Behind IBM's Digital Data Standard

Source: JD Hancock via Flickr Creative Commons
Source: JD Hancock via Flickr Creative Commons

There's no denying the impact Big Data is having on the marketing world—there are nearly 2.5 billion Internet users in the world. But as more companies work to manage and analyze that data, there needs to be a standard by which that data is handled and transferred.

E-commerce companies especially are immersed in transactional, customer, and product data—yet they're also faced with a glut of point solutions from vendors, each with different modes of data transference and management. Just like the Internet needed a common language (HTML), so too does the data industry. At least, that's the argument from IBM—which recently revealed that it had been working since September 2012 to push forth a new digital standard for consumer data collection.

IBM's initiative, launched through the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international body that develops open standards, seeks to address the “growing complexity of managing how data about web behavior is acquired, shared, and managed,” says Jay Henderson, global strategy director for IBM Smarter Commerce. Tentatively, it's called the Customer Experience Digital Data Standard.

The data that will fall under the “Customer Experience Digital Data Standard” focuses on “typical visitor/user's experience on a digital property (website, mobile, kiosks), including e-commerce transactions, and support and self-service activities,” says Viswanath Srikanth, IBM's master inventor. Currently, it doesn't include social activity.

IBM recruited competing vendors, as well as customers, to form a Community Group within the W3C. The group, which includes Adobe, Google, Accenture, the Digital Analytics Association (DAA), Best Buy, and several others, seeks to incorporate feedback from the entities that would be affected by the proposed standard.

In short, IBM is hoping to introduce a standardized way to collect consumer data across multiple technological platforms. As of now, no competing standards exist, but Henderson believes that “we'll see a widespread adoption of the standard” in the coming year.

Realistically, IBM and its colleagues are still in the beginning stages of the process—the Community Group is essentially an open forum where developers and experts can work through the kinks of a prospective solution. Consequently, a W3C spokesperson was reluctant to speculate on whether IBM's timeline is realistic.

The next phase would be for the proposed standard to move to what's called the Standards Track, where it can be further evaluated and, hopefully, become the industry standard that IBM wants. IBM is bullish and expects the standard to be formalized this year.

The upshot: A common data-collecting language will make it easier for e-commerce vendors to deploy digital marketing tools and technology.

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