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Creating a Cohesive Customer Data Strategy – The Six Five Summit Sessions

Tune in for a replay of The Six Five Summit’s Automation AI ML Data Analytics Spotlight Keynote with Tom Treanor, Former CMO, Treasure Data. Data is the lifeblood of business success. Hundreds of millions of pieces of data are created every day. Managing and mining data for actionable insights is an important way that businesses stay competitive. However, in order to do this effectively, organizations need a company-wide, cohesive, and scalable customer data strategy. In this discussion, Tom explores the components of an effective customer data strategy, why it’s crucial for the success of business today, and the technology required to build a strong customer data foundation.

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Shelly Kramer: Hi, Tom. Welcome to the Six Five Summit. We’re so happy to have you as part of this year’s event. Today, we are going to dive into an important topic, customer data. I don’t think I have to tell anybody that data is the lifeblood of our economy. It’s the lifeblood of every business in every industry, in every sector. Hundreds of millions of pieces of data are created every day. Managing that data, tapping into that data, is an important way that businesses stay competitive. They’re able to reach their growth and profitability goals. They’re better able to serve their customers, all of those things. However, being able to effectively tap into your data requires a strategy and that’s what we’re here to talk about today.

Tom, I know you and the team at Treasure Data are doing some really exciting things in this area. So let’s dive in. You ready?

Tom Treanor: Absolutely. Ready. Thanks Shelly. Glad to be here.

Shelly Kramer: Well, as I said, we’re glad to have you. So let’s talk a little bit about what’s important when it comes to data strategies, what’s important for enterprises to be thinking about.

Tom Treanor: These days I think what is really important for enterprises to consider is building up that customer data foundation that’s across the enterprise, that provides a single source of truth for all the different customer facing organizations.

In the past and still today, a lot of companies have these massive numbers of data silos and each organization that touches the customer has a different view of the truth for that customer. And, in fact, sometimes customers can’t even add up how many consumers or customers they have because each system tells them a different answer. So I think it’s important that enterprises today really think about that holistic customer data foundation that all the organizations can tap into.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah. And I think that, for a long time, organizations have maybe mistakenly felt like a customer data platform is for marketing. And the reality of it is, and what you are saying, is that a customer data platform and a data strategy is not solely for marketing. This is a strategy that should extend across your whole organization.

Tom Treanor: Correct. If you think about it, a lot of CEOs have come out in saying we want to be the most customer centric organization around and we really want to focus on the customer. Well, the problem is they can’t do that if they don’t really know much about the customer, they don’t really know what the journey is, and all these different touch points are not just marketing touchpoints. There’s customer service, there’s loyalty programs, there’s in store, there’s the website. So there’s so many different touchpoints in so many different organizations that, to be truly customer-centric, you need to consider this a kind of company-wide strategy.

Shelly Kramer: Well, yeah. And, in my experience, it’s beyond just marketing. It’s beyond just sales. It’s your finance teams. It’s your product teams. It’s your supply chain, right? Like what’s more important these days than supply chain? I think I said finance. It’s your executive management. I mean all of these parts of the organization need to have insight into the customer data. So I think that, for me, and I know for you and your team as well, customer data is the foundation upon which you build your business. It’s the foundation upon which you build your strategies so I think that you’re absolutely spot on there.

Let’s talk a little bit also about customer data and privacy and how does the movement toward increased privacy regulations, which I am always a fan of … Actually, I was just having a conversation with my teenage daughter who’s a lifeguard this summer and whose boss is clamoring for her to send some information and I’m like, “Here’s the deal, under no circumstances are you sending your social security number to anyone by way of a text message.” It’s just not going to happen.

But anyway, so privacy regulations are important. We have a huge movement here. How are you all thinking about privacy, security compliance and those things?

Tom Treanor: It’s such an important topic and the privacy regulations get stronger and stronger. One of the problems is if you don’t understand where your customer data sits and centralize it, it’s really hard to have a centralized privacy and compliance approach.

So the way we think about it is get a handle on your customer data. Don’t have it in all these silos where you really don’t know what’s being done with it and how it’s being secured. Bet it essentially managed, really understand it, put a leader in place and that way you can actually deliver that privacy and compliance at scale. Then you can work with the teams that engage with the customers and help them set the rules and the compliance that they need to follow with those different pieces of data. So I think centralizing and getting a handle on your first-party data strategy is a key part of privacy and compliance.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. I just did an interview recently on this topic.

Let’s talk about the cookieless future and the reduction in tracking that we’re seeing with Apple’s operating system and massive changes at Google. What are you seeing and hearing from your customers on this front? How are you and your team addressing these challenges? I’d love to hear more about that.

Tom Treanor: I think two trends are really putting some fuel behind first-party data strategy. One of that is the increased amount of digital engagement that we have. During the pandemic and post pandemic, the amount of digital engagement that companies have has really increased. And the second thing is the cookieless future where there’ll be a lot less tracking, a lot less information, a lot less feedback back from these devices and ecosystems.

So what that’s leading to is companies really want to get a handle on the first-party data, the data that they can manage themselves, they can get feedback, they can work directly with the consumers on what data they would like to share, what data they would not like to share, preferences, interests, history, things like that. So what’s happening is companies are really embracing the first-party data strategy, including companies that traditionally haven’t had a lot of consumer engagement like CPG companies. So I think it’s definitely fueling interest in building this kind of customer data foundation using the CDP to develop this first-party data approach.

Shelly Kramer: I think marketers have kind of had things easy, which I hate to say. I mean I’m a career brand strategist but I just mean in terms of tracking and all of the technology that we have been able to rely on that has given us information about customers and when that shifts … And again, I think it should shift. I’m a customer too, right? I care a lot about my data. And in our research, we have found that customers very much understand that they are not in control of their data. They very much don’t like that and they feel helpless about what to do about that. So I feel it’s a huge competitive opportunity for brands.

Of course, you don’t have to decide whether you want to participate in this cookieless future, right? We must. But I think messaging around how important protecting your data is to us and how important our personal relationship with you, our customer, is to us and being able to touch those customers directly instead of relying on some of the older school ways that we’ve been able to get information on customers, I think that’s a good shift.

Tom Treanor: Yeah. I agree. Being able to offer a much more personalized experience and really understanding the customer better but also providing more options for their consent in terms of how the data will be shared, et cetera, I think is a valuable thing. And we found that customers often do want the personalization but yet they have concerns about privacy. So the company’s able to balance that with the first-party data strategy and rely less on third parties to have a lot of this data and manage it.

Shelly Kramer: And it’s kind of a no-brainer. You know what I’m saying? When you think about the importance of first=party data, for so long and in so many instances, we haven’t had that one-to-one connection with our customers, but why wouldn’t we want that?

Tom Treanor: Right.

Shelly Kramer: And why wouldn’t we want to redouble our efforts on that front and be able to establish those connections? It’s kind of like do you remember back in the day when every brand on the planet, no matter where you went, there was a sign that said, “Don’t forget to like us on Facebook”?

So Facebook can control your data, not us, and I have never understood why people would be reluctant in any way to do whatever they can to develop those first-party data relationships. So I think this is a good thing and I think that the right platform can play a big role in making that happen, and I probably don’t have to convince you of that one.

Tom Treanor: Right, and you have the silos that are trying to do that on certain channels, maybe on the web, maybe in store in a loyalty program. But if they’re not really seamlessly synchronized, then really each channel doesn’t know what’s going on in the other channel. So it’s hard to have a good engagement and really have context when for example, customer support talks to someone and they have no idea what they’ve done in other channels or in previous history.

Shelly Kramer: And this is really all the end goal is better customer experiences across the board, better customer experiences in every aspect, in every bit of the relationship that you have with them, whether it’s things that they see or things that they don’t see. That’s the end goal that we’re looking for. Happy customers stay. Happy customers buy. Happy customers keep buying. Happy customers refer to their friends. Happy customers write glowing reviews. So I think that this is an important holy grail that, of course, makes sense that that’s what we’re trying to focus on.

Tom Treanor: Yeah, absolutely. Bring it back to the beginning where I said the customer centricity that the executives so much want because it’s a good thing. And then if you provide that great seamless experience through customer understanding, then you start that virtuous cycle which gets the reviews and referrals and repeat purchases, et cetera.

Shelly Kramer: So now I want to dig into your gray matter a little bit. So our audience is listening. They agree with both of us. We’re making valid points. Absolutely. We’re on the same page. We think this is important. How do we get there? How do we start? How do they make progress? They make a commitment because we’ve convinced them. How do they make progress in developing their customer data strategies? What do they think about? Where do they start.

Tom Treanor: Some of the things are … One is make it a priority. First of all, you have to set at the higher levels that this is a priority for the company. Second, it’s often good to pick a single leader who will drive this as opposed to a committee. Then, of course, that leader will work with a cross-functional team. And then you have the things like the technology and the data which need to be solved once you’re making some progress there.

I think, from a technology standpoint, because of the rise of the customer data platforms, that part is actually easier than it used to be in the old days where you had to build this customer data warehouse, which is just not really that functional.

So now you can actually have more plug and play software which sits adjacent to your other databases. It’s not disrupting your whole system. So you can actually get something going in three to six months where you’re actually starting to see ROI as well as get that unified customer view. So I think it starts with strategy and that lead and then you go all the way to technology and data.

Shelly Kramer: That makes perfect sense. You just touched on the next thing I was going to ask you about which was how to shorten the time to value. I was just at an event with a client in New York City and we were talking about the frustration that leaders have when you invest in a technology solution and maybe it’s difficult to use, maybe adoption lag.

So all different kinds of things can be realities but, with a platform like Treasure Data’s platform, the solutions that you bring to the table, I’m pretty sure that you have the ability to look at time to value and really talk about how we can make this happen. You mentioned three to six months. So talk with me a little bit, if you would, about the role maybe that AI and machine learning plays here, how these things can help shorten time to value with a platform like Treasure Data’s.

Tom Treanor: Sure. So I think some of the things to think about, one is there’s customer data platforms, like I said, which are ideal for building that customer data foundation that both ingest data from all the different touchpoints as well as is able to give feedback and allow you to activate in those different channels.

But so for time to value, the way we think about it is find the data sources that you want to connect and there’ll be a set of obvious ones right off the bat and then implementing CDP like Treasure Data where we have kind of a schemaless approach. We don’t have a huge schema project for each different integration, just the data, and then we start to pull these profiles together and unify the profiles. And that’s where the aha moments start to happen because, for the first time, the customer can have this unified customer view and can really see the entire journey.

So the first value is actually fairly quick in having all that data in one place and it’s unified. Then what we usually recommend is two to three key use cases that will roll out that are low hanging fruit or things that really test drive the system and those usually show ROI pretty quickly. And we can use predictive capabilities in the AI and ML for things like predicting which segments are most likely to buy X or Y or serving next best offer or next best communication. So things like that. So that’s how, when you have that massive data, you can start to use the AI and ML to make predictions which then start to lead your marketing or other teams in the right direction in terms of how best to communicate or what offers to serve things like that.

Shelly Kramer: I like it. I like it. And I feel like, in closing, maybe the key here is good unified data, right? Good unified data that feeds your marketing team, sales, service, consistently throughout the organization is really what we’re looking for. And then I was smiling when you were talking about your use cases. I think that’s the secret to almost any successful deployment. You look at instances, you have somebody within an organization who’s your willing victim and you can go in, you can deploy this. You can see in a relatively short period of time, oh my gosh, look what we’re able to do. And then my experience has been in a relatively short period of time, what happens then is that you’ve got lots and lots of other people throughout the organization knocking on your door, whether it’s a virtual door or otherwise, wanting a piece of that. Is what is that kind of what you see as you employee these?

Tom Treanor : Oh yeah. So one example is we have a very large automotive company that rolled out … As I said, they see the unified profiles, they’re very excited and happy and amazed at what they learn from the insights, roll out two or three use cases and then 10 and then now there’s a list of over a hundred use cases that they’re planning to roll out across a lot of different functions.

So it’s just amazing to see the momentum when a company really grabs hold of this and there’s a strong leader, and then you can see the ROI from the first couple or two use cases. And they’re just like, “Okay, we need to continue doing more and more.”

Shelly Kramer: And that’s the very best thing, right? I mean that’s what makes it so exciting, but it is that making a decision that this is important, making an investment with the right strategic vendor partner, and then rolling this out and putting a strategy in place behind it. This isn’t just happenstance. We’re not just throwing this out. This is our strategy. This is how we’re going about this. And it really is exciting once that ball starts rolling and once you see people start to get excited and light bulbs start going off. It’s like, “Oh my gosh, this is so far beyond what we could ever have done on our own.”

And I think it’s really a really cool moment that I find when talking to customers and I have a feeling you maybe experienced that as well.

Tom Treanor : Absolutely. And I think the things that we don’t think about are when a company has grown by acquisition, they have so many different CRMs and ERPs and everything. This is the first time and the first system that can pull a lot of that data together and really help those companies work better together and get a complete view. There’s other things like multiple geographies. We’ve rolled out with Anheuser Busch, AB InBev, over 40 geographies using the same system. So it’s just things that previously people thought were impossible are now possible with the technology.

Shelly Kramer: Well, I think that’s tremendously exciting. Tom Treanor, thanks so much for hanging out with me today and for being a part of the Six Five Summit. It’s always a pleasure to spend time with you and I very much appreciate you sharing your insights here.

Tom Treanor : Thank you, Shelly. I really enjoyed it.

Author Information

Shelly Kramer is a Principal Analyst and Founding Partner at Futurum Research. A serial entrepreneur with a technology centric focus, she has worked alongside some of the world’s largest brands to embrace disruption and spur innovation, understand and address the realities of the connected customer, and help navigate the process of digital transformation. She brings 20 years' experience as a brand strategist to her work at Futurum, and has deep experience helping global companies with marketing challenges, GTM strategies, messaging development, and driving strategy and digital transformation for B2B brands across multiple verticals. Shelly's coverage areas include Collaboration/CX/SaaS, platforms, ESG, and Cybersecurity, as well as topics and trends related to the Future of Work, the transformation of the workplace and how people and technology are driving that transformation. A transplanted New Yorker, she has learned to love life in the Midwest, and has firsthand experience that some of the most innovative minds and most successful companies in the world also happen to live in “flyover country.”


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