Banks wanting to become better at customer analytics can look to online gaming companies such as Zynga, creator of Words with Friends, for inspiration, says Joseph Stanhope, senior analyst at Forrester Research.

"Gaming companies take analytics seriously because they have to," Stanhope says. "There's no Plan B — you monetize the players or you go out of business. There's not a physical product, there's no retail store. They have to give customers what they want through that data."

Gaming companies take a well-rounded approach to leveraging data as an enterprise asset, he says. "Their commitment to the technology, to collect, process, store and make that data available for use is strong. Using data to improve their business is part of their culture as a company; that goes all the way up to the CEO. They invest in the people to do this work. They have the analysts, they hire the developers and engineers to handle the technical side, they can embed those analysts into their business, so it's not a separate ivory tower of analytics. They're focused on delivering the skills for analytics into business units."

Gaming companies focus heavily on measurement, understanding the core metrics of the business, learning what to measure to understand if a problem is happening immediately, and which analytics can help the company continuously optimize its products.

They store that data at an individual level for the entire gamer's history, so they have a complete historical snapshot of the individual. "They know the data they need is a moving target. The business might decide tomorrow that this new data element or behavior might have value and be correlated to something important to us. They'll keep a sample file of everything that's collected, so they have a test bed to explore new data, and look at the full data set to see if there are other things they haven't looked at before. They have the procedure and data curation capabilities to add new elements requested by the business on a weekly basis."

Stanhope acknowledges that gaming and financial services are two very different industries with vastly different levels of engagement, products and regulatory environment.

"A bank might say our products and site don't change as a game does," Stanhope notes. "That's true. But your customers change, your environment changes, you do evolve over time." Like any other company, financial institutions need to support experimentation and continuously feed data directly into the customer experience to personalize it and make it as relevant and efficient as possible.