There Is a Third World Lacking Third-Party Data

It’s hardly news that 81% of direct marketers worldwide told their associations that data was important to their efforts. Considering that mailing lists were named as data in the survey they answered, the story really should center on how the other 20% are still in business. But the study sponsored by MediaMath and conducted by the Winterberry Group for the global collective of direct marketing associations known as GDMA found that the world is still very regional when it comes to data-driven marketing.

“In some countries, there just isn’t as much data out there. It can’t be transacted from one party to another like it is here,” says Winterberry managing director Jonathon Margulies. “In the U.S., third-party data is a huge focal point, but in Argentina there’s barely a quarter of the market doing anything with it. Conditions differ greatly by market.”

On a scale of 1 to 5 from low to high usage of outside data, Argentine and Chilean marketers averaged below a 2, while French, German, and American practitioners rose above a 3. Sweden was the worldwide leader at 3.59 in this study that involved more than 3,000 thought leaders in 17 countries.

But that’s not to say all novice data users live in South America. Fully one third of the sample admitted they were doing nothing at all with third-party data. Neither is it the case that marketers in data-developing countries are clueless about the digital revolution. On a five-point scale where 5 represented data being critical to their operations, all nations clustered in the mid-to-high 4 level.

“We were taken aback by the third-party data levels,” says Margulies (left). “We thought about it and recognized that the fluidity of data in a marketplace says a lot about how people think about creating new customers.”

Local regulations present different obstacles to data usage, as well. Marketers in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, and the United States feel governmental barriers limit their activities much more than those in Germany, France, Hungary, and Sweden. Respondents from all countries surveyed seemed to be on the fence when it came to regulation, most likely because they are not up on developments in the area. This week, for instance, the European Parliament is expected to pass new far-ranging privacy regulations, but a survey done by privacy platform TRUSTe found that half of marketers in the U.S., U.K., France, and Germany were not even aware of the legislation.

“It’s clear that regulatory policy as a general concept is on the minds of marketers, but it’s hard to get them to give you a black and white answer about it,” Margulies says. “They tend to respond anecdotally about the threat posed by it, but they also recognize that regulation makes it easier to do their work.”

Indeed, the survey group as a whole strongly agreed that good data governance gives them a competitive advantage. But they also admitted to fears that increasing regulation would negatively affect their businesses.

If it seems from the GDMA study that data usage is low and regulatory fears are high among marketers, then the real trends in the marketplace are apt to be even more pronounced. Margulies points out that, since all respondents to this survey are members of direct marketing associations, they tend to be in the upper range for awareness of key issues and new technologies. Most of these marketers know where they’re going even if they’re not sure yet how to get there, Margulies says, citing the 92% who said they are at least partially focused on maintaining customer databases.

“Customer-centricity in practice as well as in theory is what they’re working toward,” he says. “They have to understand more about what their customers value and then build toward that.”

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