How many of your business decisions are based on opinions? This was the provocative question asked by Forrester analyst Brendan Witcher on our recent webinar about data and personalization in 2020. In case you missed it, Brendan provided a deep-dive into the roadblocks that stop so many companies from getting customer engagement right, and he delivered great advice for how to remove as many of those roadblocks as possible this year.

For anyone who follows Forrester, customer obsession has been a major theme for several years. Brendan described the problem with blind customer obsession: it can lead brands to make decisions that they think will help customers — but they don’t actually know. Of course, this data challenge also impacts a brand’s ability to deliver relevant experiences at every stage of the customer journey, AKA personalization. 

How to Start Building a Data-Led Organization 

Sophisticated brands use data across every element of customer-obsessed marketing to move away from acting based on uninformed opinions. Brendan finds that brands fall into four buckets: Data averse, data aware, data driven, and data-led. He advises that brands determine where they sit today and make small and large changes to start including data-driven insights, testing and optimization across their organization.

Companies like Amazon, Sephora, and Stitch Fix are data-led across three major elements of their company operations: systems of insight, systems of engagement, and systems of automation. In other words, these companies use data during planning and measurement, across marketing and communications, and across their business operations. No process or campaign is too small to avoid scrutiny to improve using data.

Stitch Fix uses every bit of customer behavior and feedback to fine tune their subscription service, delivering ever more relevant clothes to their customers. Not only to make customers happy, but also to lower their shipping returns costs. Sephora combines engaging apps and loyalty programs with in-store technologies that store and remember customer preferences. Not only because it makes customers loyal, but because it increases sales efficiency.

Brendan noted that 73% of consumers surveyed prefer to do business with companies that use their information to make experiences more efficient. Being customer obsessed isn’t just about creating beautiful or memorable experiences, it’s also about speed and efficiency, and data plays a big role. Yet companies surveyed by Forrester say that they currently make poor use of their internal data. There is opportunity to improve across the board.

Personalization is a great example. Personalization should not be thought of as a tactic, but a business strategy that drives tactics across the organization. Brands should work to use insights to create a 360-degree view of the customer, understanding their demographics, purchase history, location, intent, and more. These data elements can be combined using advanced analytics to drive insights, create more effective and efficient experiences and to measure results and improve in a virtuous cycle. 

This year is a great time to commit to becoming data-led. Brendan advises brands to look across their culture, organization, technology and metrics for the roadblocks that stop data from playing a bigger role and for opportunities to add data and insights. Now’s the time to identify the gaps and take off the blinders that keep people in their organizational silos (83% of companies have them, by the way!). With data, brands don’t have to hope that they surprise and delight, they can focus on getting customers what they want and succeeding as a result.

Looking for next-generation personalization strategies? Download our best practices guide for building a more personalized customer journey over the holiday season.

Leila Wolford is the sales development lead for North America at Kibo.