Digital Shift: Top Execs Say Customer Data Changes Everything

Digital Shift: Top Execs Say Customer Data Changes Everything

Digital Shift: Top Execs Say Customer Data Changes Everything

C-suiters and data-driven executives: Want your business to become more customer-centric, data-driven, and profitable? Your peers are suggesting that maybe it’s time to rethink how to use customer data throughout your organization.

That was the message of CMOs and other executives from brands as diverse as AB InBev, Campbell’s, Stellantis, Kellogg’s, Conde Nast, and TrueCar. In the three-day Adweek conference, they revealed how they use customer data to help their businesses accelerate digital transformation and handle disruption—both from innovative competitors and COVID-19. Many of them also explained how introducing customer data platforms (CDPs) has dramatically changed both how fast and how well they can find new customers and personalize each one’s customer experience (CX), often in real time.

“Our ability to mine our data and find new insights has really quickened our time to market,” says Karen Donovan, senior manager of the Stellantis N.V. customer data platform program. (Stellantis N.V. includes many familiar brands such as Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Fiat and Maserati. Donovan says Stellantis is using its CDP to acquire new customers, improve customer experience (CX), and unify online and offline data into a 360-degree, single customer view (SCV).

CDPs ingest data from many different sources, build detailed profiles of each customer called “single customer views” (SCVs), and use that data to understand customer behavior and shape those important moments when customers are most likely to embrace a particular brand that solves their problems.

“We’ve been amazed at what we’ve been able to accomplish in such a short amount of time, about 18 months,” says Donovan. “It’s just been phenomenal. It’s exciting to see how far we can take the use of our customer data platform, and so far, we haven’t hit a limit.”

CDP-fueled Digital Transformation Blows Past Marketing Department Boundaries

And in an accelerating trend, the use of CDPs and customer data—previously mainly found in marketing departments—is revolutionizing other departments as well, including sales, customer support, CX, supply-chain management, and the C-suite. In particular, CDPs are providing single customer views (SCVs) and customer-centric dashboards to contact center and customer experience reps to help them improve service and customer loyalty. The reps use these to find solutions and engage with customers, which is an improvement over siloed, more limited data sitting in most CRM or customer support systems.

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“The job of the customer service rep is getting harder by the minute,” says Phil Sager, a partner at Bain & Company. “All the easy stuff is getting taken care of by AI and apps, so their jobs are getting harder. How do we support those people?”

The problem of improving customer engagement is dispersed throughout organizations, says Sager, which makes customer data even more critical.

“More people are driving the customer experience without having direct front line interaction with the customers,” Sager told the Digital Shift audience. “How do we get those employees to understand their impact? We need to connect those employees to our customers in a way we’ve never done before.”

Making those connections is daunting, and requires AI and sophisticated martech such as CDPs, to present customer engagement workers with the data they need to answer customer calls, engage, and cross-sell or upsell products. But CDPs handle more than mechanics; they help companies create long-lasting brand loyalty and engagement, which Jamison Antoine, VP Global Customer Experience at Warner Music Group, says is a critical growth factor.

“It’s not just about ‘the merch,’” Antoine said. “It’s about the moments and memories behind that merch, these are about moments and memories that we have to meet the challenge for 200 different artists, each with their own fan base.”

Top Marketers Are Leading the Charge to More Customer-centric Operations

The growing importance of customer data applied throughout organizations has put marketers in a new position: driver of customer-centricity throughout the organization, says Biljana Cvetanovski, partner at McKinsey.

“What we’ve seen is the CMO is acting as a unifier who is rallying the organization around a purpose: asking, ‘How is what I’m doing today feeding into the customer experience?’ We see marketing working shoulder to shoulder with the wider organization,” Cvetanovski said in her panel titled “The Growth Triple Play: Creativity, Analytics, and Purpose.”

Customer Data as a Way to Thrive During Disruption

Most Digital Shift speakers say that customer data has been critical in helping them deal with the constantly changing needs of their customers.

“Customer data has helped us in being able to tap into ecommerce channels in real time and understand what customers need and want, helps us understand on the back end what we need to do in our supply chain to provide that,” says Inri Mouchette, head of innovation at Campbell’s Soup Company, a global CPG firm.

Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Global VP of MarTech, Ricardo Ortegon, agrees, explaining that customer data has sped up its previous plans for digital transformation, which were already underway when the pandemic struck.

“We accelerated by several years many of the things that we were working on,” Ortegon explained. “Things like home delivery have accelerated by a factor of three to five times. In some countries, home delivery is 80 percent digital now. Consumer data used to be hard for us to get. But commerce and home delivery have become mainstream, so we have more data than we ever had before.”

Being awash in customer data is a new opportunity for the global CPG company, and just having that data has changed the culture and operations of AB InBev.

“Now, creating 100 variants of a communication of an app is mainstream. Things that used to be experimental are now part of our day-to-day operations,” Ortegon says.

Tom Treanor
Tom Treanor
Tom Treanor was head of marketing at Treasure Data. He focuses on marketing, martech, CDPs, and digital marketing. Follow him on Twitter @RtMixMktg.
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