Experian’s data-first marketing suite

Walking the endless floor of the casino at the Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas, I didn’t see blackjack, poker, and roulette tables. I saw a series of data challenges waiting to be solved. Sadly, Experian Marketing Services wasn’t offering me data-driven insights into gambling success (although I’m sure it could supply my credit score as a warning). What it did offer was “Utopia”–or more specifically, a two-day dive into the enhancements to its marketing suite, and the way its partners–and customers–are helping to refine its martech offerings.

The purpose of the 2015 Client Summit, as North America Group President Matt Seeley said in his keynote, was to “share the evolution” of the Experian Marketing Suite, which launched last year–an evolution structured around “three i’s”:

  • Identity (a single view of the customer, online and offline);
  • Interactions (coordinated understanding of the customer’s behavior across channels); and
  • Intelligence (analytics driven against customer data).

On July 29, Forrester identified Experian as a “strong performer” on real-time interaction management (The Forrester Wave: Real Time Interaction Management, Q3 2015).

The jamboree attracted around 1,000 marketers, a bevy of Experian partners (including Movable Ink, recently covered here) and an authentically impressive roster of celebrity guests, including Jill Ellis, Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd of the U.S. women’s soccer team; Stephanie McMahon of the WWE; actor Joseph Manganiello; oh, and Salt ‘n’ Pepah for the after party. Plenty of inspirational talk, but for me at least the kernel of the conference message was to be found in the main-stage presentation of the marketing suite, and especially in a few words from Experian’s SVP of Global Software Development, Emad Georgy.

All of this power is irrelevant without an accurate view of your customer

“With the prevalence of predictive insights,” said Georgy, “there’s more and more power in the hands of our customers. But as an industry, we still don’t get it. All of this power is irrelevant without an accurate view of your customer. What if we could take the guesswork out? What if we could actually predict what gets them acting, what gets them engaged?”

That’s the heart of Experian’s contribution to the increasingly crowded marketing automation sector. A single view of the customer, based on a singular set of data; the predictive insights it can generate; and the collaboration with clients in putting those insights to use.

Too good to be true? After all, I identified getting a single view of the customer as my number one marketing technology challenge back in June. “Yes, I read that,” said Georgy drily when I sat down with him to talk about data and predictions. “The technology gets so exciting,” he went on, “that we’re in danger of forgetting the consumer. Customer data should be the starting point.” Experian, he said, is in a unique position when it comes to identifying and tracking consumers.

Eleven billion rows of data 

This is a function, of course, of Experian’s history as a credit bureau. For over thirty years, it’s been gathering data to help businesses manage credit risk and consumers understand their credit ratings. Today, said Georgy, that adds up to “eleven billion rows of data,” which Experian can “segment very deeply” using proprietary algorithms. There’s a reason, he said, that eight of the top ten U.S. retailers and half of the Fortune 100 subscribe to Experian data. 

Competitors on the marketing automation front also come armed with data, of course–large volumes of CRM data, for example. “CRM data is not enough,” said Georgy. “We have all the other data about the consumer. Experian isn’t just CRM: it’s a database of record.” And deeply trusted, he emphasized, when it comes to data privacy and security. It’s quite wrong too, he said, to build a marketing suite then try to “retro-fit” it with consumer data. The data should come first.

As for customer linkage, “it’s built into the platform.” The Identity Manager tool works in real-time, leveraging that extraordinary data set, to identify customers across channels and devices. It makes it possible for marketers to deliver a relevant experience every time. It also helps track relevant behavior. I took a look at the cross-channel attribution dashboard, which allows marketers to get a real-time grip on the effectiveness of campaign touch points and channels.


But what really motivates Georgy and his team is the opportunity to make these insights actionable–and indeed predictive. “There’s a very deliberate strategy here. We’re working on making it actionable: predictive insights which inspire action.” 

Timed to coincide with the summit, Experian announced the launch of new predictive funcionality within the marketing suite which would integrate the single customer view (including demographic and behaviorial data) with real-time intelligence to predict, rather than just measure, the performance of brand content. “How does content perform in the context of its audience? Being able to predict the effectiveness of campaigns? That’s huge.”

The capabilities are all there

“The capabilities are all there,” said Georgy. In fact, a lot of the technology has been available for some time. The task now is to “sit down with clients and talk about the actions they envision.” Experian is doing this in a structured way through a series of “usability labs” where clients can provide feedback. It also takes feedback from an advisory board of key clients before any product release.

One remarkable opportunity Experian is exploring is “addressable TV advertising.” At a  micro-level, this means using Experian-style data and insights to deliver a commercial to a specific individual customer (yes, it can be done) . I spoke about this with Matt Seeley, who said: “The advent of addressable TV changes a lot about how you think about TV. It’s early days, but smart clients are demanding this. It’s not just an audience reach game any more.” The next step will be to interlink narrowly segmented target audiences with CRM data. Seeley views this as just one part of the blurring that’s taking place between martech and adtech.

We took a data-first approach and built everything from scratch

Seeley underlined the data first approach described by Georgy. “Experian has really been in the business of addressability for decades. We can marry an email address to almost everyone in the U.S.; we have loyalty card data; we have data from all sides. A lot of the marketing clouds have taken old technologies and painted them nicely, but they were all designed for a particular channel. We took a data-first approach and built everything from scratch. We can get real-time data from any source, and we can engage the customer on the channel they prefer: SMS, push notifications, email, display ads.”

This doesn’t mean omnichannel marketing is all smooth sailing. Organizations are still places where people thrive by owning things, and employees need to start recognizing that “collectively, we own the customer.” Silos are not coming down as fast as Seeley would like: “Candidly, it hasn’t happened with a sudden shift, although more progressive companies are having the courage to do it.” Experian wants to be part of that process. 

“We’re not just selling technology,” said Seeley, “but partnerships.”

Experian Marketing Services covered The Hub’s travel and expenses to attend the event

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