The now widely-accepted idea that having siloed customer data is a terrible mistake is, itself, a terrible mistake.
Don’t get me wrong — if you’re trying to create a unified customer experience in which you can track customers’ activities as they switch devices and channels, including going from online to offline, having all of your customer data in a single place makes sense. But it’s not the only solution.
In fact, if your customer data already exists in siloed systems, you can actually get value out of it faster by leaving it as is. Let me explain…
The Backstory on Siloed Data
At one point in the not too distant past, putting your customer data in silos was actually considered a smart move to make. That’s because those silos emerged alongside new technology, such as email service provider (ESP) and social media management tools, that made it easy to add new channels to your marketing mix.
For example, when ESPs entered the market, they made it easy to send messages, track email activity and personalize outreach. The alternative? Tasking IT to create a data warehouse to collect the information and tying it to an in-house messaging system. In other words, avoiding the silo would mean a lot of complicated backend development work and an extended time-to-market, while simply implementing an ESP made getting up and running with the same activities far faster and easier.
So, although these different point solutions did create data silos (which didn’t necessarily even matter 10-15 years ago), they also allowed marketers to activate several new use cases quickly and easily.
Yesterday’s Solutions = Today’s Headaches
Fast-forward to today, when consumers expect to switch devices and channels without any interruptions to their brand experience, and it’s clear that the data silos that once simplified customer engagement are quickly becoming a hindrance to it. But how much of an issue are they really? Not as much as you might think.
Yes, in order to power the type of consistent experience consumers now expect you need to view and understand data across channels, but that doesn’t mean all of your data needs to live in a single location. Instead of centralizing your data, what you really need to centralize is your decision-making.
By centralizing your decision-making, you should be able to answer questions like:
- Who are my highest value customers?
- What category preferences do different customers have?
- What’s the best creative to get in front of people?
- Which channels should I use to connect with different customers?
- Which of my customers need a discount?
- Who shouldn’t I email because they have a high likelihood to unsubscribe (and where should I try to reach them instead)?
How do you do that? We now have tools that allow you to take data, even if it is siloed, and use it to make channel agnostic decisions. This technology should allow you to connect data that lives in multiple places in order to create audience segments and make decisions about the best way to reach and engage with those audiences. You can then push those audiences back into the silos to take action.
History Repeats Itself: Silos Allow for Fast Results Once Again
Just as putting data into silos made it faster and easier to activate new use cases and channels back in the day, keeping those existing data silos in place makes it faster and easier to create a consistent experience today.
I know what you’re thinking — that just doesn’t make sense. Afterall, how can you understand customer activities across channels if all of that data lives in different places? But when you get down to it, the key to creating an optimal experience for customers isn’t about viewing data, but making decisions and taking action based on that data. So if you can get the decisioning piece of the equation into a single place, your data silos can remain intact. And much like the situation that got us these silos in the first place, this solution allows you to take action and see results far faster and with much less backend development effort than the alternative.