Widespread digital disruption has compelled companies in the home improvement category to think critically about their future and the competitive advantages that will propel them to success. Increasingly, that advantage is delivered through the customer experience.

Leading brands have mastered it: Amazon knows its shoppers, Facebook its users, Netflix its bingers and Home Depot its DIYers. The knowledge of their consumers and their preferences at a personal level is extraordinary.

So, what does each company have in common? They’ve all made a concerted effort to use data to underpin the customer experience they deliver.  They all:

  1. Make it personal. Data is used to map and optimize customer journeys.
  2. Make it people-oriented.Data is used to increase relevancy by recognizing people’s individual needs.
  3. Integrate the platform. Data is centralized, combined and analyzed to make every interaction better – both online and off.

So how can marketers, scale data and technology to achieve a similar understanding?  Take the first step!  Here’s how.

Make it personal: map the customer journey

“If you don’t know where you’re going any road will take you there.” -George Harrison

Relevancy is a marketer’s most important currency. And if marketing has one goal, it’s to reach and engage customers during micro-moments. Make personalization a guiding principle. Because all too often, customers are bombarded with experiences or content that are out of context or worse… out of sequence.

A customer journey map is the first step to help decision makers identify the moments that actually matter to their consumers while also confirming the sequence in which they occur.

Start small. Seek to strike a balance between hard-core data science and more conventional views of journeys. Existing knowledge, for example, can likely reveal shared patterns of behavior. This mapping exercise can also show the general decision-making of your customers.

Journey maps are especially critical for brands in established industries like building materials and home improvement. The more options a shopper has, the easier it becomes for that shopper to choose a brand that reaches them in those micro moments and to connect on a deeper level.

For companies with a mapped journey, the next stage is to resolve to find each customer’s genuine identity, so you can treat people as individuals rather than one mass group.

Make it people-oriented.

“Well, who are you? I really wanna know. Tell me, who are you? ‘Cause I really wanna know” -Pete Townshend

Find out who you’re actually addressing; without this knowledge you can’t truly understand your customer or recognize them.

Ever get served an ad on your phone and wonder how the advertiser found you an hour later on your tablet? Identity resolution – the ability to identify people as individuals across channels (search, social, etc.) and devices (tablet, smartphone, etc.) – is fundamental to a data-driven approach. Because different channels, devices and browsers carry only fragments of a user’s true identity, those fragments must be brought together. This is particularly important when a shopper sees something online then buys it in a store.

But this is a tall order. There’s complexity and cost.

Many brands use retargeting as an advertising tactic. But far fewer have the proper tagging in place to make these efforts powerful. Fewer still, take full advantage of the reporting offered by cross-device ad management platforms including those from Facebook and Google.

These engines connect separate data sources (owned, third party) to enable identity matches. The engine reconciles all the scraps of data, ensures privacy is protected and shapes a view of the individual so you can treat each “user” more like a “person.”

Integrate the platform

“Most things I worry about never happen anyway.” -Tom Petty

Data is invaluable. But it has no soul unless you bring it together for analysis and execution.  Successful efforts to do this focus on workable steps that make marketing activities more “data driven.”

Once you have identities resolved, start tracking each marketing activity as an event. These events associate a specific person with specific exposures (content, timing) and are strung together in a sequence (as shoppers pass through the funnel). Here’s an example:


User Timestamp Device Event
140521 0:800  04/11/2018 Mobile Clicked FB ad
140521 0:802  04/11/2018 Mobile Visited product page
140521 0:945  04/12/2018 Desktop Watched How-To video

Make the analyses of these events as actionable as possible. At the strategic level, insights should inform resource allocation and overall content and design choices. At the tactical level, analyses should inform specific touch points for specific customers.  In this way, data does not limit creativity. It liberates it!

In today’s ultra-competitive landscape, leading home brands recognize every customer interaction matters. The expectations of customers today are higher than ever.  When the Amazons and Home Depots of the world set the bar, the marketers that make data work overtime to understand their customer will have the advantage.

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