Blog March 25, 2024 |

How to Build a Data Strategy: Six Key Questions

According to Forrester, the next evolution of customer experience will be ‘invisible.’ Brands will become so adept at anticipating the needs of their customers — and serving them proactively with relevant content and experiences services in the moment they need them — that consumers will engage less frequently but more meaningfully with them.

Delivering these invisible experiences hinges on a comprehensive understanding of customer journeys, the ability to watch consumers in real time (e.g., data streaming), and the ability to use real-time context or insights to choose consumers, channels, content/services, or triggers – quickly. And of course, underpinning all of these capabilities is data.

But therein lies the rub. Data deprecation stemming from consumer actions, privacy regulations, browser and operating system restrictions, and wall gardens is making data increasingly difficult to acquire.

Consumers are actively opting out of third-party data tracking and data storage by using ad blockers, clearing their browsing history, and adjusting their device settings to limit data sharing (location, Bluetooth, etc.). At the same time, third-party cookie restrictions, privacy-first browsers, and tightening consumer data privacy regulations are hindering companies’ ability to track and store data.

As if that wasn’t enough, the walls of the walled gardens are only getting taller. Closed ecosystems like Google, Meta, and Amazon control vast reservoirs of customer data while imposing greater restrictions how companies can access and use that data for audience insights and campaign planning.

So, what are companies to do?

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Breaking Though the Data Barrier: Strategies for Success

To successfully deliver invisible experiences, companies need to build a robust data strategy that clearly defines what data they require, why they need it, and how they intend use it. Here are six questions to consider when crafting your data strategy:

1. What are we trying to accomplish?

Before diving into data collection, it's crucial to clearly define your objectives. What are you trying to accomplish? What is the ultimate goal of your data strategy? Whether it's improving customer engagement, enhancing product development, or optimizing marketing campaigns, establishing clear objectives provides direction and focus for your data initiatives.

2. What consumer data do we need?

Once you've outlined your objectives, the next step is to identify the data required to achieve them. What specific data points are essential for meeting your goals? Whether it's customer demographics, purchase history, or behavioral data, pinpointing the necessary information sets the foundation for effective data collection and analysis.

3. Do we already have that data? If not, where are there opportunities to ask for that data?

Before seeking out new sources of data, take stock of what you already have. Is there data stored in silos within your organization? Are there untapped resources within different departments, such as customer service or sales? By assessing existing data assets, you can avoid redundancy and leverage existing insights to inform your strategy.

4. How will we use that data in a way that benefits customers?

One of the most critical questions to ask is how you will use the collected data to benefit your customers. Gone are the days of purely self-serving data collection practices. Instead, companies must consider how data can be used to enhance the customer experience. Will it enable personalized recommendations, streamline processes, or improve service delivery? Aligning data usage with customer value is key to building trust and fostering long-term relationships.

5. Where will that data live, and which systems does it need to connect with?

Once you've defined your data needs and objectives, it's time to consider the technical aspects of data management. Where will the data be stored? What systems and tools are needed to collect, analyze, and interpret the data effectively? Ensuring that your technical infrastructure aligns with your data strategy is essential for seamless implementation and execution.

6. How should we treat this data to engender customer trust?

Last but not least, companies must address the critical issue of data governance. How will you ensure the privacy, security, and ethical use of customer data? Establishing clear guidelines and protocols for data management, including data retention policies and access controls, is essential for building customer trust and complying with regulatory requirements.

Delivering invisible experiences may be more of a vision than a reality today. But companies can start taking steps to lay the groundwork for success. By asking the right questions and harnessing the power of their first-party data, companies can unlock new opportunities, drive innovation, and deliver exceptional experiences for their customers – all while moving towards a future of invisible and immersive experiences.