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In today’s world, the most important aspect of enhancing your consumer experience is understanding your customer—and the best way to understanding them is from their data.

Master Data Management

As consumers interact with your business, you capture data central to the interaction, as well as the customer’s digital exhaust, all their data that isn’t critical to the interaction.

To make sense of it, you need to start with Master Data Management (MDM). Master Data is the core data about parties (customers, organizations, suppliers, etc.), places (addresses, geolocations, etc.), and things (products, services, etc.). It matters because it gives a name to strings of numbers that without the aid of master data, wouldn’t mean anything to a human.

For example, master data allows you to connect that a specific ID number belongs to a particular customer with a specific address—and that the customer’s product history includes a watch with a warranty, purchased from a store in a state with a specific tax rate and shipped via a carrier that currently has the product at a specific warehouse. This joins up data that sits across multiple systems, whether they are cloud-based, locked up in third party systems, a disorganized data lake, or wherever.

Only when that information is in one place is there a complete picture of the customer’s path through a retail experience. 

Building Customer Loyalty 

Successful customer-focused organizations begin with a premise: all consumers think of themselves as unique individuals.

This is especially true for “Millennials.” Younger (aged 18-34) and tech savvy—the oldest Millennials created social media; the youngest can’t remember a world without it—Millennials have an unprecedented relationship to data. They know that you’re tracking them, and they’re OK with it—so long as you use their data appropriately.

What does that mean? Securing their data is a given; consumers expect is that you’ll use their data to make their lives easier and give them memorable experiences, all without friction. If they sign up for your loyalty program, they expect you’ll know exactly when, how, and why to contact them.

Think of customer data as concentric rings. The most immediate ring will include address and contact points and social identifiers, while the next ring will branch out to include legal and risk information. This might include “risk score,” a new metric that large companies use to determine if they should, for instance, deny your request to return your purchase.

All of which is good, but does not give you a 360-degree customer view until you add the final ring of “transactional” data: call center interactions, contact history, geolocations, order history, click stream analysis, and more.

This outer ring of information is what lives in the “data lake,” where modern organizations are capturing everything possible in an attempt to gather something useful. Marrying the data in the lake to master data, governing it, ensuring quality and enrichment (like address verification), and adding workflows (access and movement), is where data virtualization comes in. Data virtualization ensures that you can spend time understanding data, rather than just moving it around.

Or, as my colleague Tim Fredricks from VSP put it in our recent Fast Data Strategy session on enhancing the customer experience “connect, don’t collect” data!

The Data Hub and Application Data Management

Overall, the best approach to the marriage is the data hub, because it allows for operational and analytical capabilities. A data hub powers reporting and business intelligence applications, while running the ledger, finance, and accounting systems in one package.

Recently, some analysts have also started talking about data shared between multiple systems applications. If each enterprise application (e.g. ERP, CRM, SFA) has ~50 important data points, and ~20 of them are shared across three applications—it’s those 20 points that are important to every application. Mastering this data is referred to as Application Data Management (ADM)—a critical component of the data hub, which differentiates this discipline from simple MDM.

Denodo clients will know that data virtualization is what unites information from the data lake to the data hub in one cohesive solution that gives you the power to best know your customers—and best meet their expectations. Increased revenue awaits, the product of better exploitation of cross-sell and up-sell opportunities. Hence the road to retail customer experience nirvana. Happy travels!

About the Author

Michael Hiskey is a columnist and speaker on the subjects of data, analytics and related business value. His regular column “Driven by Data” appears monthly in InfoWorld. He has spoken at conferences around the world, and written articles for Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Information Management, DBTA, MarTech Advisor and many more online and print publications. Michael is also the Chief Marketing Officer at Semarchy, a Denodo business partner and sponsor of Datafest and the Fast Data Strategy Virtual Summit.

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