Play The Long Game: Unify Your Users

Data quality is a problem that forever plagues one’s personal and professional life. Whether it’s four email addresses for the same person or two guys saved as “Tall Dave” in your phone, it’s a trying job to keep your “people” organized -- especially when networking is the buzzword of the decade.

Now imagine that you’re a brand selling $500M worth of merchandise each year to millions of unique users across a variety of platforms -- online, via mobile app, in-store, etc. In the heat of converting a prospect to a paying customer, we’ve all done things we’re not proud of. On a small scale that’s writing your biggest lead’s email on a slip of paper and promptly running it through the laundry. On a larger scale, that’s choosing not to sync your user databases and instead cataloguing someone as the online shopper, the mobile app shopper, and the in-store shopper -- as three distinct identities.



This fragmented approach to user identities creates not only a conundrum for your business. It’s kind of cheating to count those users repeatedly -- but it’s specifically problematic for your marketers team that is tasked with the amorphous “customer engagement.” How does one engage a user they don’t really know (or, rather, think of as three users with different preferences and habits)? The short answer is, you don’t.

Many brands simply throw a ton of content at users and call it engagement. Yet as budgets evolve, marketers should resolve this core data quality problem so they know what to say, when to say it, how often to say it, where to say it, and to whom.

If you’re one of the many brand marketers who finds themselves in the situation of having more than one user database, read on. Each user, regardless of where they access your brand, must be considered a single user. You have spent so much time unifying your brand identity (congrats! Your mobile app looks like your Web site!) that you forgot to unify your users’ identities across those same channels within your database. This may sound like a problem for IT, but trust me -- the problem lies firmly in the marketing realm.

Consumers are the same people whether they’re shopping online or via a mobile app, but they may have very different habits when on one device or the other. The intricacies of each individual’s consumer behavior is undeniable and the knowledge one can glean from the “big picture” of each user is too. You need to aggregate users’ implicit and explicit preferences to know them better each and every time they interact with your brand and action your communications based on that holistic view -- that’s today’s Smart Data.

To treat each consumer identity as its own unique user is not just antiquated, it’s business success-prohibitive. I don’t like paisley ties no matter where and how you show them to me -- and as a brand, not learning that when I show/tell you the first time is going to create a pervasive, negative opinion of your brand.

As in real life, online, context is everything. If a consumer invites you into their world -- and more importantly, into their wallets -- you'd better remember how they got there, who they are, what they saw, when they saw it, and what motivated them to purchase (on top of a myriad of other things!).

Today, brands need to take a holistic, unified approach to their users if they want to be competitive. They also need to be looking beyond “now metrics” and into the future; Customer Lifetime Value is a long game and approaching your users holistically is directly correlated to success. I often see marketers inundating their user base with emails in the pursuit of increased clicks and revenue. A brand sending out that second daily email blast might quickly see a slight increase in revenue, but they have also collected a massive amount of unsubscribes, and annoyed a middle group of users who now are not opening the brand’s emails. The key to CLV for marketers always comes down to user respect.

So play the long game. Make every interaction users have with your brand highly relevant, and you will win their respect and purchasing power. This is how you retain quality customer relationships and build new ones.



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