Journeys aren’t about one moment.

Take, for instance, holidays. While for most of us, fun starts after check in, the holiday begins long before. From the first flight or hotel search, travellers set off on a path to the main event that includes many interactions. Each of which provides an opportunity for brands to offer relevant, engaging experiences.

The issue, however, is that delivering such experiences requires deep understanding of the route travellers take. It might be simple enough to define where bookings are made – research shows 85 percent are confirmed on PC or laptop, 23 percent via tablet, and 20 percent using smartphones – but to maximise the impact of messaging at every stage of individual journeys, brands need a holistic and consistent picture of activity.

So, how can this view be obtained? In short, brand marketers must follow the data trail customers leave as they traverse multiple channels. The long answer involves a closer look at current challenges and how data can be converted into actionable insight, while respecting consumer privacy.

Divided insight: The key performance block

With 8 billion connected devices in use, data generated by digital consumers – be that from browsing rental sites like Airbnb or reading reviews via the Tripadvisor app – is plentiful. And the potential of this insight to fuel personalised experiences hasn’t escaped marketers; nine in ten agree data management is a key priority.

But using it isn’t proving easy. According to recent research by Royal Mail Data Services, many brands are grappling with data legislation and assessment difficulties. One-quarter named General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance as their biggest concern and 28 percent felt customer data analysis was the greatest performance issue.

Although not the only cause, the central driver of both challenges is disjointed data. More specifically: the common tendency to gather, process, and store insight from different channels and devices separately.

By persisting with this siloed approach, marketers are not only making GDPR adherence harder – attempting to check the accuracy, privacy protection, and consent levels of fragmented data sets is no mean feat – but also inhibiting campaign effectiveness.

With crucial information about consumer interactions held in isolation, it is near impossible to obtain a complete, joined-up view of individuals or their journeys. And this, in turn, means messaging is likely to be irrelevant and even irritating. For example, say a tennis fan searches for hotels in Wimbledon on their smartphone but later books with a laptop.

Without knowledge of this vital link, the hotel brand may attempt to reignite the interest of this ‘potential’ customer (who has already booked) with retargeted offers, unaware they are causing frustration.

Evidently, better data organisation is critical if marketers want to create experiences that drive customer happiness. And this means they must adopt methods that swap silos for synchronisation: it’s time to embrace data orchestration.

What is data orchestration?

Put simply, data orchestration is a term applied to the procedure of consolidating information from numerous sources. The result of which is a real-time view of individuals that spans activity across multiple devices and channels.

How it works is more complex. The key factor to note is that success depends on covering all core phases of the data lifecycle: collection, transformation, enrichment, audience association, and ownership. So, the technologies involved in the process ideally need to follow a set adoption path, which includes several essential stages.

First, it’s important to start by amassing data from every source, such as travel agents to sites, chat bots, and apps. Then information must be re-ordered, which means cleansing, merging, and translating data into a single language and layer. At the same time, stage three will already be in play; whereby stitching of cross-channel data begins to build a comprehensive picture of individuals and fresh insight – such as smartphone interactions – is immediately integrated.

How does it help brands?

When these stages are complete, marketers should have complete real-time consumer profiles that allow them to precisely personalise messages. And, because profiles are continually updated, they can be sure that messages strike the right chord however unique journeys twist and turn.

Furthermore, bridging silos and bringing data together can also pave the way to GDPR compliance. With all data relating to specific individuals amalgamated in one pool, marketers can quickly evaluate security measures – and implement additional protection if needed – and whether individuals have given consent, and that’s not to mention the reassurance that data is up-to-date and access request can be rapidly fulfilled.

Most marketers are already aware that data is the key to providing extraordinary customer experiences and building lasting relationships. But understanding of how it should be used is still limited. To make the most of the information produced by smart devices, marketers must recognise that each screen and channel is an integral element of an individual’s journey. Consequently, messages will only achieve great results if they are based on a comprehensive understanding of individuals and their activity as a whole.

Much like their holidays, today’s consumers expect every experience to be the journey of a lifetime.

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