Data-First Customer Engagement 101

What is data-first customer engagement?

In a world of marketing technology overload, excessive buzzwords, rising expectations from customers, and increasing pressures on marketing teams to drive efficiencies in their marketing and optimize their spend – it’s likely that you have come across the term ‘data-first customer engagement,’ — or similarly, ‘data-driven orchestration’ or ‘data-driven marketing automation.’

Data-first customer engagement is a process of using data to inform and drive marketing decisions and activities. It allows marketers to better understand and personalize based on customer needs and preferences, identify opportunities for engagement, and optimize campaigns for maximum impact. By making data-driven decisions, marketers can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their marketing efforts, resulting in more successful outcomes — such as reduced CAC (customer acquisition cost), improved ROAS (return on ad spend), and higher LTV (customer lifetime value). 

The state of data-first customer engagement

You might be thinking the above definition is obvious, and duh, of course, every marketer likes to believe that they’re data-driven. But the reality is quite different: a recent Gartner survey said that only 53% of marketing decisions were informed by marketing analytics.

While the concept of data-driven marketing seems like a basic foundation of modern-day marketing, it’s much harder to actually implement, and even harder to make it the core of your customer engagement strategy — in large part because we’ve lacked the resources to make it happen, such as technology and access to data.  

But, with the introduction of CDPs, data clouds, and CEPs to the martech stack, there’s an important shift happening in making data-driven marketing and customer engagement a reality: marketers have the ability to access and activate their data like never before.

Prior to the introduction of CDPs and data clouds, marketers were limited by what their data and engineering teams were willing or able to provide them, and often have taken a content-centric approach to customer engagement (think: content calendars for email campaigns). They also often heavily relied on third-party data for marketing efforts. Even the most ‘mature’ marketing teams still struggled with cumbersome processes, data drops in CSV files from engineering teams, and extensive data silos. 

However, there are some major changes happening in the marketing and customer engagement landscapes that are driving the need for marketers to become more thoughtful and strategic about how they use first-party customer data from across their organization — such as the deprecation of third-party cookies, privacy concerns from consumers, content overload, and mounting economic pressures for marketers to be more savvy and focused with their marketing spend. 

Marketers are being asked to do more with less, and also have to be continuously focused on providing value to their customers in exchange for first-party data. Not only does providing value to customers come in the form of meaningful offers, it also means being thoughtful about when and how you’re engaging with them to forge stronger customer relationships and create more relevant interactions. 

The value of data-first customer engagement

In data-first customer engagement strategies, data is used at every stage of the marketing and customer engagement process, from planning and strategy to execution and analysis. This ensures that all marketing and customer engagement activities for each customer are based on customer data, rather than guesswork. As a result, marketers are able to take a more customer-centric approach to their marketing, and ultimately — drive more results.

By making better-informed decisions, marketers can also avoid wasting time and resources on activities that are not effective. And, by optimizing campaigns for maximum impact, they can ensure that their marketing budget is being used in the most efficient way possible. Better data leads to better customer engagement and smarter marketing through better targeting, more efficient ad spending, and optimizing customer interactions. 

Data-first customer engagement can help to improve the overall performance of your marketing team by creating alignment. When all team members are working from the same data set, it leads to greater collaboration and improved decision-making — and helps minimize disjointed and fractionalized customer experiences.

How to get started with data-first customer engagement

If you’re interested in getting started with data-first customer engagement, there are a few things you need to do.

First, it’s time to set the strategy, and start thinking about things like: how will you use the data to inform your decisions? What’s your ongoing data management plan? How will you ensure that your team is using the data in a consistent way to improve collaboration and decision-making? What data do you need to drive more effective marketing?

It’s important to note that more data is not necessarily better. However, access to the data you need — when you need it — is paramount.

Common data sources used by marketers include data from across your tech stack — your CEP (customer engagement platforms) orMAP (marketing automation provider), CRM (customer relationship management), data warehouses or data clouds (such as Snowflake or Databricks), ad tech (such as LiveRamp), social media, advertising destinations (such as Google Ads), messaging platforms (like Twilio), and much more.

Having a strategy for bringing together your marketing data with customer data from across your organization for a unified customer profile is the first step, so once you identify your key data sources, it’s time to find a CDP that meets your needs. Your CDP should have the ability to collect, transform, and activate your data across channels for real-time engagement. Stitch has experience helping a number of customers implement Twilio’s CDP, Segment, Twilio Segment is the top CDP on the market, which has over 400 data sources to get started with to create personalized, omnichannel customer journeys with the help of Braze

Braze is a customer engagement platform, centered around building long-lasting relationships between customers and the brands they love, and is a leader among other Cross-Channel Marketing Hubs. Braze offers a multitude of features that make targeting customers with personalized, timely messaging easy and efficient. With Braze’s custom and flexible APIs and SDKs, collecting consumer data from your mobile app or website to create a unified, robust user profile is an expedited, hands-off process. Braze offers a feature called Currents, a comprehensive and detailed export from the Braze platform, allowing the user data imported into Braze to be shared with Braze’s data partners (including Segment). 

With comprehensive data about your users, flowing in from both Braze and Segment, the customization and personalization for your messaging will be unmatched. Not only does Braze include a multitude of messaging channels—email, content cards, sms, and in-app messages—but with its predictive analysis tools (Braze Predictive Churn and Braze Predictive Purchases), you no longer have to mull over an exorbitant amount of data to try to make estimations on your customer behaviors. Braze does it for you, so you can create messaging that your consumers actually relate to. Usher out those general batch-and-blast emails, and welcome in targeted dynamic messaging that will build strong, long-lasting customer relationships. High ROI comes from informed marketing decisions, which stem from accurate and up-to-date data, achievable with Braze and Segment. 

Working with a partner can help you ensure that you’re setting a strategy that will position you for ongoing success, and help you evaluate and implement both tech and use cases that make sense for your business.

When implementing your data-first engagement strategy, some of the use cases you can focus on driving value with first are:

  • Increasing your customer lifetime value (LTV)
  • Consolidating your tech stack — reducing redundancies and data replication
  • Getting to know your customers better
  • Optimizing your customer experience to increase conversions and decrease CAC

This is just the beginning of a new era of marketing and customer engagement — one where your marketing is driven by your customers, and marketers have what they need to drive results and execute smarter marketing.

Want to know what data-first customer engagement looks like for your brand? Let’s get in touch. 

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