The evolving role of digital data

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Marie Myles, Director of Consulting, Experian Marketing Services

Marie Myles

Time travel back ten years and it’s likely the online marketing department of most brands would be preoccupied with the creative execution of banner campaigns and moving away from a brochureware website to either ecommerce or at least more customer engagement and interaction. Web Analytics and search were in their infancy and the major KPI for Marketing Directors were volume based metrics such as total visits and dwell times. e-CRM consisted of mass broadcast email campaigns and in many cases the only source of data from the website (then web logs) sat within the IT department.

Time travel back just two years and the same online marketing department will have been transformed. Whilst someone will still be reviewing creative for a banner campaign (now called Display Advertising), there will have been a major evolution in the sources of data available to the team. The Online Marketing Manager will now have access to data from his search bid management tools, email behaviours and affiliate tracking. Website analytics will be tracking browsing behaviour and possibly powering decision engines for cross and up-sells. The Marketing Director will be tracking a whole suite of KPIs from unique visits, % repeat visitors, dwell time, number of downloads, sales revenue, conversion rates, delivery rates, CTRs, registrations, unsubscribes – the list goes on.

One of the challenges is that all of these new sources of data have pretty much stood alone and provided more than one version of the truth! They have also been optimised and reported at a campaign level – i.e. taking a short term tactical approach. The skills needed to inter-operate the data have spawned new occupations like search and web analytics professionals. Most things digital move and evolve at such a pace that brands find it difficult to keep up to date and face challenges sourcing talent with the right skills. However, with the exception of the jargon and a little bit of knowledge about technology, are these skills really that much different from those of the traditional direct marketer?

Fast forward to the present day and the same marketing department is starting to see the convergence of all the data sources and direct links being made into the customer database. The desire for a true multi-channel experience and one view of the customer, along with the advancement in technology, is the driving force. In just ten years the online marketing department has gone full circle from limited data to data overload. The opportunities are massive but there are a number of challenges to be faced. Perhaps the most daunting is what to do with all the data. Where do you start?

It’s highly likely that the database already has some sort of segmentation, perhaps put in place from offline activity or from some of the online data that did find its way into the customer database, e.g. email data. A good starting point would be to identify which online channels are driving the high value segments and focus your data management in this area. Investment in data and analytics could then be diverted into these channels and away from channels driving less desired segments. Once this is in place you can start to get more granular with both the level of data and analytics that you undertake.

For example, in paid search which keywords are driving your high value segments and in the affiliate channel which of these arrangements drives the higher value customer and not just pure sales volume? Once you know this you can optimise your keywords to your segments up-weighting and down weighting bids accordingly or in the affiliate channel putting in place commission by affiliate type or even rewarding individual affiliates that drive the desired segments.

It really is imperative that brands put in place segmentation strategies for their online data either using their in-house skills or working with partners. Doing so will not only deliver improved ROI and competitor advantage but will place them in a pole position for dealing with the next wave of data whether that be social data or attribution data. One thing seems certain; as innovation continues so does the complexity of the data.

Fast forward five years and there are no online and offline marketing departments just one team that encapsulates all channels and platforms. As the technology and the data converge so does the marketing structure. The customer database is at the heart of the brand driving ever increasing customer personalisation and the winners will be those brands that gather, interrogate and act upon the data and insights derived from it.


About the author:

Marie Myles
Director of Consulting
Experian Marketing Services

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