3 Steps to Leverage More of Your Customer Data for Email Marketing

Sep 26, 2018
Will Devlin

How much of your customer data is accessible for email marketing? Rising customer expectations mean today’s marketers need more access than ever before to up-to-date data. But customer data isn’t all marketers need to access. They also need data they may house outside of the marketing department, including data for inventory, geolocation, shipment tracking, etc. But just 17% of marketers at some of the world’s largest companies told us they were very satisfied with their real-time data access.

The data marketers are able to use (or not use) in email marketing largely depends upon where customer data resides and how they access it. If you want to leverage all your customer data for email marketing — not just the data that happens to reside with your ESP at any given moment — it’s time to restructure how you manage, store, and access it. Here are three steps you can take to leverage all your customer data to increase personalization and improve your email marketing efforts without compromising data security.

1) Map Your Real-Time Data Needs

Have you ever been on the receiving end of an obvious disconnect where it was clear that a company didn’t have up-to-date information before they communicated with you? For instance, maybe you get an abandoned cart email after you already completed an order (or called the call center). Put yourself in your customer’s shoes when planning email marketing programs. What will the experience be for the user? The only way to create a consistent cross-channel experience is to map out your real-time data needs. Then create a strategy for accessing the data in real time.

Start by thinking about your real-time needs and what information you’re going to need to make your programs effective. Automated campaigns such as confirmation emails, shipping notifications, flight statuses, and nurture/on-boarding programs need certain information immediately in order to be effective. You need to plug triggered emails like abandoned cart or product view promotions into the global view of the customer. You also may be setting up triggered messages, such as emails being sent based on opens, clicks, or replies. And all of those need real-time access to that information. There are plenty more examples, but the point is any program you set up to act in real time needs access to real-time customer data. Once you have established what your real-time data needs are and determined where the data resides, the next step is to centralize all of your data.

2) Centralize Customer Data

Legacy marketing cloud ESPs require you to extract, load, and transfer customer data into their systems for cloud storage. So marketers are used to selecting data that matters at a particular moment, and uploading to their provider for campaigns. Meanwhile, they’re leaving behind data without an immediate purpose. This tactic works reasonably well for scheduled campaigns. But it leaves marketers scrambling to upload the right data when a new or real-time marketing opportunity arises. Also, the common practice of using multiple legacy SaaS solutions to store various types of marketing data creates silos where pieces of information relating to customers live in different areas of an organization.

The adoption of multiple platforms that require separate databases limits how marketers can use data. In order for marketers to have a unified view of customers, eliminating data silos and housing everything in a centralized location is critical for providing a seamless, consistent experience no matter where customers interact with you, be it email, mobile, in-store, social media, web, etc. Centralizing data limits the number of integrations needed. It also keeps everything in one place for all teams and vendors to securely access.

No matter how quickly an ESP sends information through FTP or APIs, it can’t match the accuracy of using fresh data from a centralized internal system. Storing all facets of data in a single database is a must. But it’s still a bit of an anomaly in the marketing world. When asked for the best attribute of their ESP, only 17% of respondents to our survey cited real-time data access.

3) Use Technology That Can Access a Centralized Database

You need to carefully orchestrate multiple vendors and technology solutions in order to avoid an inconsistent and clunky experience. Evaluate your technology to see if you can use it to access your data directly from your centralized database. If that’s not possible with your current group of vendors and solutions, find technology that makes it possible.

Look for technology that accesses a centralized database directly. Whether it’s working with existing technology or shopping for something new, the goal is to consolidate instead of outsourcing. Don’t outsource things that don’t need to be outsourced. The beauty of many vendor solutions is they give marketers a lot of control. Be careful, though, that control doesn’t require outsourcing data. That data is yours, not theirs. Select vendors that don’t want to control your data but instead provide you with full access to it for utilization.

The takeaway is that in order to be successful at personalization and real-time email marketing, you need to be able to access all of your customer data in a secure way that provides a global view of customers — make that an updated, accurate global view of customers.

About the Author

Will Devlin

A 18-year veteran of the email marketing industry, Will has been focused on leading marketing strategy and execution for MessageGears since 2014. He has extensive experience on both the retail customer and service side of email marketing, and he’s interested in helping businesses better understand how they can make the most of the work they put into their email campaigns.