Masters Of The Data Universe

nardonesee“Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by John Nardone, CEO at [x+1], and Ed See, principal at Deloitte for marketing and customer analytics.

If you tuned into the Masters Tournament last month, you were treated to a flood of 42 IBM commercials with a unifying theme: Everything is made of data.

For the “Made with IBM” campaign, the company scattered three filmmakers across 17 countries to document its technology in action. The result? Bite-sized narratives from customers and IBMers about things like marketing segments of one (No. 35), real-time data of eggs (No. 29) and designing football stadiums with a single seat (No. 23).

The three spots that jumped out at us were the notion that data and machines can actually make marketing messages more human (No. 29), the logic of making decisions based on information (No. 19) and doing it instantaneously (No. 34).

This jibes with what we hear every chief marketing officer (CMO) say these days: They want to “know their customer” across every channel, screen and device, and they want to smartly interact with them in real time.

The truth is, today’s infinitely addressable customer wants this, too.

They expect to be recognized across all channels. Their patience for disjointed, nonrelevant interactions with brands is quickly evaporating. They expect marketing to be an omnichannel conversation that is smart enough to understand where the last dialogue ended and the next will likely begin. This requires marketers to effectively map siloed data sets together in order to maintain a persistent picture of their customers and prospects that is at once high-definition and PII-compliant.

The Challenge

Consumer adoption of cookie-immune mobile devices, browsers with default third-party cookie blockingand marketers’ desire for a persistent view of audiences are but a few reasons to seek new solutions for cross-device audience identification, tracking, insight and segmentation. To benefit most from this paradigm shift, and not be caught flat-footed in an age of rapid device and channel proliferation, successful marketers would be smart to take control of their own data and ease their singular reliance on the cookie. But change is hard.

The writing has been on the wall for years. The proliferation of connected devices like smart watches, Google Glass and Nest thermostats has the potential to increase the amount and quality of consumer data to dizzying heights. Thus, the challenge for marketers lies in developing and maintaining management tools to evolve with these changes and incorporate new data into more accurate, actionable and individualized insights about their customers.

What Is A CMO To Do?

In order to meet the opportunities and challenges of this brave new data world, marketers need to acquire or develop three key capabilities.

First, they need data-management platforms (DMPs) capable of integrating disparate data sources – beyond the basics of Web browsing and other online habits – to form a complete, persistent view of their customers. This universal data set should gather and normalize all information available on customers and prospects in a way that honors privacy promises and protects anonymity.

It will also be critical for marketers to gain tighter control of their own CRM data to become the connective tissue that binds disparate data sources together into a singular view of their customer. This allows marketing to resemble a one-to-one conversation, where one interaction informs and predicts the next in a type of progressive relevance.

Second is the capability to make data actionable. Data may start out as 1s and 0s, but when refined by centralized audience modeling, segment building, rules-based decisioning and an optimization loop, it can fuel real-time conversations that follow consumers as they hopscotch across screens, channels and devices.

Suddenly, if you are a financial services advertiser, you’re able to serve a checking account customer a message about an auto loan as they withdraw money from an ATM because a blend of CRM data and third-party behavioral data suggests they’re beginning a car-shopping process. A DMP can capture online or offline consumer interactions from multiple channels in real time and optimize the next to coax consumers along their purchase journey.

The third capability that marketers need to develop is the ability to connect anywhere their customers and prospects can be found. In a fragmented media world, consumers are completely in charge of how they interact with advertisers. They decide which stores to shop, emails they’ll open, keywords they’ll search, when to chat with CSRs, where to visit and the devices they’ll use to go online. Data reveals where your customer spends time, including their favorite website, YouTube clip, Gmail, mobile phone or tablet. By using this knowledge, your customer is progressively immersed in relevant messaging that takes advantage of the inherent opportunities of the executional channel, but is not limited by it.

In addition to these key capabilities, marketers need to consider restructuring their internal teams to take advantage of the more detailed customer picture provided by DMPs. As tracking mechanisms emerge and evolve, distinctions of acquisition and retention efforts within marketers’ organizations will erode. Traditionally, internal teams were walled off and focused on either acquisition or retention. Savvy brands are knocking down the walls that have defined the purchase lifecycle in favor of more organic conversations that follow and guide consumers from awareness to eventual loyalty.

By mastering these three capabilities, marketers will find themselves closer to the dream of IBM spots No. 29, No. 19 and No. 34. In other words, they’ll get to “know their customer” across every channel, screen and device, and to interact with them in real time. It’s no less important to understand that this is what the customer wants, too.

Follow [x+1] (@XplusOne), Deloitte (@Deloitte) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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