Blueshift Breakdown: Data Activation, Marketers’ Secret Weapon in 2021

68% of marketers say using customer data to improve customer experiences is their top priority

In the past 20 years, it has become clear that data is king. The 2020s will be defined by marketing rushing to collect and capitalize on their customers’ data — just look at the “it” platforms of past years for a clue to future trends: Customer Data Platforms, Data Management Platforms, etc. But, the unification and collection of data isn’t the key to winning in a data-obsessed world. Marketers were never given a clear answer as to what they should be doing with this data, how to structure it, or what value it would bring, but luckily we’re moving towards activation.

Merely collecting data won’t give marketers the tools they need to succeed — think back to the days when buying lists, using third-party data, and spamming was commonplace, did those techniques result in heightened customer experiences and marketing wins? Fortunately no, and as a consequence marketers now have to contend with stricter regulations and the depreciation of third-party cookies by central players.

For marketers to be able to craft winning customer experiences at scale, they need to not only collect data in an ethical manner but also activate it. But what exactly is data activation and what does it mean for marketing teams? We’re glad you asked: here’s Blueshift’s Breakdown of Data Activation.

What is “data activation”?

To understand exactly what data activation is, it’s helpful to also understand the lifecycle of data within marketing. When customers interact with your brand on your owned and paid channels (both anonymously or not) they generate data. This could be anything from browsing data on your site or engagement data on email. When businesses have a tool like a Customer Data Platform (CDP) this data is routed, in real-time, to profiles on each individual customer and stored accordingly. Unifying data is an essential part of the data lifecycle, but it’s virtually impossible to create meaningful, personalized experiences from this pooled data alone. There’s another crucial step before execution: activation.

CDP (noun)

A packaged software that creates a persistent, unified customer database that is accessible to other systems. This definition has three critical elements:

  • Packaged software: the CDP is a prebuilt system that is configured to meet the needs of each client.
  • Creates a persistent, unified customer database: the CDP creates a comprehensive view of each customer by capturing data from multiple systems, linking information related to the same customer, and storing the information to track behavior over time. The CDP contains personal identifiers used to target marketing messages and track individual-level marketing results.
  • Accessible to other systems: data stored in the CDP can be used by other systems for analysis and to manage customer interactions.

Data Activation is the next natural step for data. After all the data collection, data warehouses, and data management, it’s time for marketers to take a step back and let their data do the heavy lifting.

In simple terms, Data Activation is the process of having customer experiences informed by the fullness of data. This means every customer interaction across channels is guided by a holistic, up-to-the-moment understanding of customers—including all prior transactions, on-site and offline behaviors, campaign engagement, product interactions, real-time actions, and other customer attributes gathered across channels and devices.

With Data Activation, data is continuously used to shape customer interactions, across all channels, as soon as it’s collected instead of idly sitting around in marketers’ systems losing value. This happens through an automated process that doesn’t require marketers to manage every step.

More importantly, Data Activation orchestrates cross-channel experiences around the customer, not the other way around. This means no matter how many customers or touchpoints you have, you can be sure that each interaction is based on real-time customer insights, consists of the right content, and is happening at the exact right moment in the channel it’s most likely to drive action. Overworked marketers can get a well-deserved break from stepping into pseudo-data science roles and get back to what they love: getting creative.

Data activation and customer-centric marketing

The past decade’s obsession with everything data-driven hasn’t just impacted the marketing experience from the business side, it’s bubbled over into shifting dynamics of the customer experience as well. Now more than ever customers are primarily interacting with brands online — and generating a ton of data in the process (2.5 quintillion bytes per day to be exact). And customers aren’t giving up this data freely, they expect better marketing and experiences in return. To further the situation, giants like Amazon and Netflix have perfected using data to make hyper-accurate predictions and recommendations, which has heightened expectations for all companies, regardless of size and vertical. Learn more about the CEO’s and CMO’s perspective on this challenge in our Martech Virtual Session: On-Demand.

This has placed the brunt of experience management on marketers that are accustomed to a more siloed approach to marketing (think back only a few years when teams were made up of email, mobile, and social marketers), to lace up their bootstraps and craft an entire customer experience from the ground up. Every interaction, from social, to email and customer service, is expected to be streamlined and on-brand — and marketers are shifting from channel-centric to customer-centric as a result.

Blueshift Breakdown: Data Activation, Marketers’ Secret Weapon in 2021

Customer Experience Management (noun)

Gartner defines customer experience management (CEM) as the practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed their expectations, leading to greater customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy.

As you can imagine, it is impossible for marketers to manage and perfect all of these communications alone — they need the help of AI.

AI’s role in data activation

The most essential piece of Data Activation (at scale) is AI. It’s what gives meaning and finds patterns human minds can’t detect in vast amounts of data. It’s key that marketers invest in robust, transparent AI to help them see the real value their data has to offer.

PREDICTIVE AUDIENCES

The Who

Create segments to target the right customers with propensity scoring and lookalike audiences.

PREDICTIVE CHANNEL ENGAGEMENT SCORES

The Where

Choose the best channel by predicting the likelihood of a customer engaging with a message.

PREDICTIVE RECOMMENDATIONS

The What

Send the right content, offer, or product based on where the user is in their customer journey.

PREDICTIVE ENGAGE TIME

The When

Optimize campaign delivery to ensure you’re messaging each individual at the right time.

Blueshift’s AI sifts through data and determines what we like to call the “Who What Where and When” of marketing, which you can learn more about in our Smart Guide to the ROI of AI. This means which customers to target, which messaging/content, on what channel, and when all bettering the chances of driving desired actions. Here are just a few examples of what Blueshift customers have seen when AI is in the driver’s seat for these decisions:

  • Improved enrollment by over 89% with AI-powered recommendations
  • Increased email revenue by 181% with AI-driven personalization
  • Increased revenue 35% with AI-powered Send Time Optimization
  • 400% increase in customer engagement with AI-powered 1:1 experiences

Data and AI are a marketers secret weapon for wowing customers in 2021 and beyond, but if you’re new to the world of AI Marketing, it can be difficult to know where to start, what impact it will have on your business, and how exactly to get your boss on board with adopting this promising technology.

Have no fear! Check out our Smart Guide to AI Marketing where we cover all the technical basics (in marketer-friendly language, we promise) of AI, how it can be leveraged against your data across all channels and campaigns, and what results marketers are seeing from adopting AI into their marketing strategy.

If you’re looking to go a bit further and start your new year off with some learning, we also offer a totally free AI Marketing Course available on Blueshift Academy.

Data activation and the 21st-century tech stack

As with any new technology or strategy you might adopt in marketing, data activation is not the only component that guarantees success for your business. Well-oiled data activation processes can’t happen if other areas of your business are lacking, if teams are unaligned, and your business isn’t ready to take on 21st-century marketing tactics. Blueshift’s Chief Growth Officer (and former customer) Josh Francia, faced this problem first-hand and has some advice for building a better data-driven marketing organization.

3 KEY BUILDING BLOCKS

For data activation to reach its full potential with your business, you’ll need to seek the perfect balance of solid tech, a dream team, and the right strategy to build a rock-solid foundation for data activation that drives growth.

Step 1: Right team

It all starts with having the right people with diverse skill sets. Data activation depends on growth-focused teams that can operate cross-functionally. A great ratio to work with is 1 Business Lead to 1 Application Lead to 1 Design Lead, to 2 Data Leads. Additionally, your dream team should meet regularly to keep the creative juices flowing. Open collaboration is key. When the team hits their stride working to achieve the same goal, the result will be incredibly powerful.

Step 2: Right strategy

With the right team in place, determine what exactly you want to achieve with data activation. How will it improve the customer experience? How are you going to use your data? Which channels will you begin impacting and how will you continue to build out the customer experience? What data guidelines are required? Make objectives clear, and understood by everyone involved. This will further empower your team to crush their overall vision — they’ll feel invested.

Step 3: Right technology

Now it’s time to assess whether your current and planned technologies are set up to deliver on your strategies. Even “best-in-class” technologies can’t support all use cases. Many were built on architectures that can’t scale with today’s data and customer engagement needs. As a team, determine what are the gaps in your data and marketing execution. Then, lay out what you need to make your strategies work. Finally, work through the processes needed to have systems execute effectively within the unique requirements of your organization.

The ROI of data activation and Blueshift

We’re confident that data activation sounds amazing in concept, but it’s just as impressive in practice — and there are stats to back that up. In the Forrester commissioned Total Economic Impact study of Blueshift, our SmartHub CDP was found to be responsible for 781% ROI across customers examined. This level of return was made possible by the SmartHub CDP’s unique ability to get more from available customer data, patented AI-powered decisioning, and quick start-up time.

Blueshift customers are consistently able to get up and running faster and therefore see ROI faster than ever before. Those who can quickly manage and leverage their data are reaping the benefits, including an +81% increase in ROI. And in addition, Blueshift often replaces other platforms like traditional CDPs and marketing automation engines, which decreases tech spend while also boosting engagement, conversion, and revenue. Check out the success stories of individual Blueshift customers for more detailed studies of the impact of the SmartHub CDP.

Tips for getting started with data activation

Like anything worth investing in, the steps to improving customer engagement with data activation take time. A thoughtful audit of your current status, and projected future needs can result in a more stable stack. These steps are designed to not only get your data activation journey started, but also put an end to the seemingly endless martech buying cycle. Here are our tips for buying tech that will endure and perform for years to come:

Surface the Martech Struggle

Data activation requires technology, which requires cross-functional buy-in. Begin building a business case that outlines your current issues and what you believe will resolve them. Where are you currently fighting with your technology? Really dig into those pain points and don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to what might solve them.

Identify Your Needs

There’s a lot of technology out there making bold claims, but be careful. Technology can’t truly enable data activation unless it provides a single customer view, predictive intelligence, scalable architecture, powerful recommendations, and a robust templating solution.

Demo with Intention

A lot of providers focus on business needs and use cases. But will the technology actually allow you to accomplish the requirements you outlined? Don’t be afraid to get into the details. In fact, insist on it. Ask for examples of how you can do complex use cases, especially when scaling to millions of customers in a short timeframe. Ask for customer references so you can confirm the claims are legitimate. Ultimately, a demo you can trust shows you more than it tells you.

Look for a Partner, Not a Tool

A good partnership will take you a lot further than a good price. Look for a team that’s made up of the right people: those who really believe in what it is they’re providing, not just selling it. Make sure they want to help you get the most out of their offerings, and that they can brainstorm new use cases to help propel your business forward. Solutions that solve for now are great – but in a world where things are moving at lightning speed, you need tools that can scale and solve for now and later.

Want to learn more about how the right tech can free your data and boost ROI? If you’re just getting started with data activation, check out our full-length Smart Guide to Data Activation. Or, chat with one of our data activation and AI experts to see how our first-of-its-kind SmartHub CDP can help you, today.

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