How much insight do you have into the entire customer journey, from first touch to ongoing communication with loyal customers? Today’s consumers expect personalized, relevant, and immediate messaging, which means that marketers need direct access to the freshest data from all touch points to create seamless integration. However, silos of customer data stored by various solutions have made it difficult for marketers to have a unified view of their customers.
Email marketing data tends to be the most isolated customer data since it is often the first to be offloaded to a cloud platform, but what is the alternative to pushing email marketing data to the cloud? Does a centralized database mean giving up cloud computing in exchange for a resource-heavy, on-premises system that requires a great deal of support from the information technology department? Thankfully, no.
For data-driven organizations that are managing large amounts of rapidly changing customer data, it may make more sense to use a hybrid model. Hybrid email marketing combines the security and direct access to data of an on-premises system with the ease of use, scalability and reliability of the cloud. This means, instead of storing sensitive customer data in the cloud, you keep all customer data in a centralized database and use the cloud for resource-heavy tasks, such as email rendering and delivery. Below are three benefits of using centralized data and hybrid email marketing.
According to the National Retail Federation/Forrester Research (News - Alert) Inc. Report “Retail CIO Agenda 2015: Secure and Innovate,” 97 percent of business leaders place data security at the top of their 2015 list of priorities, yet to store data in the cloud for email marketing, marketers must copy their data and send it to a third-party email provider. This means that sensitive customer data immediately becomes less secure. This isn’t to say that email providers don’t take every precaution to keep data safe, but having someone else store a copy of your customer data increases the exposure of data. By using a hybrid email marketing model, cloud services do the heavy lifting of tasks that don’t require data to be stored in the cloud, such as email deliverability and tracking. By being selective with how you use cloud services, you benefit from maintaining the core functionality of the cloud without exposing your customer data by replicating it and storing it there.
Marketers need visibility into everything customers are doing to effectively communicate with them, yet 54 percent of companies reported systems integration as the top marketing analytics challenge, according to the 2014 Marketing Analytics Report. A 360-degree view of your customers means seeing how customers interact across all marketing channels, not just in individual silos. By keeping your customer data in a centralized database, you are in a better position to examine all marketing campaigns and communications in a unified view. With this information in hand, you can make more informed decisions regarding what messages should be sent to customers and when. If your inside sales team had a promising call with a prospect, but didn’t quite land the sale, perhaps a well-timed follow-up email to the customer with a discount or coupon will close the deal. This type of responsive email interaction is possible when you have full access to all of the data available about your customers.
One of the biggest challenges in using customer data for marketing is getting updated data to an email service provider and keeping it in sync and fresh. As soon as data is replicated and sent to the cloud, it is out of date. It takes time for data updates to sync between databases. In most scenarios, it takes hours for an email service provider to make updates. In worst-case scenarios, it can take days – an eternity in today’s fast-paced customer lifecycle. No matter how quickly an email service provider sends information back and forth (through FTP or APIs), it can never match the accuracy of using fresh data directly from your company’s internal database.
For companies that manage a large amount of customer data, hybrid email marketing offers a new way to communicate with customers more effectively, more efficiently, and most importantly, in real time. The hybrid email marketing model, which allows for core functionality to be maintained in the cloud while accessing data from a centralized location, will play a crucial role in helping marketers communicate with customers in a more meaningful way throughout the customer lifecycle journey.
Dan Roy is CEO and co-founder of MessageGears (www.messagegears.com).
Edited by Kyle Piscioniere