Searching For The Holy Grail Of Marketing? You Can Stop At The Universal Customer Profile
If you're looking to ramp up your marketing strategy, look no further than the universal customer profile. Columnist Erik Bratt explains what you need to successfully create and leverage a single customer view.
When marketers talk about the future state of marketing, it invariably circles back to the ability to deliver the right message, at the right time, to the right person.
Obtaining this rare ability requires several things, but none more important than the single customer view, also known as a universal customer profile, which is a holistic, aggregated understanding of the customer’s interactions across all touch points, including Web, mobile and offline. These centralized views or profiles contain all the known attributes that an organization knows about an identifiable visitor.
Marketers are increasingly recognizing the importance of building and leveraging these unified profiles across their marketing technology stack to help fuel real-time omni-channel personalization.
In a recent survey of Tealium customers (my employer), 99 percent of respondents said that being able to create, store and leverage these universal profiles was important to increasing marketing results (chart below), according to research conducted by TechValidate.
It’s not surprising — using these profiles is key to attacking what many marketers contend is their biggest priority in the customer life cycle: converting customers to a purchase or action while engaged on their website or channels right now (chart below).
The power of the universal profile lies in its ability to:
- Accumulate information about the customer’s behavior and preferences across brand touch points in real-time, and
- Recognize and treat that customer accordingly wherever he or she goes within your channels.
For example, the second a customer spends more than $1,000 across your Web and mobile properties, you may want to assign him or her a specific attribute, such as a VIP badge. This badge can then be recognized wherever the customer goes across your technology stack, enabling you to deliver highly relevant experiences befitting a VIP customer.
As with many things in life, getting these valuable profiles is easier said than done. They must be built, managed and leveraged in a specific way, or they lose all power to drive true action and results. Here are seven key requirements for successfully creating and leveraging a universal customer profile:
• Real-Time Data – The customer journey is continually evolving, and brands need to be able to react in the moment, which is why slow, traditional data-collection methods involving batch processing are no longer sufficient. They can’t keep up.
The data used in universal profiles must be collected, segmented, enriched and distributed (to marketing execution partners) incredibly fast, usually within a sub-second time frame.
• Dynamic Segmentation – Traditional batch segmentation techniques are rigid and place people in simplistic groups. Today’s marketers need to be able create customer segments on the fly, and have those segments evolve based on behavior.
Customers may leave one segment and enter another, or be part of multiple segments at once. In each case, the universal profile must continually be updated and ready for distribution.
• Profile Enrichment – One important part of creating a 360-degree profile is the ability to enrich the customer profile based on offline data, or the ability to enrich the profile through the creation of new data.
For the latter, let’s look at the metric “lifetime value,” which is used to create that VIP attribute mentioned earlier. That specific metric doesn’t exist on the Web page, but can be calculated by aggregating each individual purchase until a certain marketer-defined threshold is met ($1,000).
Profile enrichment opens up a world of possibilities and is key in creating the best possible view of the customer.
• Visitor Profile Stitching – Consumers are now traversing between devices with dizzying frequency, making it difficult to get a holistic view of customer activity. Profile stitching solves this problem by merging the known profiles of a consumer across devices.
For example, if a consumer is a frequent website shopper, and then decides to shop via that brand’s new mobile app, those profiles can be stitched together — based on authentication — to give a complete and accurate view of the customer journey. Previously, that same person often looked like two people on two different devices.
• Data Distribution – Leveraging universal profiles is critical in today’s marketing landscape, but actually rather useless if you can’t take action with them. This is why it’s key to have seamless data connections with a variety of marketing execution partners, from email to CRM systems to advertising, to help take action on those customers in real time.
Once the profiles are created, they need to be sent to these partners for superior remarketing and customer conversion activities.
• First-Party Data – You can compile customer profiles using third-party data sources, but they end up looking like Frankenstein’s monster: distorted, slow, stumbling, staggering, ineffective. The key to maximizing universal profiles is creating them from first-party data — customer data that is directly collected by you — and augmenting it with third-party sources when necessary.
First-party profiles are more accurate and more actionable without doubt. Many marketers agree (chart below).
• Rules Engine – Finally, the last puzzle piece in maximizing universal profiles is a rules engine, which enables you to define rules that trigger automated actions based on up-to-the-second behaviors. These rules are then executed via marketing partners.
For example, one set of rules may dictate that once a VIP visitor (using what definition you want) has not visited your site or purchased anything in three weeks, send them an email with a special offer to come back. Or, you may want to start targeting them via ads. The possibilities are endless.
So what can you do with these profiles? At a user conference my company hosted in April, Henry Quinn, manager of digital analytics at L.L. Bean, talked about the importance of leveraging universal profiles in being able to improve its browse and cart abandonment campaigns, as well as more effectively aligning treatments across channels.
At the same event, James Hunkele, who handles web analytics at American Eagle, discussed using these profiles to provide more relevant in-store service. (Video of their presentations, which are focused pretty specifically on the products they’re using, are available here.)
Multiple types of vendors offer customer profiles, including companies focused on personalization and data management providers. Because of their deep integration with a large chunk of the digital marketing ecosystem, tag management vendors like my employer are well-suited to offer a universal customer profile composed of fast, first-party data. Whichever vendor you use, make sure you have the right recipe for success.
When marketers talk about leveraging data, and delivering a more relevant experiences, they are talking about an ever-changing, easily shareable, universal customer profile. The much-vaunted “holy grail” of marketing? It’s really nothing more than that.