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2021 Imperatives for the Health Marketer

Each year, Merkle refines and distills of our learning, vision, and experience with clients from numerous industries. Since 2012, our Imperatives Series has served as a guide for creating competitive differentiation through marketing strategies that revolve around the customer. The Imperatives offer timely thought leadership as the landscape shifts and data and technology advancements emerge.

The unprecedented impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic caused major disruptions in every industry and created colossal shifts in consumer behavior. The pandemic forced health organizations to scrutinize their business-as-usual engagement models and reevaluate their strategies for delivering the total customer experience. The acceleration of these initiatives now requires an all-hands approach of the entire C-suite (not just the CMO) to create an enterprise-wide transformation to meet customers’ needs.

The 2021 Customer Experience Imperatives define a formula for customer experience transformation. This year, the Imperatives are forward-looking and provide a detailed approach to the transformation required to deliver on a truly customer-centric approach. The three Imperatives are:

1. Data Transformation - At the heart of customer experience transformation lies data transformation: mastering rapidly changing approaches to the acquisition, management, and mining of valuable data that informs customer experiences, in real time and in a privacy-safe manner.

2. Digital Transformation - It is critical to understand the ways in which your company must think, plan, and deliver unique personal conversations. Success is found through the design and implementation of customer-centric digital marketing, commerce, and service experiences that are contextually relevant and personally informed.

3. The Adaptive Organization - A truly transformed, customer-centric organization wins by delivering on the total customer experience. Marketing, sales, commerce, and service must now work in unison to foster a culture of innovation, agility, and shared goals.

Where to Start

Delivery of hyper-personalized moments, using data, technology, and analytics to inform each interaction at every touchpoint has long been an ambition of the health industry but seldom a reality. Regulatory barriers, traditional marketing culture, and risk aversion have all led to slow adoption of practices that would enable best-in-class CXM. Unlike other industries that have embraced data and digital transformation, most health organizations are playing catch-up. For the first time ever, health companies are fast adopting ways to transform their culture, process, and technology. The starting point is always the same – data.

Why data? Customer-centricity begins with data because it enables a cohesive 360-degree view of the customer. This view is becoming increasingly more difficult to achieve with shifting market dynamics around privacy regulations, the death of third-party cookies, martech changes, and advanced AI/ML methodologies. With so many dynamics at play, the greatest opportunity for any organization will be to maximize and grow its first-party and second-party data assets.

The use of a private identity graph is an organization’s best chance at ensuring that every customer record is accurate. Strategic partnerships to procure second-party data are equally important and necessary to create further advancement to generate addressability. Additionally, working with the right third-party data providers enables privacy safe analytics that create crucial insights for marketers. Health organizations are able to combine their first and second-party data with rich behavioral and demographic data points from Merkle’s data assets, such as DataSource, to create solutions like person-based segmentation, custom audience modeling, and journey analysis. Clean room analysis has also created pathways to utilize datasets like medical claims to enable custom audience models, closed-loop measurement, and market and category insights. Use of such sensitive and regulated, industry specific datasets is a trend that is gaining traction this year.

This type of data initiative and planning lies at the core of digital transformation where data is used to better understand customer needs at every touchpoint. Such insights are then used to create and optimize content and experience. And, experience-based technologies are implemented, integrated, and optimized to deliver those optimal experiences in a seamless approach. An organization that is able to constantly optimize and innovate in order to produce a relevant customer experience, quickly and collaboratively, will succeed.

How it’s Done

Get the data right. Organizations must look at data transformation holistically and adopt a data fabric architecture, limit investment in data silos, and invest in business technologists. A data fabric architecture will allow an organization to find the right balance between managing data and operationalizing it. Build-out your most impactful use cases and align them to specific data assets that will take priority.

Consider leveraging cloud technology and CDPs which can rapidly integrate data from disparate systems and help build a 360-degree view of the customer. Cloud platforms also create solutions for data storage, scalability, agility, and security needs. CDPs provide access to a single unified customer view for marketing, sales, commerce, and service. They are a new home and hub for real-time profiles, housing customer attributes and segments.

To successfully utilize the right experience technology, organizations must properly implement, configure, integrate, and align within the enterprise. Workflows must be properly supported to orchestrate effective experiences and teams must be realigned to execute new ways of working. It is critical to remove silos and overcoming certain organizational challenges in order to increase collaboration across every function that delivers on the total customer experience.

While few health organizations have successfully implemented their customer transformation initiatives, many have made important progress in their individual journeys. Approaches include:

  • Creating centralized centers of excellence or hubs that are responsible for customer experience across the enterprise.
  • Reorganization of teams around customer life cycle, portfolio, or franchise rather than brands.
  • Investment in future state technology initiatives and roadmaps that aim to activate and orchestrate the total customer experience.
  • Investment in identity solutions and data assets to create personalization.

Regardless of how an organization pursues driving customer centricity, all functions required to deliver the desired outcome must function as a connected ecosystem. 

Want to learn more? Download your copy of Merkle’s 2021 Customer Experience Imperatives here

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