For brands that think they have a handle on what their customers want and whether they are delivering it, Merkle has a sobering assessment: they don’t. In the company’s Q1 2022 Customer Engagement Report, Merkle describes a “well documented disconnect” between how well brands think they are doing in the area of personalization and what their customers actually think.

What the scope of the problem?

  • 90% of CX leaders think very positively about how well they are delivering personalized content to their customers, while only 26% of their customers felt the same.
  • 53% of businesses believe their customers are very satisfied with their self-service offerings, but only 15% of consumers agree.
  • 81% of consumers expect more self-service options, but 40% of businesses think they have enough.
  • Only 15% of businesses say Google is their consumers’ first stop, but 46% of customers actually start their journeys this way.
  • 36% of consumers want smarter self-service, but only 11% of businesses are prioritizing it.
  • 52% of consumers say chat is their preferred digital offering, but only 31% of businesses currently offer it.

That’s a pretty big gap between perception and reality. “These companies are thinking, ‘We got this. We are personalizing. It’s all under control,” says Courtney Trudeau, vice president of technology consulting, Merkle, speaking in eMarketer’s October 26, 2022, webinar “Driving Personalization at Scale. “But this data is telling us, they don’t.”

Source: “Driving Personalization at Scale,” (Isider Intelligence, October 2022)

What’s Driving the Disconnect?

What is happening within organizations that brands thinking they are doing a great job, but customers aren’t feeling the same? In its Q3 Customer Engagement Report, Merkle seeks to answer that question. The answer, the survey found, is that the disconnect in personalization is directly related to the gaps and silos in companies’ data. Specifically, while 85% of respondents rated the maturity of their organization’s data strategy as “good” or “strong”…

  • Just 32% use that data throughout the enterprise.
  • Only 24% have migrated all customer data to the cloud.
  • Only 24% have all of their data in a central repository.
  • Only a quarter of respondents have campaign data in a central data store; 39% keep this data locked in a CRM.

“So while marketers think they have it all together, their data is actually very siloed and incomplete,” noted Trudeau, “and customers are feeling the results.”

Fixing the Disconnect

How to fix this disconnect? Trudeau outlined three specific areas: strategy, data,  and technology:

  1. Build a unified customer data strategy. Notes Trudeau, strategy can’t be the exclusive domain of marketing. “A common vision must be shared with all of a company’s business units, including customer service, IT, commerce, apps, and sales,” she said. “This way, you are connecting the experiences as customers move throughout the customer lifecycle.”
  2. For maximum flexibility and speed to market, migrate data to the cloud. “Organizations need to evolve beyond the CRM or channel-specific technologies,” Trudeau says. “They need a cloud-based platform that provides the flexibility, scalability, and centrality critical to building that consistent, relevant customer experience. This requires migrating data out of individual siloed databases and into a shared cloud-based data platform.”
  3. Have a technology strategy, too. “You don't want your customer service platforms to outpace the data technology that unpins it,” Trudeau explains.Focusing on those hot technologies that promise the world is all well and good, but without a data foundation, those shiny new objects won’t perform like you think they will.”

Ideally, build with an open platform in order to connect all the parts and pieces.

Break Down the Silos

Trudeau pointed to the many data silos that can exist in an organization, including marketing (campaign data, media engagement preferences); sales (transactional data, demographic data, behavioral data); and service (feedback, transactional data, contact information).

“You need to break down these organizational silos and create a data strategy across these business units,” she explained. “This will reduce data replication and maintain that ‘single source of truth.’”

Of course, breaking down of silos also will require different areas of the organization to talk to each other in a way that, perhaps, they haven’t done before. Specifically, marketing and IT, both of which have competing priorities, must do a better job of communicating up front.  

“I’m talking radical collaboration here,” says Trudeau. “Break down the barriers and communicate your data strategy across the organization. Teams need to understand the what, where, and why so they don’t go off and build their own data silos.” 

Successful data migrations also require a common and integrated toolset—the same tools set for everyone to use and learn. “I can’t emphasize this enough,” says Trudeau. “Integration is key. You need to ensure that your data foundation is connected to all your technologies and platforms. Otherwise, having that right-time connection with your consumers is going to be out of reach.’

Perspective from Citizen’s Bank

The webinar panelists included Bryce Buckley, senior vice president of Citizens Bank, who discussed the company’s own journey with Merkle to migrate from offline to cloud-based data for its scalability and speed to market.

When asked about how Citizens went about this, Buckley pointed to three things:

  1. Having the processes and people to support the migration. This includes changing its operational structure to support it.
  2. Having product owners for each channel to keep things focused and on track.
  3. Being willing to do things differently. This includes understanding that working in the cloud is its own animal and requires a new way of thinking and structure from the ground up.

These three things require people—starting at the top with leadership—who are fully bought into the process. “It requires transforming the mindset of, ‘This is what we used to do,’” says Buckley. “To, ‘This is what we are doing going forward and here are the recommended things we need to do to get there.’”

This level of change, Buckley concludes, won’t happen without full support at the highest levels of the organization.

The Number One Mistake?

What’s the number one mistake companies make when migrating to the cloud? According to Pete Rogers,  senior vice president, capabilities lead, technology consulting, at Merkle, it is migrating existing solutions “as is.”

“The cloud is a different architecture,” says Rogers. “It’s a different set of technologies. You have to think about things differently. The way you manage your data, the way that you load it, the way that you pay for it. When clients take their existing solutions and simply move them into a cloud environment, they struggle. They don’t get the performance. It costs them more money.”

Another thing companies need to do, Buckley chimes in, is create a close, collaborative working relationship between marketing and IT. This includes marketing having the clear vision of how the technology would be used. “Without that clear vision, IT ends up building something may not hit the mark at the end of the day,” says Buckley. “Everyone must be working with a shared set of goals.”

What if you don’t have all of the expertise in-house to take on a migration like this? Rogers recommended working with an outside company until the migration takes on its own wings. There are too many moving pieces to think you can pull off a major transition like this by hiring and training everyone internally. Consider outsourcing key components until the things are running smoothly. Then hiring the necessary people to keep it going.

Watch the full webinar here.