The state of marketing databases

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When I survey the landscape of our industry, I see an environment that is in need of marketing databases like never before. Additionally, several key market factors have forced the development of new database capabilities that can be lacking in current marketing database solutions.

First, multichannel integration and the resulting complexities are creating a demand for strong data-driven marketing platforms. Ideally, these platforms offer marketers a complete and customized view of consumers, their activity and their preferences. In other words, all of the data necessary to develop a multichannel contact strategy, including Web analytics, e-mail promotion and response data and search and affiliate data.

These data must be married with traditional offline data to provide a holistic view of the customer.

As the multichannel world grows more complex, marketers must continually make on-the-fly decisions with respect to budget allocations. This phenomenon is accelerating due to an increase in budget to more real-time marketing vehicles such as search and affiliate. This leads to the next key innovation in marketing database, and that is to support fractional allocation, which provides the ability to allocate the revenue associated with an order across multiple cross-channel efforts.

In that vein, this requires the database to store in a timely fashion all marketing efforts associated with a customer or prospect, and to develop rules within a fractional allocation engine to make appropriate allocation decisions. Included here is the ability to store contribution level data.

In this manner, the path to purchase for any given order can begin to be understood.

Next, today's environment calls for improved efficiency in the marketing process. The right database can improve the campaign development process through data summarizations and data derivations, creating relatively simplistic data (from a user's standpoint) that can support very complex decision making.

In addition, the marketing database must support the integration and use of analytics. This leads to the ability to create and manage a wide variety of event-triggered and automated marketing campaigns.

Finally, a key difference between traditional customer data warehouses and marketing databases concerns the state of the database with respect to a given point in time.

To move from RFM (recency, frequency and monetary value) to more automated contact strategies targeted at specific customer segments, the database must be able to save the state of the database, and the data associated with customers within those databases at a specific point in time, to understand the effectiveness of those contact strategies.

Traditionally, developing processes to look back, known also as time zero modeling, has been labor intensive and error prone.

When considering the insight, efficiency and return on investment that can be derived from a well designed marketing database, it is a critical component of the competitive strategy of any multi-channel enterprise.

To evaluate marketing databases, ensure that the database has the capabilities necessary to support multichannel and real time efforts. Your marketing database should store all necessary data, and make those data actionable to automated processes and analytics in order to make sound marketing decisions.

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