For all my years in marketing, there has been one common thread that holds true: clean profile data is and always will be King. After all, in an age where the digital world is quickly becoming the only world, data is the new gold standard currency.

And with this new currency comes an entirely new approach to the marketing efforts of retailers—it’s a new world where traditional tried-and-true practices will cease to be relevant, if they aren’t already. For instance, speaking about the “customer journey” needs to end, and quickly. The idea that a single set of rules and pathways can still pertain to customers in a highly personalized digital age is, to put it bluntly, asinine.

Instead, the conversation has to be about each and every customer—not their journey, their own experience. Simply put, a customer journey is something that is technical. It pertains to the steps by which a customer is taken from prospect to conversion through a set of systems. However, customer experience is about the individual experience—the deep seated emotional feeling of being catered to that leads to better conversion, better overall customer sentiment and, ultimately, better brand.

Hence, the title of this blog. Retailers need to stop making it about their own internal processes and forcing them on the customer. Instead, they should make it about the customer experience, customers’ wants and desires. How can that be done? Every retailer speaks of clienteling and owning their customer. But in this day and age, mobility and convenience, not to forget the sheer number of customers, often supersede or impair personal relationships.

This is where we come back to the data side of the equation. In today’s fully connected world, the most difficult aspect of maintaining the right data is managing and leveraging what is known as the single-user-profile. It’s this classification of data that becomes the game changer for retailers as it represents the totality of the customer’s interaction, whether it’s from online searches and purchases, e-commerce, mobile app purchases and interactions, or even in-store purchases and interactions, and so on. It’s this complete view of the customer that can lead to highly personalized interactions through all channels: online, in-app, and in-store.

Think of it on a personal note. We have all had rewards cards at some point in our lives, and many of us use them. But if the information you gave, if any, when setting up your rewards card to redeem points, etc., was different from the information you used to set up a retailer’s app or e-commerce account, then you are effectively viewed in that retailer’s database as different people. Perhaps you used a gmail account for the rewards program, maybe your work email address for the app, and maybe Facebook login for the e-commerce store. It doesn’t take much to become multiple people in the eyes of an autonomous marketing machine.

However, what if that weren’t the case. What if when setting up an account the information instantly cascaded across all platforms and channels. Suddenly, the data garnered from a single interaction now becomes the impetus for all other interactions moving forward. In essence, the single-user-profile information—a name, email, gender, age, likes and dislikes, wish-lists, and more—could be captured and leveraged to deliver a highly unique experience almost instantly. Perhaps the customer started with an app and created a user name and password, along with personal information. The minute the customer visits the e-commerce platform they can be prompted for their credentials and voilà—same experience with custom greetings, offers, and more.

Or, perhaps, it’s the other way around—the customer creates their profile online through the e-commerce platform. Then, upon entering a brick-and-mortar location, they could be given an incentive to log into an app, or responsive web portal to garner deals and discounts. The moment they do, they are greeted by name and offered deals just for them. And, additionally, they are greeted by in-store staff who can also leverage the customer’s single-user-profile information and location data to, in essence, become an instant, highly personalized concierge.

It could even be an instance where the customer creates their profile in-store—in any case, all profile information is leveraged in all channels for a seamless and highly customized interaction.

At the end of the day, as I’ve said so many times, data is crucial, and will become more and more crucial as every day passes. How one connects that data through disparate systems, leverages it through disparate channels, and ultimately delivers a unique customer experience for all—is the million-dollar question, and outcome. So, the lesson here is stop making it about you and make it about the customer. It’s no longer a customer journey, it truly needs to be a customer experience.