Big Data helps brands target customers in smarter ways

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Patrick Dolan, EVP and COO, Interactive Advertising Bureau
Patrick Dolan, EVP and COO, Interactive Advertising Bureau

Brands need to know more about customers than just demographics or purchase histories, says Patrick Dolan, EVP and COO at the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). Forward-thinking marketers use Big Data to create personalized customer experiences, Dolan says.

The definition of Big Data is nebulous. Currently, it's more of a concept than a quantifiable value — there's no definitive cut-off point where a dataset suddenly becomes Big Data. Big Data is ultimately information that “traditionally hadn't been considered important for marketers, like time of day or weather conditions,” Dolan adds. He notes, for instance, that Domino's Pizza discovered that orders increase during rainstorms, so the brand uses local weather reports to better target customers.

Unfortunately, this large amount of data is often delivered unstructured. To help manage it all, various marketing service providers offer data management platforms (DMPs). For example, Yahoo plans to launch Genome in July, a predictive analytics tool that helps marketers manage data and cross-reference it with customer behavior profiles to make that data more effective.

“We start at the finish line to make our data more actionable,” says Peter Foster, GM of Genome at Yahoo. Yahoo's tool tracks consumers and studies their behavior. The solution then matches this behavior to certain actions, after which Genome builds an audience profile based on what it knows about the user. The solution is designed to give marketers the ability to build a campaign based on predictive assumptions.

“At the end of the day, everything we do is measured against that action,” Foster says. “You have smarter data based in fact, and you can look for other signals as you move through the campaign.”

Citigroup Inc., one of Yahoo's clients, uses data from a variety of sources to inform its campaigns. In April, Citigroup launched a branded LinkedIn group called the Professional Women's Network, Powered by Citi, targeting professional women. The idea is to be present if and when women are talking about financial planning, in order to better understand this audience. The content on the group links back to Women & Co., Citi's decade old personal finance site for women.

“We are just trying to be present and available if they want to have a conversation,” says Vanessa Colella, managing director and head of North American marketing at Citi.

Colella says Citi has plans to start using the group for surveys to better understand the kinds of needs these women might have. While she stresses that “all of the information is collected in aggregate,” she says that Citi will likely “use it to better understand these women” and “use it as a targeting marker to figure out how we can better serve them.”

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