In her classic tale of unmet expectations, Judith Viorst gives us young Alexander and his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. As he endures 24-hours of purgatory running errands with his family, Alexander must grudgingly accept that the blue shoes with red stripes he covets—and which his brothers so breezily acquire—aren’t available in his size. He exits the shoe store despondent, relegated to plain white.

Without a complete view of the consumer, are marketers doomed to follow in Alexander’s footsteps? Imagine the response metrics around retargeted ads that taunt digital shoppers with a pair of blue shoes with red stripes, weeks after they’ve grudgingly purchased plain white. (With apologies to Viorst, see the forthcoming children’s book for ad tech parents, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Customer Profile). Supported by a strong call to action – Buy Now! In Stock!  – these tactics are more likely to harm the customer experience than produce new sales.

Several years ago, while I served as a director of digital marketing, my team member came into the office.  You’ll never guess what I just figured out, he said.  A loyal customer was not receiving the personalized loyalty email communication that marketing had designed.  Through deep investigation, we had traced this to the database query that generated our email segmentation.

His last name happened to be “Null” and so our query simply skipped the record even though it matched, because it saw the last name field was empty!  Without a persistent customer database and business rules to handle his multiple transactions, no amount of desire on our part to offer a better experience could generate one for Mr. Null.  The headache our customer went through might not have been unique, but it certainly showed what we needed to do to get going in the right direction.

Is collecting – and storing – more data to fill out a unified profile, “creepy”?  Gartner’s Personal Technology Survey found that 50% of consumers agree that “I am willing to exchange personal information for better offers/prices” and more than half believe personalization, based on consumer data, is helpful.

Consumers, however, can vote with their feet (or mouse click): research from L2 found that “Personalized homepages, based on either logged-in account information or browser-based cookies, drop average bounce rates [from 47%] to 39%. Additionally, personalization drives consumers to spend 46% more time on site and view 39% more pages per visit.”[1]

These results confound marketing technologists – they are just the sort of abstraction that shows up in the vendor pitch deck, but takes behind-the-scenes drudgery to accomplish.  Brands are haunted by a lack of common identifiers, inconsistent data formats, or rapidly changing fields.  Data scientists report that instead of identifying which pair of shoes to offer Alexander in real time, they spend most of their time on data hygiene, normalization, and error correction.  It is essential but often thankless work – linking customer behavior and engagement across multiple channels.

Some days are like that  – but don’t go moving to Australia just yet!  Rapid improvements in storage, computing power, and interconnection between marketing solutions have put customer profile management in the hands of marketers.  From Customer Data Platforms to IBM’s Universal Behavior Exchange  Adobe’s open source Experience Data Model, ingesting the right data and linking it to power multichannel marketing, is gaining better visibility.  With the right tools and processes, a unified customer view can be yours.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day Shoe Store

[Image Credit: Ray Cruz / Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day]

 

 

 

 

 

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