Why your digital footprint is only ever half the picture


James McGarva

James says brands need to be aware that their digitally-sourced data may not be telling the whole story

As marketers we’re desperate to understand our customers so that we can tailor our communications to suit their preferences, characteristics and behaviour.  We want to do this to make our engagement more relevant and useful and, of course, more effective.

After all, a customer who has a better experience is more likely to become (or remain) a valuable and loyal customer.

There has been a well-documented explosion in the amount of data available to marketers in recent years. The proliferation of smartphone technology and vastly improved access to broadband has altered consumer behaviour irrevocably. So much so that businesses are struggling to get to grips with a tsunami of data which is growing inexorably, minute by minute, hour by hour

My colleague Tom Blacksell used the term ‘infobesity’ in another article and I think that turn of phrase hits the nail on the head. Brands are drowning in data yet remain thirsty for knowledge. This is because there are some serious challenges in making sense of it all.

A lot of first and second party data is based solely on digital behaviour, however, just because there’s a huge amount of it, that doesn’t mean it is telling us the whole story. You can spend hours sifting through the data you’ve gathered, constantly refining and tinkering, but you’ll never get the full picture with only half the ingredients.

Think about your own social media profiles. Is the image you portray online a fair replica of who you are?

Are all you preferences, tastes and choices available online? Are brands potentially making decisions on how to tailor their communications to you (potentially including relevant discounts and offers) based on a complete picture of you? Of course they’re not.

For marketers it is easy to get carried away with all the data that the digital world provides. But equally as intelligent marketers we need to be aware that what the digital world provides us isn’t necessarily a 100% true representation of those individuals – regardless of how detailed it is.

Data

Are you missing a significant piece of your data jigsaw?

Do you always do what you say you do online? What about the other way around – is everything anyone needs to know about you available on Facebook, LinkedIn or elsewhere? The truth is that in our quest to build accurate customer profiles we need to consider far more than just the digital footprint.

What’s required in addition to the digital profile is the context around those individuals that provides insight into who they are and how they live their lives. This is where the old world of offline geo-demographic segmentation comes in.

That’s right – the true path to richer customer insight is a combination of both offline and online data. Using context, such as Mosaic profiles, to add detail to digital behaviour.

What’s more it’s getting closer and closer to the time when offline channels are brought into the fold. Addressable TV and direct mail, for instance, require postcode level insight and if you want to work towards a fully integrated cross-channel marketing capability, you’re going to have to think about how your digitally-sourced data influences your offline strategies.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, the point of this piece was to highlight how focusing simply on a digital profile could be hampering your marketing. Smart marketers remember that context around individuals is based on information not necessarily available through the standard first or second party data sources.

So don’t forget the go-demographic data – it’s what makes your digital footprint come to life, helping to build a much more accurate picture of the people you are trying to reach.

Experian Marketing Services helps bring brands and customers closer together.  Using our own industry data and analytical expertise we can help businesses build up an accurate and actionable understanding of their customers.