Customer data integration (CDI) is an important aspect of customer relationship management that creates a ‘single source of truth’ by consolidating customer information from different business units. If performed correctly, it ensures that all business divisions have continuous access to the most up-to-date customer data.
But what exactly is customer data integration?
This blog explores this concept in detail and further looks into its key benefits and challenges. Moreover, it lists a few best practices to help you simplify customer data integration.
What is Customer Data Integration?
Customer data integration is the practice of extracting data from all customer touchpoints, validating it, and loading it into a unified storage platform to get a holistic view. This data may include contact information, financial data related to customers, data collected via marketing activities, etc.
CDI gives you a 360-degree view of customers, including a complete picture of their buying preferences, location, and other details. This view is useful for both marketing and sales teams, as it helps them relocate their efforts to the most profitable area.
Why is Customer Integration Important?
Here’s how customer data integration can benefit your business:
· Identify New Opportunities
By analyzing customer data, you can identify opportunities to launch new products or modify existing ones. For instance, you want to sell your existing product to prospective consumers who have a lower disposable income. CDI can help you pinpoint the marketing leads within that specific budget range. This way, you can decide if it is favorable to make a lower-cost product.
· Reach Out to a Targeted Audience
Customer data integration helps you improve your sales and revenue by helping you analyze customer preferences and behavior patterns, and market your product(s) accordingly. This saves you from the time-consuming process of targeting customers based on guesswork.
· Forecast Prospective Sales and Industry Trends
By getting in-depth customer insights, you can forecast prospective sales trends. By analyzing past and existing customer information, you can stay ahead of the industry trends and plan for consumer demands ahead of time.
Challenges in Integrating Customer Data
Collecting information from disparate sources and transforming it in a simple, unified format is one of the biggest challenges in CDI.
Here are some other challenges you might encounter during the customer data integration process:
· Developing a Robust Integration Plan
When implementing a customer data integration strategy, the main challenge is integrating data coming from different customer channels. Given that it is in different formats, standardizing it becomes a challenge. Using an integration platform that offers built-in connectors for disparate source systems can streamline this task.
Salesforce is considered one of the best Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. But to extract insights from your customer data from Salesforce, you will need to visualize it. Learn how to create a 360 degree view of customer data using the Salesforce connector.
· Handling Large Data Volume
Businesses need to manage large volumes of customer information so that the critical data is readily available to the decision-makers whenever needed. However, accumulating, managing, and creating value from such a large data volume is a challenge.
Also, the growing number of devices and platforms and the constantly declining cost of storage have made it trickier to manage and remove historical data from legacy systems. As a result, there’s an unexpected need for high performance and storage capacity.
To tackle this challenge, you’ll have to anticipate the extent of your business growth and the customer information which has to be integrated.
· Protecting Customer Data
Maintaining the privacy of customer data is challenging. Identifying and avoiding data breaches, and recovering the lost data yields huge costs. Plus, the loss of critical data can be devastating for businesses, bringing about several other challenges, like losing customer trust and funds due to plummeting sales. It may also tarnish the reputation of your business.
So, focus on averting cyber-attacks and ensure the safety of customer data by implementing data security measures. You can use one of the best data integration platforms available in the market to make your work easier. These data integration tools have the right features available to make integrations easier by cleansing and transforming data on a staging area.
Application of Customer Integration
Customer integration can benefit various business departments, such as:
- Marketing: 360 customer integration can help the marketing department by pushing the relevant content and advertising to targeted segments.
- Sales: The sales department can benefit from customer integration by improving lead conversion and reduce the time spent on poor prospects.
- Production: Production can benefit from vendor-customer integration by tailoring the production to demand, and minimize wastage.
- Logistics: Logistics department can take advantage of customer integration by improving the delivery and fulfillment services and according to real-time feedback.
- Finance and Accounting: 360 customer integration can help the finance and accounting department minimize spending on less effective frontend processes.
Best Practices for Integrating Customer Data
Here are 4 best practices that’ll help you steer clear of the challenges associated with customer data integration:
1. Identify the Source Points
The first best practice is to identify the source systems from where you need to extract data and then go for a solution that supports those sources. You can use an enterprise-grade tool, preferably one that has built-in connectors so you can extract your customer data without writing any code.
2. Outline Data Categories and Allocate Access
Classify who can access your customer information and why. Particularly, recognize who will be responsible for the integration process and what their job will be. Will it be IT experts, business users, or a completely different team? This will help protect the sanctity of integrated customer data.
3. Define Integration Goals
Outline your organization’s motives for integrating consumer information, and establish metrics to monitor and measure whether your business is meeting those objectives.
4. Decide an Implementation Plan and Timeline
Decide what processes and rules will be used as part of your CDI strategy. This will include data governance, quality, and protection.
The timeline will depend on the kind of tools you use. An advanced tool will help you restructure the timeline, and the integration technique you choose will command the order followed by the process.
Ready to Start Customer Data Integration?
With an improved understanding of the advantages, challenges, and best practices of customer data integration, you can choose a data integration tool of your choice and get a clearer view of your consumers.
Astera Centerprise is an enterprise-ready, end-to-end data integration software that allows you to integrate, clean, and transform your data – all without coding. It has all the essential features you need to kick-start your CDI project, combine heterogeneous data sources, and produce a 360-degree view of your customer data.