuing journey. But when the same customer looks like a different person on every device, how can their experiences possibly be consistent?
LEARN HOW TO GET BETTER INSIGHTS INTO YOUR CUSTOMERS
What’s been missing from the omnichannel marketing equation is a single view of customer behavior. Omnichannel marketing up til now has been about giving the customer a single view/experience with the brand no matter what channel she’s in. What’s needed, and has been neglected, is that the brand also needs a single view/experience of the customer no matter what channel she’s in. This has nothing to do with your messaging or your creative or your offers. It has everything to do with your data. This is the fundamental piece of omnichannel marketing that marketers will re-prioritize in the coming years.
To accomplish this goal of a single view of customer behavior, marketers need to rethink how they collect and store their data. The current norm is to collect and store data from each channel separately in disparate tools that are loosely integrated (at best). But, given that customers are dipping in and out of multiple channels during one journey, this strategy yields seriously fractured data and leads to only shallow insights. Again, the problem isn’t with the tools themselves: it’s with the underlying data. It’s that one shopper’s data gets fragmented into three or four different profiles in your system. Solving this problem requires a capability that almost no retailers have: the ability to identify a user across multiple devices (“cross-device identification”).
Omnichannel took the industry by storm and embroiled marketers in a wild goose chase for the next new shiny tool. But in the heat of this rush marketers lost sight of what matters most: their customer. Some marketers—many upset by the lack of returns omnichannel has provided—are now taking the chance to come up for air, take a deep breath, and refocus on what matters most. They’re taking a second look at what they always knew: Data is the backbone of every great marketing strategy.
Marketers are beginning to question their data more thoroughly. They aren’t just trusting suppliers anymore; they can’t afford to. As marketers refocus on what matters most, I suspect we will start seeing a greater demand for rock-solid data foundations.