Being customer-first in a big data world

Being customer-first in a big data world

Over the last few decades, individual consumers have gained an increasing amount of power over the type of media they access, the devices they use, and the products they choose to buy. They self-select from countless sources, use multiple screens for a wide variety of purposes, comparison shop with search engines that index more information than ever, and disseminate opinions on brands and products instantly across the globe with the touch of a button.

With these big changes in consumer behaviour comes an even bigger data challenge -- and the need for someone to make sense of it in order to deliver more coherent customer experiences. That’s the job of today’s Chief Marketing Officer (CMO): to align an organisation around a single cause, the customer. And that job extends beyond the top-of-funnel brand advertising central to yesterday’s marketing strategies. The focus has now broadened to encompass full-funnel marketing and the orchestration of strategies, tactics, and analytics around each stage in the consumer journey with sales being the ultimate goal.

To transform the marketing function into a sales driver that meets the needs of increasingly hard-to-engage consumers, you need to make a good marketing platform investment. Data Management Platforms (DMPs) have evolved over the last few years to play an increasingly important role in the centralisation, analysis, and activation of customer data.

The right DMP technology provides the ‘Big Data’ processing power you need to be more responsive to your audience’s needs. This means all of the consumer information you see must be analysed, segmented, scored, and distributed broadly across all of your marketing channels in less than 200 milliseconds. That’s less time than it takes to blink an eye (which takes 300 milliseconds). This ensures that you can disseminate the right audience data for more timely, relevant, and consistent advertising. In a world where every second counts, even the smallest delay can mean the difference between a won and lost customer, or a loyal buyer who recommends your product to a dozen friends.

As an example, if you are a retailer with an eCommerce website, you probably spend a lot of time thinking about how you can uniquely tailor the shopping experience for each person visiting your site. This can help make the process easier and more relevant for your customers, which should improve conversion rates and increase basket size. The data you need to act on and learn from can be mind-boggling. It can include your first-party data (e.g. past product page visits, site search history, mobile app behaviour, digital engagement, sales data) as well as potentially huge volumes of second- and third-party data from your partners.

That’s where artificial intelligence (AI) comes in. Your DMP should include advanced AI-capabilities that will continuously build, optimise, and propagate new audience models without requiring you to do anything. This will make your team significantly smarter and faster at responding to real-time changes in consumer behaviour.

You also need to consider how you can better control the frequency of your advertising across channels and devices. This helps prevent unnecessary ad exposure - or wasted impressions - and makes for better experiences with your brand. No one wants to be blanketed with ads across every screen they’ve got. A DMP tightly-integrated with all your core digital marketing platforms allows you to centrally manage advertising exposure at the person-level across devices. You set a maximum number of exposures, apply it universally, and adjust based on performance. It will also help you sequence your messages appropriately based on how your audiences are engaging with your brand.

To use the retail example again, if you know a prospect is intending to make a purchase based on product page visits or shopping cart behaviour, you’ll want to provide a very specific product experience useful to their decision-making process. Contrast this with someone you are targeting who's never visited your store. The differences are obvious, but the ability to act immediately on these changes in consumer behaviour - and to do it with the speed required for it to matter - is something very few marketing teams are equipped to do.

So as you think about aligning your organisation around the customer, remember that while a customer-first strategy is important, it won’t deliver results if you can’t execute. To consistently deliver good customer experiences, you need to invest in the right technology. And that technology has to be fast at everything it does. Faster than the blink of an eye. There is simply too much data to make sense of, and too little time to waste.

By Brett House, Vice President - Nielsen Marketing Cloud.