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The core building blocks of a high-performing data strategy

As a data-driven marketer, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the volume and variety of consumer data that’s available. You’re dealing with an exponential growth in customer touchpoints — every website visit, ad view, use of a product, and interaction with a customer service representative generates data. And this data is often siloed across multiple systems and departments — even organisations — making it difficult to understand who your customers are, what they’re doing, and what they want.
The marketers who excel at engaging and converting consumers take the time to put in place a solid data strategy that overcomes these barriers to success. According to Microsoft research, these marketers best understand the consumer decision journey (CDJ) — and in turn can better market to and convert consumers.
Microsoft teamed with Advertiser Perceptions to arrive at this insight through a combination of in-depth interviews and an online survey. What we found is that 20% of marketing leaders excelled at both understanding the buyer journey and then better marketing based on that understanding. We define those combined aspects as the Customer Experience Quotient (CXQ) and refer to these marketers as High CXQ Performers. The research revealed that they’re better at:
  • Understanding their customer by creating insights from customer data.
  • Reaching and converting customers using data-driven marketing.
  • Engaging their customers through personalised experiences that generate more data.
Let’s explore the building blocks enabling high performers to achieve this success.

Step 1: Define your data goals

The first step is deciding what you want to do with your consumer data. In the case of better marketing, it’s essential to apply data to deliver the experience consumers expect and to be able to determine and demonstrate the marketing impact on the business. Providing personalised messages and offers at the most fitting time shows you understand the interests, needs, behaviours and intents of your customers as they traverse their decision journeys. You also have to be able to connect your activities to purchases and revenue.
Now that you have an idea of how you’ll use your data, it’s time to create a workable data framework.

Step 2: Address data accuracy, security, and privacy

Before you can make use of all the data at your disposal, put in place a solid foundation underpinning all your data usage. It starts by overcoming core data challenges: ensuring data accuracy and data security, while addressing privacy concerns.
When it comes to data accuracy, you’re confirming information contained in data files is correct. Unfortunately, combining huge volumes of data from multiple sources is a complex process that can introduce errors, such as duplicate data and inconsistent formats.
You can apply multiple measures to ensure data accuracy, including:
  • Assigning someone with responsibility for ensuring data quality. That often includes defining, communicating, evangelising, and enforcing data quality standards.
  • Implementing role-based access to your data so only authorised people can access the data — and only the data they need.
High performers call upon third-party data to enrich their journey mapping and marketing, and to inform their personalisation efforts. However, you’ll want to confirm the trustworthiness and accuracy of those sources before you add them to the mix.
You can also follow the lead of high performers in response to privacy issues and new data regulations. To address customer concerns while ensuring they can still collect valuable data, high performers:
  • Rely on probabilistic vs. deterministic device-tracking data.
  • Offer consumers incentives to share data.
  • Have shifted away from cookies to first-party data.

Step 3: Unify first-, second- and third-party data

Now it’s time to establish a comprehensive view of each customer and their journeys. Think of this as your next building block.
High CXQ performers make it a priority to develop a complete understanding of their customers. They know this foundation is essential to improving the customer experience through personalised engagement. 
To that end, they make use of more first- through third-party data sources than the other 80% of marketers. They consider organic search the most essential first-party data source, and complement it with other essential third-party data sources, including data providers’ audience segments and geospatial or location data. In fact, 88% of high performers rely on third-party data to overcome barriers to marketing across the customer decision journey.
With that in mind, be sure you're looking at enough data sources; high performers consider nine sources of first-party data essential. After organic search, they turn to data from:
  1. Ad serving
  2. Website analytics
  3. CRM
  4. Call centers
  5. Customer surveys
  6. Offline sales
  7. Mobile app analytics
  8. Online sales
You can up your game and join the ranks of high performers by prioritising and dedicating resources to data unification, focusing on these top sources of data. The key is to bring together all customer-related data from both internal and external sources, across platforms and channels.
One way to solve the customer data problem is by using Microsoft’s Azure Cloud solutions, which help you consolidate your data in the cloud and achieve a 360-degree view of your customer.

A customer data platform (CDP) is another option. As a unified database, it centralises customer data from all sources, making it accessible to other systems. Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Insights is one such CDP. With it, you can unify data — whether transactional, behavioural, or observational — across diverse sources, and even enrich customer profiles with market insights and real-time product usage. It also allows you to gather, store and transform your data in the cloud, in line with high performers. By taking this approach to achieve a consolidated view of the customer, high performers realise higher efficiency, a better understanding of customer data, and higher ROI.
For more insights into what enables a high-performing, data-driven marketing strategy, download our eBook on Creating Smarter Customer Journeys