I remember my first day at high school. Yikes it was scary. The older kids were BIG! The teachers were BIG (the phys ed teacher was even a little mean), the school was BIG . . . Everything felt so BIG! But as the year ticked by, l became familiar and comfortable with my classmates, teachers, and the school — the place shrunk to a more comforting size.

Today marketers feel about data as I did about my first day at big school — it’s BIG. There is lots of it, and it’s coming at them from many directions and in many forms. But data does not feel so big and daunting to the marketer who recognizes their customers buried in the fog of big data. The fact is, customer recognition is the key for marketers to make sense of big data; and it is at the heart of all effective marketing activities. I write about this in my most recent report: “Customer Recognition: The CI Keystone.”

So what is customer recognition?

  • Recognition associates interactions with individuals or segments across time and interactions. The strength of recognition is gauged on its ability to associate interactions to anything from individuals to a broad segment; and to persist those associations across different touchpoints over time.
  • Keys are needed for recognition at touchpoints. There are many types of keys, ranging from IP addresses, to cookie-based TPIKs, to phone numbers and customer account numbers. At Forrester we call them touchpoint interaction keys (TPIKs)
  • Customer identification is a part of recognition — but only a part. Strong TPIKs — such as account numbers and social IDs — may be used for customer identification.  They represent a small minority of the interactions with our customers. Weaker TPIKs — e.g., third-party cookies or even session IDs — tend to associate interactions with segments. Whilst they don’t recognize individuals, they also offer considerable value and are part of the recognition family.

When planning your cross-channel and/or multi-interaction campaigns, take the “BIG” out of big data by:

  • Placing customer recognition at the heart of your strategy. This will help prioritize the big data coming your way and focus projects needed to recognize the customers within.
  • Resisting the urge to be myopically obsessed with one-to-one identification. Look to include weaker, more available forms of recognition. They add considerable value and form the vast majority of your customer interaction data.
  • Auditing existing TPIKS. This will help you understand your campaign strengths and weaknesses and build out road maps to fill the gaps.

To learn more about the customer recognition framework and how to use it to boost your marketing programs, see the Forrester report “Customer Recognition: The CI Keystone.”