As VP Industry Strategies for Retail & Consumer Products at Epsilon, Jack Leary is responsible  for developing innovative marketing and business strategies derived from the target customer’s perspective. With over 25 years of sales and marketing experience, he focuses on helping clients develop and translate information into well-grounded marketing and business strategies that are actionable, mitigate risk and improve return on investment. Here, he talks about how marketers can achieve effective data integration and why the path-to-purchase is so crucial when it comes to engaging consumers– effectively. 

Bringing offline data into the online space is a challenge I continue to hear being discussed in the retail marketplace. While most companies understand the need, it seems few have figured it out and many remain stuck in the data migration process.

Technology resources and infrastructure are common hurdles to data integration. As retailers strive to meet customers’ growing demands, these are hurdles that must be overcome in order to understand customer behavior as well as channel and purchase preferences.

To achieve effective data integration, marketers must:

  1. 1.    Understand the need. We’re operating in a new digital age where our actions are insight driven. We have to be able to deliver personalized communications in an omnichannel environment with measurable and meaningful results. Customers don’t purchase through a single channel, therefore our data can’t be analyzed in a vacuum. We need dimension and context.
  1. 2.    Evolve the process. Data integration isn’t a linear process. It’s a continual loop; a recurring process. Marketers must start to think about the concept of data integration as an ongoing customer engagement mechanism. After a retailer engages a customer and that customer makes a purchase, the retailer doesn’t simply call it a day. They suggest relevant products, share sale information, ask the customer to sign up for a loyalty program and more. Change your mind set to view data interrogation in a similar way. Data must continuously be collected, analyzed and put into action.
  1. 3.    Use the past to improve experiences. When you correlate what has happened from a historical standpoint with third-party data, you can create an even deeper view of your customer universe. When a retailer has a great deal of data on their existing customers, there’s an entire untapped prospect universe for them to engage. Just because a customer isn’t interacting with your brand, doesn’t mean they’re not active with others. Third party data can complete the puzzle and give you a truer picture of the individual.

It’s no longer enough to only capture customer data at point-of-sale. Retailers today need to understand how customers travel the path-to-purchase in an omnichannel environment in order to seamlessly engage customers and create valuable experiences. And that takes actionable data.

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