Category Archives: customer data

Packing Real Punch Into Customer 360s

In marketing circles, the buzzphrase for the first quarter of 2017 was Customer Data Platform (CDP).

Although coined in 2013, it was Gartner’s decision in July 2016 to introduce this as a new industry category within its digital marketing “hype cycle” that has given the term real legs.


To date, enterprises have relied on their CRM, channel or transaction systems to provide them with customer views. But these have been far from “holistic”, with the ambition to build a Customer 360 platform largely hampered by data silos and technology bottlenecks.

According to advocates, CDP platforms elevate UYC (Understand Your Customer) initiatives to a whole new level by unifying all customer data from marketing, sales and service channels into one database or interface. This is then made available to the entire organisation as an integrated view of each customer, rather than as an anonymised view of broad customer segments, as is the case with other data platforms.

Hence your platform isn’t a CDP unless it boasts the following features:

  • The ability to track a customer’s activity within an enterprise. This must apply to all touch points, regarding whether traditional or digital, and the when, what, how and why of every transaction.
  • The ability to plot the customers’ complete and personalised journey by piecing together data gathered from the customer’s devices, channels, and engagements. By so doing, enterprises are able to define the customer’s choices, experiences, and ultimately, sentiment.
  • The ability to support marketers across multiple customer facing applications. That includes helping such teams design their product recommendations, conduct cross sell optimisations, track customer retention and attrition, and manage their advertising and branding.
  • The ability to present a single source of truth by maintaining a persisted and updated profile of each customer. This profile should be usable across the entire enterprise and hence drive real time insight, decision making and execution relevant to the individual customer.
  • The ability to ensure data privacy and governance standards are maintained despite the shift from segmented to individualised customer data. This includes strict limits on the number of data copies and minimising the risks of data leakage.

More than just a Single Customer View

Importantly, CDPs are not just about embellishing a customer’s profile data or even establishing a single customer view. Embedded in the concept of CDPs is the ability to act on the intelligence that CDPs provide.

The ownership of the CDP is also important. According to technologist David Raab, founder of the Customer Data Platform (CDP) Institute,  CDPs represent “one of the few fundamental changes in marketing technology in the past decade, because it shifts control of the customer database from IT to marketers.”

At the core of a CDP is a marketer-managed database that is accessible to other systems. CDPs are accessible by external systems and are designed to support, for example, web-marketing campaigns that go beyond simple targeted promotions. Instead, CDPs must be capable of delivering pin point customer specificity. This means web content, product recommendations and service alerts that are entirely customised to the individual.

The making of a Customer Data Platform

Enterprises seeking to build their own CDP, or use one or more vendors to do so, can leverage on the many open source technologies now readily available. Elements of a CDP include connectors to a variety of data sources, a data store for structured and unstructured data, tools for data preparation flows, identity resolution processes, artificial intelligence systems, and integration to customer applications.

While some or all of these elements may already be in operation at an enterprise, CDPs force technology and data science teams to support a key digital shift: personalised interactions based on a holistic, data-driven view of every customer. For most marketers today, this remains wholly out of reach.


Open Banking is Happening, Folks!

Wireless transfer of money through mobile phone vector concept

On February 2, 2017, the UK’s open banking ambitions took a step closer to reality when the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) issued its final order for the implementation of open banking reforms.

The final order sets down a strict one-year time frame for nine of the UK’s largest banks to launch their open banking API interfaces. This means that by the end of Q1, 2018, these banks will have enabled their customer data to be securely accessed by competitors and third parties.

A definite shift

For those of us who, having worked in banks, once considered the “open banking” concept to be no more than a pipe dream, this marks a significant milestone. If data is new oil, and banks are really only just starting to mine its full potential, then sharing this asset with the external world is a very tough decision, new opportunities notwithstanding. Which is why it was unlikely to happen without the CMA’s firm hand.

But all that is history. The UK’s open API banking initiative now looks to be set in stone with other regulators likely to follow suit. Meanwhile, the European Union already have their own open banking directive – known as PSD2 – due to kick in in 2018. So how will this change the lives of banking customers?

Choice, choice and more choice

The CMA’s Open Banking report, published in August last year, gives us some idea of what is to come. At this point, the most relatable improvement, from a consumer’s point of view, is the potential to view multiple bank accounts via a single app. Many industry players have already begun to envision that such an app could be used to not only keep better track of one’s finances, but to “cherry-pick” banking services.

The development of a so-called “banking-as-a-service” (BaaS) platform would pave the way for customers to easily select and assemble a set of banking services from across several providers. Similar to other portals, the criteria for choosing one bank’s services over another would extend beyond just fee and features comparisons, and include the available channels and digital experience on offer.

The new era of inter-bank platforms

However, whether this takes off in the way the CMA would like depends in large part on whether individual customers are sufficiently reassured about the security and confidentiality of their data. This in turn rests on the regulations, IT platforms and security protocols being established to support such BaaS projects.

For example, the PSD2’s Access to Account requirement stipulates that banks are obliged to share their customers’ payment account information with third party service providers. While the regulators have indicated that strict conditions apply, including how “payment account” is defined, and how service providers will be licenced, the industry is still struggling to interpret the guidelines.

Similarly, the private sector has sought to build common standard open banking protocols and platforms. These include the Ixaris-led Open Payment Ecosystem, the Microsoft and Intuit-led Open Financial Exchange (OFX) standard for the exchange of financial information, and the Banking Industry Architecture Network (BIAN), an association established to define a common IT framework for banking inter-operability. It remains to be seen which of these will take root.

No pain, no gain

 Despite the flurry of activity, it is no surprise that some banks have serious reservations about the effort required to support open banking. Aside from regulations that are extensive and still evolving, open banking brings the risks of fraudulent third parties, digital intrusion, impersonation, and the illegal use of data.

The pain of acquiring the resources and new skill sets, including in risk, compliance, technology, and data science, suggests substantial short term pain ahead of gains that are as yet unquantifiable. Clearly, the first salvos in support of open banking have been made, but there is still much work to do.

Background vector created by Lexamer –

To personalise or not: WhatsApp re-ignites the data sharing debate

WhatsApp announced last month that it will allow its parent company Facebook to sell its user data to advertisers. The news was met with widespread consternation.

The timing too couldn’t be more unfortunate, coming just a fortnight after a landmark US Court of Appeal ruling in favour of Microsoft’s bid not to hand over its customer emails to the US federal government.

Also playing on many minds is the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), adopted in April this year after four years of debate, and due to come into force by mid-2018. Corporations located in EU member states are already scrambling to ensure compliance with requirements that are variously described as “onerous”, “radical” or “doesn’t go far enough”.

As both the private and public sectors struggle to draw the line between data privacy and data utility, it is perhaps time for individuals to ask themselves the same questions. What do I stand to gain from government and corporate use of my data? And when does this cross the line?

This is not just a philosophical exercise. In fact, data privacy advocates strongly espouse the concept that an individual’s personal data belongs to the individual. Governments and corporations are deemed “temporary custodians” of the data they collect, and can choose to offer personalised services, but based only on the information that individuals are willing to share with them.

Billed as a first of its kind, the high profile MyData 2016 conference taking place in Helsinki this week promotes this view of “human-centric data management”. Organisers of the event take pains to stress that their intention is not to stifle innovation, but rather to lay the ground rules for the ethical use of data. However, implicit in the conference themes is the notion that the scales may now have tilted too far in favour of the organisation versus the individual.

Aside from the issues of data security (ie keeping data safe from hackers and unauthorised persons), research suggests that individuals greatly fear the improper use of big data to drive key decisions made about them. Media, internet, telecommunication and insurance companies are said to face the greatest “data trust deficit” and need to make the most effort to ensure that their brand is associated with data transparency and accountability.

On the other hand, individuals should not under-estimate the extent to which big data mining has become an expectation. Research by the Aberdeen Group suggest that 74 percent of online consumers actually get frustrated with website offers and promotions that have nothing to do with their interests. The research also found that more than half of all consumers are now more inclined to use a retailer if it offers a good personalised experience.

The key appears to be control. According to, more than 60% of online users, while valuing personalisation, sought to understand how websites select such content. A similar number wanted the ability to influence the final results by proactively providing or editing personal information about themselves.

However, it is not marketing websites but IoTs and wearables that will be the biggest test of users’ embrace or disaffection with big data. Today’s low cost wearables are effectively subsidised by the potential monetisation of the data that these devices are able to generate. This data is vast and highly personal, and while the IoT trend is not new, experts expect wearable technology to escalate dramatically over the next few years.

It is therefore increasingly incumbent on the industry to put in place measures that protect the data from abuse. Manulife’s MOVE and AIA’s Vitality programmes are classic examples of how it is possible to align individual and corporate objectives to the benefit of both. Individual policy holders are provided with fitness trackers that record workout data, and rewarded for healthy behaviour through discounts or points. This is done by ensuring workout data is explicitly collected and consent explicitly provided, with a firm undertaking that the data will not be shared or used for other purposes.

It is said that with great power comes great responsibility. Big data has the power to transform organisations and disrupt industry practices. But in delivering the personalisation that individuals now demand, organisations cannot lose sight of their responsibility to maintain the individual’s innate desire for self-determination, even in the digital world.

Helping your customers help themselves

With websites now amassing data on their users, the time has come to play back this data in a meaningful way.

Supermarkets can use transaction data to help customers count their calories

Supermarkets can use transaction data to help customers count their calories

Many digital column inches have been spent defining what makes for a superior online experience. Commentators appear to have narrowed the field to a few key requirements: online sites must be personalised, available across all digital channels, visually-engaging, and review-driven.

I would add one more to this list. Online sites must embrace data playback, that is, provide users with useful information driven off their own personal data.   This applies as much to private companies as they do to public service websites. With both sectors now collecting more data than ever on their customers and citizens, this data can now be put to good use, not just to benefit the provider, but also the user.

Have I been vaccinated?

 While many government departments have extended their online capabilities to only as far as e-applications or appointments, data integration technology means that the opportunities to provide greater transparency are now growing.

Take for example the launch of Singapore’s HealthHub app this month. Billed as a one-stop health information and services portal, HealthHub now enables users to access their own (and their children’s) health records including their immunization history, lab test results and hospital discharge summary. The portal does this by pulling together data off hospital, school and registration systems. Users can then further personalise their profiles to receive tailored heatlh information and content.

I love the opera. Any cheap tickets?

The potential result is a virtuous cycle. More personal information is able to generate more personal benefits, which in turn generates more personal information. New research also bears this out within the private sector.

According to online deals platform, RetailMeNot and Kelton Global, 89% of shoppers are willing to part with personal information about themselves in exchange for a more customized mobile experience. For example, in exchange for more tailored rebates, loyalty programmes or promotions, 53% of US shoppers say they are willing to disclose their age, 52% their hobbies or interests, 40%their geographic location, and 32% their income levels.

Am I over-eating?

These findings suggest that the personalisation of information via data playbacks opens up new sales opportunities. Retailers of all sorts should now be thinking about how to retain their repeat customers by enabling user access to a combination of their disclosed and transactional information. For example, supermarkets can help their customers meet their calorie targets by showing the average number of calories purchased weekly. Or telephone companies can help their customers keep track of their broadband data usage aginst their existing plans.

Banks too have much to offer in this space. Simple, the popular app and online banking service acquired last year by Spanish bank BBVA, offers enhanced budget capabilities using data playback. Their Save-To-Spend tool for example, allows customers to plan their daily spending by automatically factoring in upcoming bills and savings goals.

The possibilities are endless. But the message can be summed up quite simply. Be relevant. Otherwise your customers will find a provider who is.