Experts help you sort out the big ideas around data integration

5 minute read

The data is out there. The challenge for marketers, however, comes in capturing, organizing and utilizing that data in ways that inform strategic, measurable actions. INCITE asked Canada Post Smartmail MarketingTM data partners about the current role of data integration – especially as it relates to targeting, direct mail integration and performance.

Why is data integration so important to channel performance today?

Environics Analytics | As a marketer, there has never been a more exciting time to talk about data integration. Privacy-compliant data is easier than ever to combine and help solve complex business problems. Data that can measure how different channels are being used, by whom and how they perform is critical in an increasingly fractured marketplace. Effectively integrated and used data results is better targeting and increased ROI.

Trendline Interactive | Customers now transact, become informed, receive and respond to marketing messages through multiple channels – and they expect companies to know them across them all. To this end, data integration across the customer journey (online, email, SMS, social media, call centers and offline) provides a complete 360-degree view of the customer. It also allows marketers and their analytic teams to more accurately target and optimize every message to be valuable to the audience and the organization.

Custometrics | Accurate measurement of channel performance requires a holistic view. Data from all channels, along with data from other sources representing other influencers of performance, are integrated into one view before analysis begins. In this way, we avoid misattribution or under-/over-valuing a given channel’s contribution.

Consumer Intelligence Group | Two key reasons: efficiency and effectiveness. Unless you are a large organization that has invested in a data warehouse or data lake, odds are high your data is siloed, as is your approach to media buying. With budgets being squeezed in this new normal, marketers must be able to target, locate and buy audiences across all channels, from direct mail to digital, which can only happen with integrated data.

Boire Analytics | Everyone should recognize the value of data. But the most important element of all this data work is its actual integration into one analytical file. A component to this integration was capturing any information that pertained to various marketing channels. In capturing this information at the individual customer level, we were then able to develop better marketing attribution tools which could more effectively assign the right marketing revenue to the right marketing channel.

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How can marketers get more out of the data they gather and use?

Environics Analytics | Stitch disparate data together (both yours and third-party) to have a more complete and consolidated view of customers, prospects and the marketplace overall. Believe it or not, this can be done easily in a privacy-compliant manner that does not require massive databases on individuals. Marketers can then go beyond just tracking specific awareness campaigns to data-driven optimization of channels and messaging that will trigger the type of engagement that is being planned.

Boire Analytics | The real challenge here is to first understand the business problem and then determine how data might help solve that problem. This is where the need for collaboration between the marketing department and the analytics department is an imperative. Both areas must operate as a well-oiled team not unlike professional sports teams.

Custometrics | Move to advanced analytics applications – predictive and prescriptive work. This gets you to measurable gains in marketing performance rapidly if done right. Build a learning system – a continuous improvement loop in which gains build through new insights. Test, test and test.

Consumer Intelligence Group | Prioritize connecting and unifying disparate data sources. Starting with internal data sources, and then look to append third-party data to deliver a more wholistic view of your target audiences. Marketers generally don’t need more data; they need insights that connect them to their target audiences across media channels. They also need to use these insights to create a continuous cycle of measurement, optimization and execution.

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How can data analytics improve direct mail performance and optimization?

Environics Analytics | Having rapid access to current data for measurement is key. If you are able to collect customer data, only understanding response rates is not enough. Knowing who and where so you can refine your targeting to find lookalikes efficiently in the future allows you to learn and improve. If you don’t have respondent data directly, rapidly updated sources such as mobile movement data to measure retail visits, or click data to measure website and app usage, give alternative approaches fast enough to adjust course in flight.

Trendline Interactive | Effective attribution and testing. Data-driven models can predict which customers will respond and what they will spend with any given offer or promotion, allowing marketers to target the right customers for this channel. In an omnichannel world, data analytics can allow marketers to orchestrate multi-touch campaigns through various channels and allow campaigns to be tailored to individual needs and preferences.

Custometrics | Direct mail can suffer from bad attribution work. Too much reliance on tracking codes (which many consumers don’t use) and not enough analytical control for the channels around direct mail. Some digital attribution ignores direct mail altogether! Take a holistic approach; use predictive modeling to sort out relative contribution and add optimization only once you have a highly accurate model (90 per cent accuracy in explaining performance variation or better).

What could marketers pay closer attention to?

Boire Analytics| Given all the attention and discussion regarding data science concepts (such as machine learning and artificial intelligence), it is easy for marketers to lose sight of the fact that effective use of data is what really contributes to success. This is highlighted by the fact that practitioners will spend more than 85 per cent of their time on the data before even employing any machine learning or artificial intelligence algorithm towards the development of a predictive model.

Custometrics | With good modeling, we can quantify the contribution of any data source. Use that to build a sustainable business case. Be aware of the source, reliability, recency and validity of any data source you use.

Trendline Interactive | As we look ahead, we see an enhanced focus on privacy and tracking, particularly online. The demise of third-party cookies, and the changes to email tracking by Apple and others, will make the need for first-party data more critical than ever. Direct mail is well positioned to be part of the marketing mix for companies that make first-party data a focus or who face challenges reaching customers online. Direct mail’s ability to reach customers directly without fear of spam filters and offer a tactile experience is something that many marketers may wish to test.

Environics Analytics | I am excited about the mobile movement, browsing habits, psychographic and behavioural data available to give a holistic view of their target audience. Understanding the intentionality of people’s travels to people’s values and what could trigger a reaction through messaging is not only fascinating, but also enhances how organizations are able to understand, engage and better service their customers and broaden their customer market.

Consumer Intelligence Group | Digital and physical channels are converging and connecting in unprecedented ways. Today, we can geographically connect digital IDs to postal codes with precision, in a privacy compliant manner, connecting digital and social marketing to the homes where our future customers live. We need to continue to shift our mindset from buying based on channels, to buying audiences and reaching them through the most effective combination of channels.

This article is an expanded conversation of the one that originally appeared as part of “Making Sense of Integration” in INCITE magazine’s Year Ahead issue.

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