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Who Owns The Customer Experience? Or Better Yet, Who Should?

Who owns the data in your retail organisation? It’s getting to be a big question so we asked Nikki Baird, Managing Partner at RSR Research (RSR), to give us her view. After reading RSR’s Marketing 2013: Organizational Drift, we wanted to hear more on the issue of “who owns the data” in the increasingly complex retail environment. Over to Nikki.

There has been a lot organisational change going on in the retail industry lately, and a lot of that change centres on the marketing organisation. As retailers respond to customers who engage across multiple channels and touchpoints, they're re-evaluating their past product focus ("if we carry it, they will buy it") to orient more strongly on the customer ("if we know who our customer is, we'll be better able to meet their needs"). 

New focus on the customer experience

The problem is, there has never been a customer organisation internal to retail before. Marketing (aka Advertising), yes. Customer, no. Some retailers are turning to store operations as the historical default owner of the customer experience. Some are splitting that ownership between store ops, which owns the "physical" experience, and eCommerce, which owns the "digital" experience. And some retailers are indeed turning to an upgraded version of marketing to own the end-to-end customer experience.

I think Marketing will ultimately own the customer experience but probably not in the form that exists today. Why? Because increasingly, they own customer data.

In RSR's latest marketing benchmark, Marketing 2013: Organizational Drift, we found the percent of retailer respondents reporting that Marketing is the primary owner of customer data internally nearly doubled from 2012 to 2013, from 33% to 61%, and those reporting "No explicit owner" fell from 33% to 17% (Figure). 

Source: RSR Research, August 2013

The value of the customer

Other internal areas also have increased ownership over customer data - store operations, eCommerce/direct, and merchandising all showed increased ownership over 2012. However, this increase appears to be driven more from a recognition of the value of customer data that is generated in all aspects of the business (especially customer-facing ones), rather than a diversification of ownership over consolidated data sources.

Whoever owns the data will have the most insight about the processes that generate that data. Is Marketing just a vehicle to advertise trade deals negotiated by merchandisers? Or is marketing a truly strategic function focused on building the retail brand? Ultimately, I see a future where Marketing defines the customer experience from brand promise to service fulfillment. The organization has already taken the first step by embracing ownership of customer data. It may not happen today, or even tomorrow. But I think it will happen.

If you're interested in learning more about the business challenges, opportunities, and technology investment priorities of retail marketing teams, I invite you to download the full report - it's free, but registration is required.

About the Author

Nikki Baird is a managing partner at RSR Research, a market intelligence firm specialising in the retail industry. She focuses on the retailer-customer relationship, including marketing, store operations, loyalty, pricing, and supply chain execution.

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