The Holy Grail of database customer marketing

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Rod Ford, Merkle
Rod Ford, Merkle

For more than five years now, the direct marketing industry has possessed the analytics and intuitive tools to create and execute individually personalized contact strategies for customers. However, there has existed one single limitation keeping these innovations from seeing the light of day, and keeping us in our spreadsheet-driven, file-passing entrapment. That one missing thing is the ability to assimilate, manage and organize structured and unstructured data into a single, real-time environment, thus allowing analytics to be applied across a common yet media-independent view.

Existing marketing databases were built to manage large amounts of structured data.

They were organized around customer records. However, much of the client-oriented data generated today is in the form of unstructured data, information about a customer's purchase quest that is not tied to a specific customer or conforming to a consistent organizational pattern.

As digital marketing spend increases, it is increasingly important to understand how a customer's purchasing decision is made so that, as marketers, you can have the right media in front of the consumer at the right time.

Integrating unstructured data into a managed data environment, where repetitive formulas can be applied, requires a uniformed data management platform that transforms, compiles, standardizes and segments digital and traditional data elements to make them appropriately actionable in real time.

New advancements in process controls, storage technologies and transformation algorithms now allow for the management of high volumes of all types of data. The ability to hold anonymous data and convert it into a known customer when the identity becomes available allows us to look in arrears at all the promotion history and response behaviors, instantly providing more data power to analytics.

The end result of a robust managed data environment of all customer values, promotional history through all media, response history and anonymous response capture and convert will allow the industry in the very near future to predict the optimal contract pattern by media, sequence and cadence for each unique individual in your customer universe. This will allow retailers to better align marketing spend among the various media, as well as marketing spend among the various types of customers. Marketing spend can remain flat while significantly increasing customer response, sales and ROI.

Rod Ford is SVP of specialty retail at Merkle.

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