Data, Display, and Other Marketing Dilemmas

Every marketer wishes that he had a crystal ball. But for now, their trend forecasts are limited to predictions based on data. Direct Marketing News asked Experian Marketing Services‘ Group President Matt Seeley what he thinks are the hot marketing trends of today and of tomorrow.

What does 2013 to mean for Experian and for the market as a whole?

I see the year for Experian as the year of alignment. The breadth of offering that we have is deep, if not deeper than anybody’s in the marketing services space, [and] it’s our time to really bring it together in a cohesive way to be better understood by the markets and our customers. That has really been the theme over the past year for us.

In the market, I would describe it as the inflection point. The markets are at a place where they understand that they need to change the way that they do things in order to be effective with their customer…. Many organizations are built into channels… It’s natural for us to incrementally build our organizations that way. When you listen to the consumer, they don’t look at themselves as channels. [When I] access your brand, I fully expect you to know who I am, to be relevant, [and] to make sense. That’s probably in conflict with the way organizations have been structured historically…. For the last few years [organizations] have been saying, “You’ve got to change.” Start with centering on the customer, and it will help you shape how you should think about your organization. We’re not there yet, but we’re seriously contemplating it.

What is hindering this movement from being channel-centric to customer-centric?

Like all things, these are always people dilemmas. As organizations, we go out and we look at acquisitions and investments, and we talk about those strategies, [which] are critically important. But actually, like most acquisitions, they’re made or broken on the people and whether you can get them to believe in your strategy and your focus. How do you get people to believe in change? How do you get people to believe in getting out of their comfort zone and into something else? It takes energy. But if you don’t bring your teams with you, it’s going to become dysfunctional.

What’s the most valuable data out there today?

First is first-party data…There is so much of it. It’s gold. The problem is that it’s so vast that people are struggling with how to actually use it. We, as a third-party provider, truly believe that the enhancement of that [first-party] data with ours to extend that profile and make it relevant is the gold standard. But we’re still in a place where there’s so much first party data in every aspect, especially in the digital ecosystem with your web data, what’s happening on Twitter, and what’s happening on Facebook.

Do you think that consumers are more skeptical about data gathering, or that they’ve just accepted that it’s going to happen anyway?

I think it’s generational. If you look at the younger generation, they’re so free with their data. They expect it. They open themselves up on their social profiles in ways that older generations find a little bit scary. But generally, people are suspicious of what marketers are going to do with their data, and it’s one thing that we as marketers have to get better at it. Reminding everybody that there’s only one objective here: it’s for us to be relevant to the consumer.

How can marketers strike that balance between connecting with the consumer and being too intrusive?

If you pay attention to the data, the consumer tells you. A simple example is if you’re sending emails and they’re not opening and they’re not clicking, that means either they’re not interested in your products or services at all or they’re not interested in the way that you’re treating them and you haven’t found the connection of how they want to operate. That to me is a huge part of what we have to be open and honest about and [where] we have to challenge ourselves.

Which channel has changed the most over the past few years?

What I would say is changing over…the last three [years] is display ads. What we’re seeing is an incredible opportunity to evolve display into an incredibly more relevant medium as opposed to a wide brand engagement. There’s an opportunity in display to become much more targeted, segmented, and relevant. Over the last few years as you’re seeing this, more and more as data becomes an important part of display. I think that’s the channel that’s changed the most.

Where do you see display going?

Display, over time [and] if we do it correctly, will become more and more a part of CRM as opposed to just a prospecting and brand engagement advertising tool. There’s no reason to think that in display we shouldn’t be able to get to a place where an ad that you’re seeing is actually tailored to you in a relevant meaningful way, as opposed to us guessing whether we thinks this works based on impressions.

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