What is Customer Data Integration (CDI)?

Understanding your customer, their needs, and buying preferences is an integral part of any successful business. With the amount of customer data available via the cloud increasing daily, it’s becoming easier for businesses to build a successful customer-driven strategy. However, this increased accessibility comes with the challenge of quickly assessing and applying large volumes of data.

Having a customer data integration tool to help make sense of the increase in data is crucial to avoid becoming overwhelmed and missing business opportunities. In fact, a good CDI tool can change the way you do business. 

Let’s find out exactly what CDI is, how it can benefit an organization, its challenges, and some tips to get started.  

What is customer data integration?

Customer data integration is the process of collecting customer data from numerous sources, and organizing it in a manner that can be easily shared to members across a business including, but not limited to sales, marketing, customer service, management, and executives. 

Customer data can originate from a range of interactions, including emails, website views, social media, direct marketing, search behavior, and even in-person contact. This data is considered disparate because it is typically distinct in terms of type, quality, or appeal. In order for disparate data to become a valuable resource, it must be organized, transformed, cleaned, analyzed, and distributed. 

CDI allows your business to discover and access a single version of truth for all systems that touch your customers. It is essential for managing customer relations and customer service, and providing a strategy for improving business processes. 

An effective CDI tool allows departments to more easily share vital information in order to create successful strategies. A CDI tool works fast, ensuring information gets into the right hands in a timely manner. In order to determine trends or develop new products, customer service, quality control, and marketing all need current information in order to respond proactively, and before any crisis occurs. 

Benefits of CDI: The 360-degree customer view

Customer data integration provides your company with a 360-degree customer view, which n provides a complete picture of customers’ behaviors, interests, and likelihood of purchasing a product. This view is often helpful for both specific marketing functions as well as overall business benefits. 

  • Product opportunities: Let’s say your company wants to sell an existing product to potential customers who operate within a lower budget. A CDI tool can identify the marketing leads  in a specific budget range, and determine if it’s beneficial to create a lower cost product.
  • Single identities: Perhaps your company sends out marketing materials catering to specific customer characteristics. The data gathered from those efforts generate customer data that could duplicate existing information. To provide the most up-to-date customer data, CDI identifies and connects all of that data to one identity, rather than mistakenly attributing it to more than one person.
  • Target marketing: CDI allows a business to actively and accurately target customer likes and dislikes as well as identify other behavior patterns to help hone in on better sales.
  • Predictive insight: More customer insight means the ability to predict future sales potential. Analysis of historical and current customer data provides information that can help a company stay ahead of trends and be the first to meet customer demand. 
  • Improved customer service: Repeat business often comes down to experience with customer service. A 360-degree view of your customers through CDI prepares you to meet specific customer needs when necessary. 
  • Loyal customers: Knowing your customer means anticipating their needs. A customer that has a great product and service experience is more likely to be back for more. That loyalty translates into a long-standing relationship and  business referrals to friends and family. 

Challenges of customer data integration

While technology brings about a perceived ease of managing data, even CDI has its challenges. Taking data from a dozen different sources and creating one simple format for viewing can be complicated. Here are a few common challenges.

  • Getting started: When a company implements a CDI strategy the goal is usually well-known, but creating a plan and establishing the steps to reach your goal can be more difficult. To avoid getting stuck at the beginning of the process, developing a comprehensive inventory of the types of data, where it comes from, the source and target systems, types of analyses needed, and how frequently reports need to be created, can expedite the process.
  • Historical data: Data that has been long stored on your internal servers or legacy systems may be missing important pieces of information such as times and dates for activities. To optimize your data, this information should be reconciled or removed if has no value.
  • A continuously evolving system: The amount of data in the system grows daily, and so do changes to data types and variations coming from multiple sources, like videos, mobile devices, sensors, and the cloud. Technology is constantly evolving, and keeping up with those demands is more easily managed with a CDI tool managed by a technological leader whose job is to evolve, grow, and address trends that affect your business daily.
  • Outside data: Data that is integrated from outside sources, like contracted vendors or other business partners, are likely to be in different formats. A good CDI tool can sort through and organize the information so it can be shared easily across the organization.
  • Staying on track: Once your integration is up and running, efficient management is imperative. The data team must keep apprised of business best practices, as well as new demands internally or from regulatory agencies. 

Customer data integration success stories

Businesses who establish a way to efficiently collect and apply relevant customer information, benefit greatly in terms of improved customer service and, consequently, increased revenue.

TUI UK & Ireland uses CDI to personalize experiences

TUI UK & Ireland, the UK’s largest tour operator, needed to incorporate data from numerous legacy systems acquired through a number of mergers and acquisitions. As a result, disparate sources made sharing data challenging, but increasingly important to meet the company’s goal of a more personalized approach to customer service. 

TUI sought to tackle its data management with a solution that could integrate its data into one central location. By finding the right tool, TUI transformed all data into a 360-degree view of its customers, products, suppliers, and more.

Combining existing data along with newer business rules and validation information from outside sources, resulted in a more personal travel experience that helped customers avoid excess communication and duplication, improve resolution time, and remember its customers. 

Domino’s Pizza undergoes digital transformation with CDI

With companies like Amazon Fresh knocking on customers’ doors to vie for business, Domino’s Pizza needs to remain current in the market to maintain its status as the largest company in both the delivery and carryout pizza business worldwide. Which is why Domino’s created AnyWare.

With AnyWare, customers can order from smart watches, TVs, car entertainment systems, and social media. The new widespread ordering network, opened a floodgate of data, which offered Domino’s a goldmine of information if managed correctly. 

Using a data fabric system, Domino’s can track data that is collected from all point-of-sales systems, 26 supply chain centers, and customer mobile devices. This tool provides the company with a single trusted point of truth to help improve business performance, including logistics and forecasting, and enables one-to-one buying capabilities across the board.

Calor Gas improves improves service and renewals with CDI

Top UK company, Calor Gas, is a supplier of liquid petroleum gas with over 100,000 domestic customers. The company sought to target potential customers with offers that could improve retention and revenue. 

Using a Data Fabric solution, Calor Gas created a 360-degree customer view. This new insight allowed Calor Gas to provide customers with a more personalized and usable service, while experiencing a return on investment in just 12 -18 months. 

Customer data integration strategies

There are a number of different ways to implement CDI in a business. FInding the best fit for your company’s data and needs is the difficult part. The most important implementation strategies are straight-forward – simply ask who, what, when, where, why, and how. 

  1. Establish location and definition: Reviewing the customer path from entry to exit establishes a better understanding of which business processes are involved with collecting and storing data, and what data you currently have to integrate. This existing inventory is integral to creating your plan.
  2. Define data categories and assign access: Categorize who accesses your data and why. In particular, identify who will be involved in the integration and what their roles will be. Will it be IT specialists, business users, or an entirely different team? What you decide will impact the CDI solution you choose.
  3. Determine integration objectives: Determine the business reasons for consolidating your customer data and establish metrics to track whether your company is meeting business goals.
  4. Create a CDI map: Use your customer data information to create a method for collecting, integrating and organizing your data that includes data quality, as well as cleansing for bad data and duplications.
  5. Finalize an implementation plan and timeline: Determine what policies, procedures, and rules will be used as part of CDI, including data governance, quality, and security. The timeline will depend on what type of tools you are using. A good technology tool will help you sort out the timeline and the type of integration method will dictate what order the process should follow.

Once you have discovered the framework for how CDI will be used in your business, choosing an integration method will be clear. Here are a few base methods that work best:

  • Data consolidation: Creating a single data repository integrated from numerous sources.
  • Data propagation: Using applications that continuously copy and move data between locations for use as needed.
  • Data federation: Using software that collects data for several sources or systems and stores it in a virtual database for analysis.
  • Data warehousing: A storage stop for data collected from various systems, where it can later be analyzed. 

The cloud and the future of customer data integration

The global market intelligence firm, IDC, predicted that about half of IT spending would be cloud-based in 2018, with a 60-70% increase by 2020. Quantum computing is right around the corner, with predictions of a market worth of $1.9 billion by 2023 and $8 billion by 2027. By 2020, next year, predictions say that 41% of enterprise workloads will take place on the public cloud while an additional 22% will run on a hybrid cloud platform. 

The point is the cloud is continually growing, and business opportunities expand with it. In particular, the cloud allows data to stream into your business’s cloud data warehouse at a rapid daily rate, eliciting the need for good CDI. 

With so much data floating about, a focus on security, management, monitoring, and governance is imperative. Data from social media alone ramps up the need for CDI in customer relationship management (CRM). Having a CDI tool that can offer a secure and easy method to manage customer information in a business’s cloud data warehouse will provide companies with a 360-degree view of customers that is crucial to remaining competitive in the industry.

The sheer mass of data available from the cloud when used effectively, can significantly improve a company’s bottom line with timely, accessible analysis of customer data that offers insight on spending, behavior and revenue — a marketing coup.

Getting started with customer data integration

With a better understanding of the benefits, challenges and strategies of CDI, you can easily be on the road to a clearer view of your customer with a data management tool of your own. More than anything else, your business needs trusted sources and manageable data, easily available to provide value.

Talend, a leader in cloud data integration and data integrity, promises data at the speed of business. Talend Data Fabric is a suite of applications that helps companies create the 360-degree view required to collect, govern, transform, and share crucial information in real-time. Discover how powerful CDI can be for your business. Download Talend Data Fabric today.

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