It’s Time to Own Your Customer Database Again

Are your customers actually your customers? The answer to that question depends on where you store your customer lists.

In the B2B world, and even in ecommerce prior to the last 10 years, businesses always had a CRM. Their CRM stored their customer list and contained all customer information and relational context such as…

Who are they? How did they come into your world and how long ago? What have they purchased from you? Which actions have they taken on your website? What demographic info do you know about them?

That context provided info for how to tailor messages for each type of customer in order to serve them and sell products. CRMs still exist, but rarely for ecommerce brands. And that is a problem since the value of any company is essentially based on the customer list.

Many ecommerce brands have skipped worrying about maintaining a customer database and instead, they let various platforms do all the work such as Facebook, Amazon, or Mailchimp. While that can be convenient, it also means you’re subject to the platform’s rules. It means you don’t technically have any customers, because those names belong to the platform, not you.

In this post, we’ll explain the importance of owning your ecommerce store’s customer data, how to take control of your customer database, and the potential problems and implications if you don’t act on this now.

Examples of Not Owning Your Customer Database

Most ecommerce businesses have an email list, and they may be able to export a customer list from their ecommerce store. They might be able to use those lists to set custom audiences in their Facebook advertising. But this doesn’t necessarily mean you are taking ownership of your customer data or are in full control of it.

If you have to go to multiple places to gather snippets of information on your customers— for example, Shopify, Mailchimp, Facebook, Google Analytics, and more— then it’s very challenging to have a firm grasp on who your customers are. You’ll have to check Shopify for their purchase history, Mailchimp for their names and email activity, and Google Analytics for demographic trends and activity on your site.

What Are the Implications of Not Owning Your Customer Database?

We all use platforms to find information about our customers and grow our business— that’s a wise use of technology! The problem comes when your business does not have a central place where your core customer information is stored with the data you need in order to understand and serve your customer.

Here’s another way to think about it: It’s not a problem that ecommerce brands use third-party platforms to collect and monitor customer data. The danger is that ecommerce business owners often don’t know what information they should be holding on to and if they did, they don’t have a place to store it. So instead, they are just collecting whatever their platforms collect.

This is not ideal for you or for the customer.

For the customer, too much data is being collected. You’ll never use all the data Facebook collects on the people who click on your ads. You don’t need to. More often than not, it’s an invasion of privacy and that’s partly why iOS updates are working to limit how much platforms like Facebook can track.

For ecommerce owners and marketers like you, it’s a problem because we’ve become fully reliant on platforms for all of the core customer data. If the platform changes, goes away altogether or becomes regulated, that leaves your business in a tough spot. How will you know who is coming to your site and what actions they take there?

6 Steps to Control Your Customer Data

Taking control of your customer data essentially comes down to two things:

A. Being intentional about the core information you collect about your customers in order to speak to and serve them better.
B. Managing where that information lives so you can use it effectively as you communicate with, sell to, and serve your customers.

Let’s walk through 6 steps you can take to implement this in your ecommerce business.

1. Know your customer.

Before you do anything else, take a step back and either create or update your customer avatars. Knowing the type of person you’re selling to (more specifically than gender and age!) is so important for crafting effective messaging and offers.

2. Know the experience you want to create for your customers.

Does your website experience make sense for your customer avatars? Your messaging and creative elements are important, but so are the site’s structure and navigation.

3. Determine the core data you need to collect in order to serve your customers well.

Stay tuned for our next post, which will explain what data you should actually keep on your customers! For more about data usage in your ecommerce store, check out How to Know If You Are a Data-Driven Ecommerce Company.

4. Pick a platform or method for storing your customer data.

A platform that integrates well with your ecommerce store, as well as other platforms, is best. For ecommerce businesses, Klaviyo is our top recommendation. It acts as both a CRM and an email marketing platform and will integrate seamlessly with your ecommerce store and even many popular apps.

5. Store the relevant data.

This is self-explanatory; once you have your CRM set up, start tracking and storing data! The great thing about Klaviyo is that if it’s integrated with your store properly, much of that data collecting and storage is done for you. You can also personalize signup forms and preference pages to collect data more specific to your brand’s needs.

6. Use that data to communicate with, sell to, and better understand and serve customers.

One of the most applicable ways to use the data is by segmenting your email list. The more personal and tailored you can make your email communication, the more likely customers are to buy. This does not just mean sending your customers personalized product recommendations (although that’s a nice touch). The real difference-maker is the ability to group customers into segments based on the frequency of their interactions with your brand, how often they open emails, or what products they’ve bought. Then, speak to them accordingly! For example, your VIP and repeat customers should probably be receiving different emails than people you haven’t heard from in 90 days who need to be won back.

Things to Keep In Mind When Building a Customer Database

At the end of the day, the best customer database is one that is simple, easy to maintain, automatically updated, and easy to act on. As mentioned above, Klaviyo accomplishes all of this and more!

As far as what data to collect, every business is unique and may have different needs as far as what information to collect. But stay tuned for our next post— it will give you a great starting point for what customer data is the most important store!

Ready to Own Your Customer Database?

Your customer list is likely the most valuable asset your business has, so it’s crucial that you think about it and treat it as such! The relationships you have with your customers are the most effective leverage point for influencing revenue. Without a customer database that you can control and use yourself, you can’t manage that relationship. Getting started with owning and building this database today is a key step in healthy growth for your brand’s future!


Do you need to get a better handle on your customer data?

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