How To Transform Messy Customer Data Into Opportunity

How To Transform Messy Customer Data Into Opportunity

The importance of a first-party data foundation can’t be denied. In this article Billy Loizou, Area Vice President, Amperity, delves into how the foundation directly impacts the future of adtech and is key to thriving in a world without third-party cookies.

In Amperity’s recent webinar “The Economics of Your Messy Data”, I joined guest experts Terry Mefsut, Director of Marketing Technology from Deloitte and Rajan Kumar, Co-Founder and CEO of The Lumery, to discuss all the ways brands can find opportunity in their messy customer data.  

From compiling the right tech stack to being proactive in a privacy-first era of customer data and winning the race to customer centricity by leveraging first-party data, the marketing playbook for winning big – despite messy data – is below.  

The current state of data-centric organisations 

To remain competitive and relevant in today’s fast-paced landscape, brands must embrace digital transformation, leading the charge to a more data-centric world. But how many of them are actually taking action?   

According to Kumar, they all are but to different degrees. “Brands have been taking steps around digital transformation for years. The brands we work with haven’t been standing still,” he says.  

“There’s a heightened sensitivity around security, privacy and value of customer data. The second lens is on business capability. Every CEO we speak to is facing challenges around the attraction and retention of talent. And the third focus is on what’s happening in the technology landscape.  

“Most brands are still catching up with the concept of a CDP (customer data platform). This space is moving at a rapid pace. But what’s most important for brands to be thinking about is how they can move forward and not become stagnant or paralysed by all of the change that’s taking place.” 

A significant challenge marketers have been up against is the impending demise of the third-party cookie. It’s been a huge disruption for digital marketers. In fact, Mefsut says it’s presenting more questions than answers around privacy and transparency as it relates to consumer control of data. 

“A lot of marketers aren’t seeing the change in a positive way,” he says, explaining the silver lining of the deprecation of third-party cookies. “The changes in regulations will be centred around their human experience with brands. This will help them better focus on building consumer trust.” 

There are always a few brands that are on the cutting edge, leading the way for other brands to follow suit. And a popular one that comes to mind is Apple. Last year, as part of iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, Apple launched a number of significant privacy features intended to help users take control of their data.  

Since Apple launched those changes, only 16 per cent of Apple users have opted in to use tracking. That means, 84 per cent of people no longer want brands to consume and collect their data. These changes occur because of two main factors — customer expectations and legal changes. But the consumer is always at the heart of leading these changes.  

Focus on first-party data today to maintain a leading position tomorrow 

It’s no surprise that all brands want to stay ahead of the competition. However, it is eye-opening that, according to GfK research, only 1 in 4 marketers are very confident in the data systems they use to win and retain customers. Even more, whilst 85 per cent of marketers say direct access to customer data is critical to gain a competitive advantage, only 9 per cent of marketers say customer data is highly accessible.  

 The marketers and brands that are getting it right have invested in technology that helps them make sense of messy customer data, providing a complete view of each individual consumer. Mefsut believes CDPs like Amperity provide huge value for brands, not only in activation but in the retention of their customers.  

“First-party data is crucial as it provides us with an opportunity to prove that we know our customers, which in turn, helps us strengthen the relationships we have with our customers,” he says. 

“That will help us serve better across our owned media as well as from a technology perspective as an identifier. As marketers, we always talk about how we can create better cross-platform experiences, yet we have data from so many different channels that we can’t really stitch together. 

“Brands have to invest in the right ecosystem that can help them activate and understand the data. A solid first-party data ecosystem can help build customer profiles, making them available for marketers to build better journeys and recognise these profiles across channels, no matter which channel it is,” Mefsut adds. 

First-party data is also beneficial to marketers because it’s something brands can control. They can leapfrog the competition by taking a proactive approach to the deprecation of third-party cookies, transforming challenge into opportunity. 

“This heightened consumer awareness – and expectation – about how their data is used is driving a lot of change,” Kumar says. “This is a great opportunity for brands. If consumers expect greater transparency and a higher level of trust, then give it to them. Be very clear about what you’re collecting, why you’re collecting it, and how you’re going to use and manage it. These are all big questions for organisations to consider.” 

It’s also vital, Kumar shares, to truly understand what personalisation is. “A number of brands are confused about what personalisation actually is. Personalisation is about being extremely relevant in the moment,” he says. And for that data-driven insights are key. 

“We advise organisations to lift this up from a first-party data, marketing, comms, divisional sort of responsibility, to the CEO level,” Kumar continues.   

“This will help in truly putting the customer at the core of your entire organisation. It will affect how you make decisions about managing data, how you collect it, where you store it, and also how you can activate and use it against the customer’s needs.” 

The brands that are getting it right 

As consumers, we all engage with multiple brands on a daily basis. We know when we’ve had good engagement with a brand – and it’s typically not because they sent a relevant email. It’s the ecosystem that represents the brand and the people inside it that have access to the most important information about you to make sure it’s relevant.  

Mefsut agrees, saying the brands who get it right do more than send a good email — they create a relationship with the consumer and offer them a seamless experience, regardless of where the interactions occur. “There’s a feeling that the brand actually knows them and is invested in the relationship. It’s a two-way relationship,” he says. 

“We’re seeing the commoditisation of a lot of the products that our clients are selling. And the only thing they have to compete on is the experience that they create with their customers. Creating a better brand experience for customers built on trust will help them win the battle against their competitors.” 

Kumar adds, “The best brands are breaking down the walls of concepts that say this is marketing versus service versus digital, and they’re thinking about the customer at the core of everything.” 

Privacy-first world

When brands are successful, it’s because they’re harnessing the power of data. A data-driven approach results in higher retention, greater customer lifetime value and every dollar in marketing goes further. The one thing that’s often forgotten in this entire equation is business productivity. And, to go even deeper, so is the topic around consumer trust. With all the data breaches occurring globally, it’s time to rethink how we collect, manage and use data in business today. 

Kumar agrees. “In light of all of the data breaches, data collection, storage and usage is now on the tip of everyone’s tongue,” he says. “This question of trust, credibility and transparency is at an all-time high. This is a tremendous opportunity for brands to shift from the way things have always been done and better educate their customers about data usage.” 

Data breaches aren’t new. They’re just making the headlines more often, which is putting them top of mind for everyone. And when it’s top of the agenda, you start to see a lot of movement across the industry with brands and the legislation space at the government level. 

Brands have been a little late to the game, waiting for things to happen. That can’t be the way forward. Now, it’s time they start taking action – not just talking about it. 

Mefsut says that’s not necessarily an easy task for organisations as many of them lack the capability to access a single source of truth. “Many are often unable to legitimately answer what it takes to remove someone’s customer data. I’ve asked this question multiple times in organisations, and they can’t give me a straight answer on what the source of truth is,” he says. 

“There are often four or five people that need to get involved at a minimum to completely remove customer data. And there’s not a lot of confidence that, even then, it’s actually done.”  

The last decade or so has witnessed a rapid evolution of technological adoption driven through the lens of customer experience. Kumar believes this is shifting to technology investment towards customer data security governance. “Both must be balanced appropriately,” he urges. “We’re seeing a lot of brands beginning to ask different questions to the vendor landscape; questions that weren’t asked in the last five or ten years.” 

It might not be sexy, but data quality and accuracy are vital. It’s the fuel of any organisation. Data is the one thing that is going to allow every downstream system to ensure the right experience and performance metrics are met. We all know if bad experiences happen, the customer is going to leave or unsubscribe. All of those downstream effects start to impact the business. 

When brands and organisations stop fighting against ‘messy data’ and start working with it, great things begin to happen for the business, employees and customers. Take a look: 

For the business: Improve ROI from both technology and marketing 

    • Reduced programmatic onboarding fees
    • Improved advertising match rates and cost per customer acquisition
    • Eliminate duplicate household direct mail
    • Confidently target new, high-value audiences
    • Not paying to acquire customers you already have

For employees: Allows you to work smarter, not harder

    • Improved marketer productivity with direct data access
    • Cheering for point & click segmentation
    • Eliminating the analytics query queue
    • Liberating analysts to focus on highest impact work
    • Boosted confidence with transparent, record-level access

For customers: Feel known, supported and rewarded

    • Relevant and more effective customer journeys
    • Driving repeated purchases & growing average order value
    • Boosted conversions with personalised suggestions
    • Growing loyalty membership with personalised messages
    • Measuring what’s working across precise sub-audiences 

Data as an enabler 

Data and technology are important components of a successful business transformation story. However, it’s the people and processes that make it work. “At The Lumery, we fully subscribe to the belief that data and technology are important, but they’re an enabler. You have to get the people and processes right,” Kumar says. 

“Sure, there’s a fear of data breaches. But you can’t lock everything down. Data helps us deliver the ultimate customer experience. We just have to be trustworthy with it. Customers are saying that they want to give us their data, but there has to be a value exchange.” 

Mefsut adds, “The ticket of the ballgame is trust. You need to make sure you’re satisfying the organisation’s needs for compliance and security while also giving marketers license to be creative and develop great customer experiences. It’s about finding the happy medium.” 

About the author

Billy Loizou has 10-plus years experience in design, technology and marketing. He has worked with some of the world’s most renowned and respected brands, helping them improve their customer experience and drive profitability. 

About Amperity 

Amperity is the leading Customer Data Platform provider that helps companies use data to improve marketing performance, build long-term customer loyalty and drive growth. Amperity’s flagship enterprise CDP is used by many of the world’s best-loved brands, such as Alaska Airlines, Endeavour Drinks, Kendra Scott, Lucky Brand, Planet Fitness, Seattle Sounders FC, Under Armour and Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. For more information, please visit or follow @Amperity. 

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