Data is transforming the way that brands interact with customers. In the past few years, we have seen monumental shifts in data-driven marketing and advertising. But data silos continue to exist among a proliferation of channels that make it hard to cultivate a cohesive consumer experience.
The problem with this more siloed approach can be summed up in terms of data breadth and data depth. A consumer packaged goods (CPG) business, for example, might have deep knowledge of the consumer via panels and studies, but a narrow understanding of consumer’s shopping habits and behaviours.
Global search engines and social platforms are two examples of companies that have a broad and deep understanding of their user bases. But what if you don’t have access to this kind of rich data? One option for brands looking to enter a new vertical, break into a new sector or improve their customer experience, is to explore data partnerships.
Data partnerships enable brands to reach outside of their own four walls and learn how their customers are interacting with other brands, other content and other events. What other products inspire a brand’s most loyal customers? What adjacent products sit side-by-side in a weekly shopping cart? What events or content drives audience interest and aspiration?
By working with partners who share customers in common, a brand will learn how to improve offers, how to co-market more effectively, how to personalise more appropriately, how to accelerate a content strategy and how to be more effective at garnering attention and engagement.
Data partnerships expand a brand’s customer intelligence, breaking down the knowledge gap created by the business’ digital and physical boundaries. Expanded customer intelligence directly leads to a deeper understanding of consumer intents and interests, which not only improves marketing and media, but guides continued business success through heightened customer empathy. Data partnerships can make a brand finally hear an authentic “voice of the customer” that was previously unknown and silent.
But data partnerships aren’t new. The idea of working together with data has been going on for as long as marketing has existed. But recently, technology and innovation have improved the efficacy of such partnerships.
Understanding the customer
So how do they work in practice? Let’s take the example of an auto manufacturer collaborating with an online car marketplace. While car brands have a wealth of data on their customers, such as knowing which customers are configuring cars and who is booking test drives, the car supermarket has data that shows the same customer is also doing competitive research and ultimately looking to buy within the next month.
If the two brands partner, they can connect their data in a safe and secure way to produce a more holistic view of the customer. The automaker benefits by targeting prospective buyers with greater precision and only those people who are actively looking to purchase a car. This increases the likelihood of converting advertising spend into a sale. The consumer also wins by gaining a more personalised experience, including curated purchasing suggestions and access to the latest deals and promotions.
Why collaboration matters
Data partnerships also offer brands the opportunity to collaborate across different verticals. For example, an automotive brand and a telecommunications company might not have an explicit commercial trading relationship, but there may be value in working together so that they can deliver a better customer experience.
For instance, as car manufacturers integrate more IoT and 5G technology into their vehicles, a data partnership with a telco may involve connected cars uploading live journey data, occupancy status and road conditions from connected car sensors. This data can be enriched in the telco’s fast edge-computing environments with specific consumer intelligence about mobile media preferences and interests to offer highly-relevant and personalised entertainment to non-driving passengers, and personalised safety alerts, parking suggestions and even interest-based routing options for vehicle drivers.
Data partnerships can inject valuable efficiencies into marketing and advertising practices, but they also have clear advantages for the consumer. When consumers willingly consent their data to be used by brands, for example, they do so with the understanding that their data will be used in a safe and secure manner.
The key to this value exchange is the trust the consumer has in brands, along with an assurance that the data and insights will only be used to help the consumer. For instance, automotive and insurance partners could collaborate to reduce rates for safe driving habits... but if rates were to rise from this exchange instead, this might actually slow consumer trust and adoption.
Building a trusted relationship with the consumer
There are a couple of things that businesses need to get right to build successful data partnerships and optimise their customers’ experiences. Firstly, with consumers increasingly wary about how their personal information is used, brands need to ensure that they are operating in a privacy-first, transparent manner when it comes to how they are working with consumer data.
In addition to reviewing those policies, brands should only work with technology platforms that have ‘privacy by design’ principles baked in, and are not only secured against outside threats but also explicitly protect consumer identity, manage consumer consent and preference, and support transparency and audits to ensure that data is viewed and processed in compliance with government regulations. Developing trusted relationships with consumers is only possible if brands hold up their end of the bargain by becoming trusted stewards of their consumers’ data first.
Secondly, ensure technology solutions allow collaborating partners to also control how data is used for commercial reasons. In most partnerships, each partner will want to have granular control over what can be used by the other, for what purpose and for how long. Without those controls, the fear of how a partner might use data can often prevent partnerships from ever getting started.
Data partnerships work best when operated through a neutral, agnostic technology provider. Only then can the power of each partner’s data be fully utilised. Having a neutral provider means both data partners can feel comfortable that they are in good hands. If they do this, brands can build deeper relationships not just with each other, but with the consumers they are trying to engage.