Traditionally Creative Marketers Play a Big Role in Data-driven Customer Experience

Sarah Steimer
Key Takeaways

​What? Data have become even more important in the customer journey.

So what? The explosion of digital has increased the opportunity to better understand what the customer is doing and who they are.

Now what? Marketers can harness digital data to capitalize on the “I want to know” and “I want to buy” moments.

​Lisa Loftis of SAS considers the evolution of the customer experience and the role data and analytics play in customer strategy

Eighteen years ago, Lisa Loftis cowrote Building the Customer-Centric Enterprise. If she were to update the book today, she would add quite a few chapters on how a digital focus has changed the game. Loftis is a thought leader on software company SAS’s Best Practices team, where she focuses on customer intelligence, customer experience management and digital marketing. Data and analytics are at the center of all three, which Loftis discussed with Marketing News.

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your background and how you became interested in data and analytics?

A: I have to admit it was kind of serendipitous luck that got me into this field. I had a job where I had to do a lot of public speaking but really didn't have anything to do with computers or analytics or anything like that. Twenty-five years ago or so I thought that computers were really starting to become something that you needed to understand, so I went back and got a little education in that field and ended up working for a software company out of Pittsburgh. They were really the first organization that started doing name and address matching software, data-cleansing software really designed around helping companies to develop a single view of the customer. They developed software that was built into a lot of the banks and the insurance companies that, back in the ‘80s and the ‘90s, were really the first companies starting to look at the customer holistically, versus siloed product-oriented processes. Today just about every industry looks much more comprehensively at a customer view.

Q: You co-authored a book in 2000, “Building the Customer-Centric Enterprise.” How has the role of data in the customer journey changed since that book first came out?

A: It has become much more important, not to say that it wasn't back when we wrote the book. But our capabilities today, both from the perspective of the types of data that we actually have to deal with and that the capacity from a computer perspective and the the capabilities that the systems provide, it's really given us the opportunity to know our customers so much more intimately and personally than we ever could before. That’s due 100% to the digital explosion of data that we have from mobile. When we wrote that book, digital was really just starting and those capabilities did not exist. From a marketing perspective, we've got the ability to understand exactly what a customer is doing, where they are, what their preferences are and we have a way to communicate with them in real time. 

Q: Can you give me some examples of what you’re tapping into through digital?

A: Today we can do things that we call of moments of now. We can understand the “I want to know” moments when when one of our customers or prospects is in an investigative stage and they're looking for information. We no longer just throw up every bit of content that we have about every one of our products and hope that they can wade through and find what they're looking for. We can really narrow down that content and satisfy that “I want to know” moment very contextually.

[There are also] “I want to buy” moments. We have the ability, based on what [a customer] has done in the past, to determine if they're just gathering information or if they may be looking for something very specific.

Q: The amount of customer data that marketers and companies now have is kind of overwhelming. How can you, especially as a company leader, help your team navigate that?

A: We look at the data that companies are using to shape their customers’ journeys and experiences in five different categories. The first is the customer profile or CRM data which is basically what products they own, how they interact with us through the traditional channels, what they’ve told us about their preferences, etc. Then there’s demographics and psychographics. Some of that is still purchased and the more traditional of that has been around for a while, as has the customer profile. Then we have web and mobile: How are they looking at us? What are they downloading? How are they navigating? Then we have the emerging channel of social: network data profiles, work history, associations, those kinds of things. And then finally, the IoT: the beacons and sensors, location, GPS proximity. What we say is map those data types to what they help you to understand.

Q: It used to be that marketers were considered these creative types. Now there’s some sociology involved, some knowledge of the law and lots of technology know-how. Whether a modern marketer is in a managerial role or just getting started, what do they need to be polishing up on right now so that they are not falling behind?

A: The reality is that creative never goes away from the marketing arena. But you can have the best creative, the most memorable, and without the data behind it that shapes people's perception, what you have is just spray and pray. Now you've spent a lot of money on what may or may not hit the target market.

We usually tune this to CMOs and the marketing director level, but there's no reason why young marketers can't start considering this: There are three characteristics that they have to have in order to be successful today. The first one is transformative: They must have the ability to forge great change. Fifty percent to 60% of revenues within the next couple of years are going to be generated digitally. These are all multi-channel business strategies and marketing can't be removed from the creation of and shepherding of those strategies because the customer is at the heart of it.

The second characteristic is cogence: the ability to tell a very clear and compelling story a story. A story about why the organization needs to change in the way that the multichannel business strategies are going to force that change. A story about where the ROI is going to be for doing that. And a story about what has worked and what hasn't worked. To us, that is purely analytics.

The third characteristic is cohesion, which is about creating a unified whole. A marketer has to be able to forge cohesion in a siloed organization in order to really get those multichannel, multi-business function strategies implemented, because there is no situation where the CMO is going to have control over every customer touchpoint—digital or otherwise. But the experience strategies and the digital experience strategies that marketers need to drive are going to have significant impact on every one of those business units that marketers don't own. They have to have the skill set to be able to bring together their peers, their business leaders who are impacted, work with them to figure out how to build a unified whole and then get out of the way. Build the roadmap, get it started and then be there as a guiding force.

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Sarah Steimer
Sarah Steimer is a staff writer for the AMA's magazines and e-newsletters. She may be reached at or on Twitter at @sarah_steimer.