Customer Data Management 2021: Looking Back at an Unusual Year to Plan the Year Ahead

 In Customer Centricity

As we head into Tealium’s 13th year in business, it’s worth taking stock of what’s happened this year and looking ahead to what it’ll mean down the road for companies trying to use customer experience as a differentiator.

Big Changes with Customer Data Continue

Martech adoption and digital CX had already caught fire before COVID doused the trend in gasoline. Proclamations and studies showing the acceleration of digital channels to engage customers in the face of the pandemic were as popular as Beanie Babies in 1995. If you’d been weary of ‘digital transformation’ as a buzzword before, well, hopefully (for your sake) COVID accelerated its demise simply by forcing companies to actually transform. 

This happened against a backdrop of multiple data regulations hitting the books across the globe. On the heels of GDPR and CCPA, we now have CPRA in California, PDPA enforcement in Thailand, APPI in Japan, and many others. And who knows how many are on the horizon? The moral of the story is that CX is not just a matter of keeping customers happy…there are real legal ramifications for how you use that data too.

And technology is evolving. In the absence of regulations (and consumer knowledge as to how companies are leveraging data), companies have been left to their own devices to deliver customer experience with that data. Thing is, companies at large proved not to be very trustworthy with this privilege. 

Technology is slowly evolving to fill the trust gap. Safari and Chrome have already begun to offer greater data protections to consumers and this has real ramifications for how companies use customer data to target and analyze customer behavior. But many businesses have yet to adjust; 2021 is shaping up to be a great culling of the market between those companies who can master using customer data to deliver CX in this challenging environment, and those who cannot.

Here are four data trends that amplified in 2020, and how Tealium continues to stay ahead:

  1. Scaling the great wall of customer data. Marketers continue to get more serious with data. Ever since I’ve been in marketing, “data-driven” has been a buzzword. What it means has evolved from “I looked at a report” to “my campaigns are automated in real-time to adjust to customer behavior.” The rise of CDPs and other technologies have marketers focusing on data like never before.Using customer data now reminds me of using LEGOs.

    Some people like to buy a set and build it by the book. Others like to use their imagination and build their own creations. The same LEGOs can turn into dramatically different outcomes. With Tealium, marketers get a head start with the building blocks (data), and it’s up to them how to build. That’s pretty cool as a marketer.

    Tealium’s original mission with Tag Management was more accessibility for the business to use technology and data to deliver customer experience…while also providing better tools for technical users to achieve complex tasks quicker and with less effort. And we continue to lead in providing tools to each stakeholder. Just this year, Tealium launched new tools simplifying machine learning for business users, a new load order manager to make tag management easier, and new features for the time-consuming task of consent management. This remains the guiding light for virtually all of Tealium’s product development — making it easier for the business to connect data so that the brand can connect with customers.

  2. Building bridges, not silos. If I had a nickel for every study I read about integration being the most significant challenge in delivering customer experience right now, I’d probably have made an extra $10 bucks this year. It’s reached cliche status. Yet, companies continue to be channel-first when it comes to managing customer experience and customer data. That means thinking about the tool to engage first, instead of thinking about your understanding of the customer first (which is represented by data).

    It’s clear the future of technology is not using one monolithic software solution for everything, so companies should be data-first with managing customer experience (because that data represents the best view of the customer). From there, you can add engagement tools. As Gartner states, “Channel-Agnostic Strategies Put Customers First.” Managing customer data in a channel-agnostic way, comes with some serious benefits.

    Tealium’s focus on integration has never wavered. Our integration marketplace is a tribute to our data-first, channel-agnostic philosophy for customer data. As the largest independent (not part of a larger marketing cloud), pure-play CDP vendor in the market, we have a remarkably flexible position to help brands manage their view of the customer independent from the tools and vendors that execute on that view. We’re particularly excited by burgeoning partnerships with Facebook, AWS and Braze to continue empowering brands to use customer data how they want, not how one particular vendor may require.

  3. The convergence of personalization, privacy and predictions. Three great forces have coalesced to leave no doubt that there’s power in first-party customer data. Personalization, Privacy and Predicting customer behavior all significantly depend on mastery of first-part data and this dependence will increase. Historically, third-party customer data has dominated the landscape; marketers may not even realize how much we’ve all relied on third-party data solutions.

    Consider retargeting, which is a significant part of most marketers’ tactics. It commonly works using third party cookies for data collection and targeting, but browsers have already begun blocking this capability. Many companies haven’t even considered how they’ll replace third-party data-centric targeting like this in their customer experience, marketing and analytics programs.  Yet, these programs commonly play a huge role in corporate strategies and for those who don’t plan ahead, campaign performance will decline due to targeting and measurement challenges. Cross-site tracking (which third party cookies allowed) going away radically disruptive advertising, analytics and CX delivery.

    At Tealium, we’ve always planned on a first-party-centric world. It’s directly in our corporate strategy and has been there since 2008. The enhancements we’ve made this year to consent management, introducing ML capabilities, and the burgeoning partnerships we’re building with other key technologies are all game-changing capabilities and were in the works for many years — well before first-party became a buzzword.

  4. The rise of data minimization. Historically, data best practices led to collecting everything possible. But, if you read #3 above you probably see where this is headed.

    Marketers have always clamored for more access to customer data, but in today’s data-rich environment that mindset needs to change. The reality is now you need to align what data you need versus what data might not be worth the risk. There are many reasons why you shouldn’t be collecting anything and everything: regulations, customer expectations, ethics, risk of misuse, and cost just to name a few. The point is there’s significant value in evaluating/controlling what data you are intentionally collecting or not collecting.

    2021 represents the tipping point in the market for brands to assert mastery over first-party data practices, including choosing not to collect certain data. Mastery of first-party customer data is a strategic imperative. That means being able to collect — and choose NOT to collect — customer data based on your business needs.

Overall 2020 was a time of great change. But, that change is toward a better world for customers. Companies have many reasons now to focus much more on their use of first-party data. And in the long run that’s going to make CX better and data usage safer — ultimately benefiting us all.

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