A Holistic View of Your Customers Is Now Available in 4D

A 360-degree view of the customer — it’s seen as the holy grail of marketing. But the reality is that with the technology most companies are using today, it’s almost impossible to achieve. And if you can get it, chances are this legendary 360-degree view is a snapshot in time that may or may not reflect the needs of that customer.

But we’re embarking on a new age of understanding that makes customer intelligence more effective and easier to use. This new age will make it possible for organizations to have fully dimensional and real-time profiles that factor in information on a customer’s context and emotion. It will be an age when the availability of data lets companies learn from the past, deliver in the present, and better predict the future.

Enter the age of the 4D customer view. A 4D customer view surpasses a 360-degree view because it helps companies understand the context of the customer in time and space — not just his or her behavior across channels. Having this contextual picture not only drives in-the-moment interactions, but it also enables companies to deliver experiences in a more predictive way and stay one step ahead of the customer.

A 4D customer view can only be achieved with the right infrastructure. CIOs are best placed to take advantage of the opportunity and lead the 4D customer view for their organizations, while partnering with other CXOs to bring this to life. Here’s how CIOs can get started:

1. Make customer experience everyone’s responsibility

Today, no single department owns the customer experience — it’s everyone’s job. But too often, customer experience responsibilities get delegated, diluted, and divided between a variety of stakeholders, usually the chief marketing officer, chief digital officer, and chief experience officer. As a result, customer data becomes increasingly fragmented and stored in silos.

CIOs must lead by setting the technology vision, uniting all departments to identify and bring together the data they have to achieve a holistic business outcome for the entire enterprise. CIOs can get teams on board by partnering with their C-suite counterparts to set an overall business vision, of which technology will be a key driver. This isn’t about issuing top-down edicts. It’s about having a shared vision and making sure everyone within the organization is working from the same game plan. Cross-functional collaboration at the highest levels of the organization will be key to breaking down silos throughout the enterprise.

2. Put the right architecture in place

Many of the systems responsible for gathering customer data are antiquated and can’t handle the customer experience challenges of today. As a result, a third of companies are alarmingly unable to track their customers’ journeys, which translates to irrelevant, repetitive messages or experiences that don’t align with each customer’s needs.

For example, if I’ve just landed at the airport and learned that my luggage has gone missing, it would be counterproductive for that same airline to send me an email about booking my next vacation on its site.

To truly create a 4D customer view, enterprises must establish an open and accessible way to house, standardize, and leverage all of the data they have access to. This starts by taking siloed information, stored in various systems across the company, and consolidating this data so that all departments can use it. Transactional data stored in a CRM is just one piece of the puzzle. By also using behavioral data, financial data, and operational data — even emotional data — companies will begin to see their customers from a new perspective.

Next, companies must ensure they have proper controls on the data. This includes standardizing the data so it all speaks the same language and can be actioned upon quickly — data from a CRM system is categorized in the same way as data from an ERP system, and so on. This control also involves compliance with data privacy regulations.

By consolidating the data and ensuring proper controls are in place, brands will have what they need to have a true end-to-end view of their customers in real time for added context.

3. Make quick decisions with AI

AI and machine learning can help companies find data quickly and help drive automated decision-making. Milliseconds matter when it comes to reaching customers with the optimal experience in real time.

Yet companies have trillions of digital interactions a day, meaning a general-purpose AI agent or algorithm will never be able to accurately predict the best customer experience. Domain specificity matters. It’s not just about computational skills — it’s about applying data science in a way that can identify and solve nuanced business challenges.

Combining domain expertise with data science can help answer key questions about the business and its relationship with customers, whether it’s an online retailer understanding seasonal fluctuations in customer retention or deciphering why a B2B software company is losing a particular audience segment.

The right type of AI also becomes smarter about a specific audience segment as it ingests more data and automates the processes that are involved in delivering real-time customer interactions. This can include using AI to present the next best offer to optimize advertising budget or streamlining image tagging and image selection for different landing page experiences.

4. Put the customer at the center of everything you do

Building everything you do around customer experience is good for business. The main way companies win the affection and loyalty of customers today has shifted from the price of the product, or what the product is, to what the experience is. That’s not to mention that there’s also a compelling business case for focusing on experience. In a recent study we commissioned with Forrester, businesses that invest in customer experience see 1.4 times the revenue growth, 1.7 times higher retention, and 1.6 times more customer lifetime value than peer companies that don’t make this investment.

Still, every organization is at a different place in their customer experience journey — leaders, laggards, and everyone in between. But CIOs with a clear technology vision will be able to execute a strategy that connects customer data to all systems of engagement across the enterprise. Then they can use this data to achieve a contextual 4D view of the customer, empowering their organization to move from simply being customer-centric to being truly customer-obsessed.

For the right solution to unify your customer experience data, learn more about the Adobe Experience Platform and the Open Data Initiative.

Learn more about CIOs as architects of the possible, and in the article From Information Officer to Chief Business Transformer.

This article was originally published on readwrite.com.