Matchmaker: How LiveRamp Activates CRM Data For Marketing Purposes

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liveramp-auren-hoffmanBack in August, San Francisco-based LiveRamp released GetOnboard, a CRM "data onboarding" software system designed to bridge the gap between marketers' customer data and their online marketing efforts. By prepping massive amounts of data for every possible marketing service and destination, and by doing it quickly, GetOnboard has been selected by more than 200 customers who want a 24/7 window into their online marketing efforts.

AdExchanger talked to LiveRamp CEO Auren Hoffman about the company’s proprietary technologies and its role in growing the data-matching market.

AdExchanger: How do you describe data onboarding to the uninitiated?

AUREN HOFFMAN: We allow any company to make its customer database actionable in any marketing application they want to use. Our tagline is “We take data to new places,” so if you have data that’s in your CRM tool, your POS database or maybe in a loyalty system, we transform it and move it to any marketing application, whether it’s display, social, search, mobile, site analytics, site personalization or anything else. We have direct integration to over 60 applications and can push data to whichever ones our customers request, and we typically do it in real time or daily so the data is as useful as possible as quickly as possible. We send over a terabyte of data each day.

How have marketers handled this process in the past, if at all?

Marketers have had a lot of great core customer data but have not been able to use it in all the new forms of marketing out there. They’ve done what they can, but even two years ago if you asked Fortune 2000 marketers if they were onboarding their data, almost all of them would have said no. Today we know that about a third of them are at least testing onboarding solutions.

Who are your customers?

Our customer base falls mainly into six verticals. In addition to retail -- the biggest by far -- we have travel, auto, telcos, financial services and publishers. We also work with most of the large third-party data companies.

How does your data-processing technology work?

We scan customer data files to find email or postal records tied to customer relationship data, purchase history and more. Then we use our match network to connect data from our clients’ files to online devices and browsers. The match network sends over 2 billion requests to our servers every day. We use that traffic to tag online devices with data and send that data to our clients' marketing platforms.

It’s a really challenging process because the data sets tend to be huge. Imagine having access to a large retailer’s entire customer base and records of everything those customers have bought. Even our smallest clients give us massive amounts of data, and we move it around to many different locations. The key is to truly understand the destination applications. Most can only handle certain data subsets and can only take data in a certain way or at a certain time of day. Our delivery has to be clean and fast.

You talk about speed, match rate and precision.

They’re all incredibly important. Making your data actionable quickly is vital because it may be time-sensitive. Once you have valuable information about a customer, you may want to target him or her quickly with a personalization or an attribution analysis that may affect your future marketing spend. Our customers demand rigorous service-level agreements around speed. Match rate simply means that if you ask us to deliver 50 million records into a DSP or DMP, having the offline records line up with the online data to the greatest extent possible is key. Two million matches won’t cut it. We can match data on varying precision levels such as individual, household or ZIP+4.

As for that precision, we strive for 100% accuracy, not some kind of modeled map.

How do you make money?

We’re a classic SaaS business charging a yearly subscription to our customers, typically based on the number of consumers in their databases.

Will most of your future growth come from the mobile space?

Mobile is incredibly important and we’re going to have some big announcements on that in Q1, but it’s not the only thing our customers are demanding of us. They want to make sure they can have their data on many more applications. We recently did an announcement with Marin Software, so we’re looking at search-based ad campaigns as well as email service providers and all sorts of other applications.

Customer data security must be a huge concern.

It’s one of the most important things for us to work on because our customers trust us with their most valuable asset. In fact, about 40% of our customers require us to go through an extensive security audit. Although we’re a relatively small company we’ve had to act like a large institution in this regard, with some really buttoned-up security procedures. We also strip out personally identifying information and associate data with an anonymous identifier. Our client data has to be 100% secure, and our customers have to believe that it’s secure.

So what’s next?

We think there’s a huge opportunity to grow the data onboarding market, and our growth will follow right along. When you ask CMOs if they’ll be using their full customer databases for digital marketing within the next three years, 100% say yes, and they’ll be doing it across every possible digital platform. So our road map is all about accelerating that adoption and pushing marketers’ customer data to as many applications as we can.

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