The Datafication of Marketing

Every person is encoded with his own personal blueprint; scientists call it deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. DNA holds the genetic instructions for all the development and functions of each man and woman. And in the marketing industry it’s personal data that makes up our DNA—our digital DNA, that is.

“Everything we do is leaving a data trail, a finger print, or DNA if you will,” says H.O. Maycotte, CEO of Umbel, a customer data platform. “We’re all more keenly aware of this sort of data awakening. And now, more than ever, the average consumer expects to get something in return for that data, such as a better experience or enhanced products and services.”

Bottom line: Data is everywhere. More than any time in history, personal data is an asset consumers can use to discover, select, compare, promote, or even criticize products and services from brands. Data allows consumers to determine facts about themselves and then choose which offers and products best fit their personal and professional lives. It feeds virtually every aspect of life, from helping to craft personal music collections (Pandora and Spotify) to providing a restful sleep (data-driven Sleep Number beds).

At the same time, data allows marketers to map the digital genome of current and potential customers. “Data allows you to build a complete picture of the customer,” Maycotte says. “Once you have a complete picture you’re able to build relationships and eventually lifetime value for your brand.”

So, how can marketers tap into this data goldmine?

“Marketers can get what they need from simply tracking all of this information, even if it’s more general information. Then they should aggregate it,” says Bill Simmons, cofounder and CTO at DataXu, a digital marketing management platform. “Use the power of consumer data to help build those one-to-one connections with current customers, to make their experiences better, and to seek out and gain new customers that find your products relevant to their lives.”

Here, several marketing insiders take a closer look at four specific types of personal data: location, behavioral, purchasing, and social—each of which can help marketers enrich consumer experiences, deepen brand engagement, and spark discovery. 

Behavioral data

Actions speak louder than words. More than ever, that maxim resonates with marketers who track customer behaviors to craft the most relevant, effective communications. Behavioral data can include anything from clicks on an ad and browsing on a website to how customers use a product and to comments they leave on a site or on social. Today it’s not enough, however, to simply monitor shoppers’ actions. The key to making behavioral data work for a company is to observe how customers “behave over a longer period of time,” says Dan Smith, CMO of Outsell, a marketing intelligence company. “It’s important to have a sort of longitudinal view of activity, which tells us that the person is actively looking or shopping. It’s one thing for a person to click an ad by accident or [to show] some brief interest yet have no intention of buying. It’s very different to track that same, reoccurring behavior over time, which suggests [a shopper] might be in market for that product,” Smith explains. He says that marketers must translate that series of customer behaviors—or even a single activity—into intent and identification. “Truth comes out in behavior,” he says.

Marketers at Village Automotive Group in Minneapolis say they go beyond demographic data, such as age and income, and use behavioral data over time to target potential customers with email messages about their pricey inventory: Chevy and Lexus automobiles.

“We have a specific type of consumer in mind. So, we look for synergy between the behavioral data and the brand,” says Katie Johnson, corporate marketing manager for Village Chevrolet. “We have to use data to home in on that lower-funnel buyer and try to determine when they’re ready to buy.”

Johnson says that zeroing in on that bottom-of-the-funnel shopper takes time, adding that the ideal customer is different for each of Village Automotive Group’s three dealerships. Johnson notes that, ultimately, her team uses behavioral data that’s rooted in psychographics—or data that reveals personality, values, opinions, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles—to determine whether someone is ready to purchase a car.

“It’s not always the lower price that attracts customers. It’s how you take care of them. It’s the relationship and appealing to their interests. What we do is personalize [our messages] as much as possible based on the behavioral data,” Johnson explains.

Johnson says that marketers for the dealerships use everything from “site-browsing data to car service data” to determine the wants and needs of a potential customer and then serve relevant online ads or send meaningful email messages.

She says that since using tools from Outsell to extract this data, Village Automotive Group has seen about two to three more car sales per month. “That behavioral data [is] going to be the best thing for us to use in the future, as we learn how to extract that insight as much as possible,” Johnson says.

Location data

Most everyone owns at least one mobile device. In wealthier countries, including the United States and nations in Western Europe, cell phone penetration is about 100%. But even in poorer nations, it’s nearly 90%, according the International Telecommunication Union, a specialized agency of the United Nations.

What does that mean for marketers? They can collect and use location data from potentially anyone who opts in with a mobile device, which includes most people across the globe. Ultimately, location data provides insight into an individual’s life; it pushes past a person’s mere whereabouts and sheds light on intent to buy.

“Location data is really the context of the customer journey that allows marketers to do intelligent marketing,” says JD Nyland, director of strategy and product management for Adobe Analytics Solutions. “Location is important because with location data you’re able to make predictions of a [mobile] user’s objectives based on that location.” Nyland says that for marketers, location data is a trifecta that’s comprised of three main pillars: the spatial aspect, the device, and the content.

“Location data really consists of the device that I have, where I am when I’m using that device, and then the content that I’m interacting with at that location,” he explains. He says that a shopper’s location can be defined in a number of ways: out-of-store versus in-store location, inside versus outside a geographic area, or even one side of the store versus another. With that data, Nyland says, marketers can then personalize a consumer’s experience based on his precise location.

“Location-based marketing is designed for consumers who already have some relationship with the brand,” he continues. “And based on what that shopper is trying to do—whether searching for items, reading articles, or watching videos—[location data] allows marketers to interact with customers on location. Location data is absolutely critical; it’s intelligent marketing.”

Increasingly, marketers are leveraging Bluetooth-powered beacons—devices that communicate with a shopper’s smartphone aiming to improve the shopping experience and prompting an in-store purchase. The crafty marketers of Barberitos, a Southwestern grill and cantina chain, bolster the relationships they have with customers using location data and beacon technology. Last spring marketers there sent this message to customers who were near Barberitos in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta:

Pay It Forward today at BARBERITOS. Save your receipt from today and take the same amount off when you come back next Saturday 04/26.

Timely. Relevant. Enticing. Valuable. All enabled by location data.

“Marketers can interact with their customers differently based on where they are. They can provide instant promotions, coupons, and are able to get customers to engage on the spot,” Nyland says. “Location data gives marketers an advantage.”

Purchasing data

Ross Kramer, CEO of digital marketing platform Listrak, says that a number of marketers have it wrong when it comes to how they think about purchasing data.

“Any data that you have about a customer from a sale in the past is purchasing data. However, the old idea that it’s easier to sell to existing customers than to new customers simply isn’t right,” Kramer says while talking about how marketers should use their collection of purchasing data. “That idea works with companies selling big-ticket items where there’s a relationship. Not with most retail shoppers.”

He says that 70% of retail buyers are, in fact, one-time buyers. To him, this means marketers should use purchasing data to lessen the time between the first and second purchase. “It’s so important to try to get the second sale, quickly,” Kramer continues. “It’s increasingly difficult to get to that second sale as more time passes by. The best opportunity to make the second sale is within 30 days of the first purchase. Use purchasing data to lessen latency—or the time between sales; you’ll dramatically increase the chances of repeat sales.”

Kramer says that marketers can use purchasing data to sell accessories for hard products—e.g., items with a long lifespan, such as furniture or cars. He says marketers should also use purchasing data to sell soft products—items that need to be replenished often, such as cosmetics, cleaning products, or clothes.

“Once [shoppers] become two-time buyers, they become twice as likely to become three-time buyers. Once a three-time buyer, you sometimes become three times as likely to become a four-time buyer,” Kramer explains. “It all boils down to how marketers use that purchasing data. Craft a campaign to help you get to that second sale more quickly.”

Social data

Social media, no doubt, impacts the everyday lives of most everyone. Consider this recent social snapshot from the Pew Research Center:

Seventy-one percent of online adults use Facebook; 23% use Twitter; 26% use Instagram; 28% use Pinterest; 28% are on LinkedIn. And fully 40% of smartphone owners use a social networking site on their phones; 28% do so on a typical day.

The numbers are telling. Each day consumers are communicating with pictures, sound, and written posts on social media; and in the process, they’re leaving behind a trail of precious, personal data for marketers to discover their preferences.

Apu Gupta, CEO of social imagery analytics platform Curalate, says that social media gives marketers more than vanity metrics, such as the number of likes, favorites, and followers; social also provides an inside look into why consumers like a specific brand and insight into what motivates them.

“Social is where consumers live today,” Gupta explains. “And these newer, more visual platforms are giving more insight into the why and the what. Why it is that you like a brand and what do you specifically care about; who are you as a person? Social data can give us all of those answers. Use social to identify what matters.”

But, how can marketers go about using social data in their strategies?

“First you have to start collecting the social data,” Gupta continues. “Use that data to have more granular communication and make smarter marketing decisions.”

He says that marketers can use this personal data to delve into social commerce—a marriage of social media and e-commerce. Social data, Gupta says, enables a collaborative set of shopping tools, such as shopper pick lists, user ratings, user-generated content—all centered in brand products and messages. Marketers can design display windows in-store or build microsites based on social data. Social, he says, is the commerce of today.

“You have to want the data to do more than tell you that you have a lot of fans,” Gupta says. “It’s actually about insights; it’s about business decisions. Social has changed from novelty to necessity.” 

A look into the future of data

There’s no question that the trajectory of marketing is one that’s defined by data.

“That is what modern life is; it’s based on data,” says Graeme Grant, president and COO of CQuotient, a cloud-based personalization tool for retailers. “Data is the new battleground. It’s the future.”

In fact, Grant says that in the not-so-far future a vast network of data-collecting devices, i.e., the Internet of Things, will be an almost undetectable part of everyday life for shoppers—and marketers. “Data is incredibly important to shoppers; and it’s also important to all of those people trying to satisfy the needs of those shoppers,” he says.

One certainty that’s ahead: The future will demand even more tools to handle all of this information.

“The have’s and the have-not’s will be separated by data,” says Dale Renner, CEO and founder of RedPoint Global, a marketing automation platform provider. “Starting now and into the future, we need to parse the data. Use it to create a picture and be as relevant to the customer as possible.”

Renner says that to succeed in the future, marketers need to understand that customers are in control of their data—brands aren’t. “The power has shifted from brands to consumers, and the cadence of the customer is very different than that of marketers. It’s data—and the right tools to collect and process that data—that will allow us to keep up at the same pace as the shoppers of the future.”

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