Building a Customer Data Foundation in the Digital Era

Posted on by Lisa Rapp

Customer data is complex in part because of the nature of names, how we use them and how businesses record them. For example, one individual name can vary with first name, last name, middle name, initials, nickname, maiden name, married name and suffix.

If you look in your customer database, how many repeat names do you see? Forty John Smiths? Twelve Mary Lewises? Six Juan Carters?

Remembering one name is hard enough. Try remembering six — all for the same person.

Personal Data Changes Every Second

Customer data is dynamic due to the many changes consumers go through in the course of their lives. Multiply the contact fields in your database by the millions of records your organization has in its data sources, then consider how quickly and how often this information changes. The results are staggering.

Experts say two percent of records in a customer file become obsolete in one month because customers die, divorce, marry or move. To put this into perspective, assume your company has 500,000 customers and prospects. If two percent of these records become obsolete in one month, that is 10,000 records per month or 120,000 records every year. So, in two years, about half of all records become obsolete if they are not updated.

Our personal data stems from everything we do, from search to shopping to social. It’s every YouTube video, every Facebook post, every Tweet, every photo on Instagram and every DIY project, recipe and inspirational quote on Pinterest. It’s data created with every website session, search query, app download and online purchase.

All of this growing data, comprised of input coming from every imaginable source, all ties back to the actions of consumers. These consumers are your prospects. Your customers. You just need to be able to recognize them—online and offline.

Harnessing the Power of Customer Data

To create a meaningful connection with customers we must piece together the many fragments of data that define them. We must have the means to differentiate potential customers with the same name. And we also must strive to recognize and leverage a variety of insights on shopping preferences. When we can do all of these things, we can give the most relevant, convenient and personalized customer experience possible.

Finding and following all of the threads that lead us to each of our distinct customers is the goal of all customer recognition processes. Being able to navigate and apply this complex data is what sets you apart from all of the competition.

When data is incomplete, disparate or in silos, there may be still be efforts to connect with customers in multiple places, but they will be less effective. Recognition is the connective data thread that reports these interactions are with the same person but using different touch points.

Building a Foundation of Accurate Data


The first step to achieving customer recognition is having a foundation of accurate, current data. Perform regular data maintenance to make updates and consolidate records. To achieve this, your data must undergo regular data hygiene processes. Simply put, data hygiene is the process through which we ensure our information is “clean” – that it is normalized, correct, current and complete.

This process will ensure you have the most accurate and complete information on your customers so you have a much better chance at achieving and acting on meaningful customer recognition.

The next step is to utilize proven systems for capturing and collating all distinguishing characteristics of user data available. It helps to have the right partners and the right goals. To glean that critical insight, all of these tiny pieces of data like user preferences, behaviors and history, must be collected and properly attributed to the correct consumer.

Customers are far more likely to find themselves motivated to engage with a brand that recognizes them at an individual level. Customer recognition is made possible through the integration of data and advanced technology. This marriage allows us to reach consumers with an unprecedented level of personalization.

The age of the connected consumer is a marketing paradox. Consumers control how and when they receive messages and how they consume goods and services. However, marketers have more data, more insight and an increased ability to measure their programs’ effectiveness. Through the effective use of all that data, we can also achieve greater agility in how we reach and retain customers and how we build those long-term relationships.

Lisa Rapp is director of identity resolution products at Acxiom.


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