The premise is simple: use big data collected from customers to achieve better outcomes for businesses. It’s a concept that many organizations have taken to heart, especially when it comes to leveraging customer data. As the common thought goes, if you improve the customer experience, you’ll have more success now and in the long term. With this in mind, it’s no wonder so many businesses have been quick to hop on the big data bandwagon. As tantalizing as using big data to achieve more success is, many companies have quickly realized that the principle is much more difficult when put into practice. Businesses are constantly running into problems with leveraging customer data, and much of it can be attributed to the data fragmentation they’re encountering. Data has become spread out across whole organizations, with fragments existing in different departments and found on different systems and applications. What many businesses are working with as a result is an incomplete picture of the customer.
Compounding the problem is the growth of the omnichannel experience, where customers can interact with businesses through a variety of channels, from in-store purchases to online browsing to mobile payments. The information collected through these processes only becomes more spread out over time, creating greater fragmentation. The process complexity grows, and it turns into a massive management headache just to handle a portion of the data collected, let alone everything in its entirety. Many businesses respond to these challenges through the introduction of new tools and cloud solutions, but this can increase data fragmentation even further. Put simply, the more sources from which data is collected and analyzed, the harder to manage the data becomes.
This can be seen in the challenging task marketers often face. According to recent research from Forrester, marketers on average use about 15 different sources for a single customer. This can quickly turn into a customer data silo problem, where information is contained within its own individual silo and is not shared across the entire organization. The result is a less than desirable experience for the consumer, one that is disjointed and largely inconsistent. That means customers are having an unpleasant experience with a business, and the chances of them continuing to frequent a company decrease. The complexity of applications and systems containing customer data also makes it difficult for marketers to respond quickly to changes within the customer profile. A delay in this response can then lead to outdated personalization approaches, which in many cases can make an unpleasant experience even worse. From this it’s easy to see that if customer information is siloed, there is little chance a business can achieve the market success they are looking for.
Overcoming the obstacle of data fragmentation and customer data silos requires the creation of a true customer profile. This involves tearing down silos and developing a comprehensive profile of each customer that can be updated in real time. The data is compiled from all the sources used for data collection, making sure that the information doesn’t become segmented and the sole property of certain departments. This means going beyond customer relationship management software and actually utilizing sources from outside the business as well. As you can reasonably guess, this isn’t always the easiest thing to do, which is why it requires the cooperation and collaboration of all departments within an enterprise. Sharing data is essential for this process to be effective. It may even require changing up existing company culture and data collection processes, including adopting new technologies like converged systems and all flash array storage options. The main point is that departments can’t be working on their own anymore. All teams will need to work together in order to break down these customer silos.
More data sharing within the business will lead to greater market success. Customers will have a better experience overall, and that will result in more positive interactions. Beyond that, companies will truly be getting the most out of their big data efforts. It truly is something to strive for, something that will make organizations more efficient and able to respond to customer needs.