Multichannel Data Integration: Drowning in Data?
Data, data everywhere. No wonder retail marketers are overwhelmed with the volume of data available in today's marketplace. But what to do with it all? With this enormous volume of data comes not only opportunity, but also responsibility. No longer can retailers simply get by on marketing what they want. They must now listen to the voice of the consumer, and market how the consumer wants.
Data Collection Strategy
The key to effective data integration is a well-defined data collection strategy. Today's retail environment is seeing an explosion of touchpoints, which have opened up doors for both retailers and consumers. Beyond the traditional point-of-sale and direct mail/phone/email channels, there are a number of other mediums that should be considered within your data collection strategy that can greatly expand your marketing landscape.
Although not necessarily a new channel, data from e-commerce transactions can be some of the most valuable data you can collect. This data can inform profile and channel preferences, purchase behaviors, and allow for the opportunity to collect additional data that may drive better targeting, such as income level, gender, presence of children, etc.
With the proliferation of web analytics tools being used on retail sites, such as those from Omniture, Coremetrics, Webtrends and Google, there's no shortage of data that can be collected online with regards to consumer activity.
The big challenge with website data is the sheer volume of it can be daunting to even the most experienced marketer. In many cases it can't be directly tied to a consumer at the name/address level. The key to this data is to identify only those components that are valuable to the marketing process. This will ensure that you don't turn your marketing database into a massive storage system for online data.
Mobile is becoming a major collection point for consumer data. Many retailers are expanding their sites to support mobile shopping or have created skinny apps for portable devices such as the iPad. Mobile phones, in particular, are becoming the primary method for tracking consumers at different touchpoints given that these devices are usually with them at all times.
Another factor to consider when thinking about mobile is that people tend to hold onto their phone number regardless of how many times they switch carriers or de- vices. Mobile marketing allows for geo-based targeting as well as a two-way communication medium.
The concern most mar- keters have with mobile surrounds privacy issues. Many consumers today are still wary about sending confidential data through their mobile device. Therefore, getting consumer opt-ins are critical to any mobile data gathering campaigns you launch. Also, remember that to yield the best results, messages need to be relevant and targeted to individual consumers.
Social media is by far the fastest growing area for data collection. This isn't simply about getting people to friend you on Facebook or follow you on Twitter. It's about listening to what consumers in the marketplace are saying about your brand, products or services. Social media monitoring is the lesser known sibling of social media marketing, but it provides retailers with the ability to adjust marketing communications based on what consumers are saying on social sites.
Each of these touchpoints offer valuable opportunities to collect relevant information on consumers that will enable you to send more targeted communications to them across all channels.
Now that you know what you want to collect and where you want to collect it, where should you store it? How do you access it? This is where technology comes in. Although technology itself won't generate results, without it you'll be flying blind and won't be able to take full advantage of all that great data you've collected. So what do you need?
Build a channel-agnostic marketing solution. Assuming you already have the tools in place to collect data, the emphasis now should be on establishing a marketing infrastructure that isn't limited by the types of data that can be stored.
Establishing a marketing environment that allows for effective offline and online data integration, combined with access to a single view of a consumer across all touchpoints is fundamental to executing a cross-channel marketing strategy. This will ensure that you're able to execute marketing from a single environment, allowing you to make informed decisions on how campaigns should be developed across channels, and the impact they have on your business.
Without this type of environment you won't be able to establish a clear view into how channels work together to drive revenue for your business — a key factor in multichannel data integration.
Ensure that your environment can support the integration of data across all channels. This includes traditional address standardization and hygiene, as well as pro- cesses to handle email-only processing and nonindividual identifiable online data. If you're building a new environment to support all these channels or are simply adapting your current environment, ask your database marketing provider about its experiences managing multichannel databases and its processes for digital data integration.
Lastly, pick tool sets that can access and execute on your data. You wouldn't choose a rake to shovel snow, so make sure you don't become channel myopic. Select a tool set that includes analytics, campaign management and reporting. This will allow you to best analyze, execute and report on your marketing initiatives across all channels. This type of environment will provide for the greatest efficiency, in addition to the ability to gather learnings unattainable for channel-specific solutions.
Now that you have the infrastructure needed to support your data, it's game time.
Even with the best data collection strategies and infrastructure, it can all fall apart if your targeting and messaging is off track. In today's environment, it's now your responsibility as a marketer to listen to what consumers have told you and leverage that data to create the most relevant marketing message possible. This concept of consumer-centric marketing isn't new, but it's highly underused in retail.
Brands continue to use the one-size-fits-all marketing model, which won't yield growth results for long. So, what should you do? Here are three best practices:
1. Follow the data. Use all collected data to inform your messaging and offer.
2. Target consumers by their channel preference.
3. Test, test and then test some more.
So much has been said of the importance of the 360-degree view of consumers. With all the ways consumers can interact with your brand, this has never been more critical.
With so many new and exciting ways to capture and communicate with consumers, you now have the opportunity to truly establish that consumer-centric view you've always dreamed of.
David Geisinger is vice president of database marketing at Merkle. Reach David at email@example.com. Bo Chipman is vice president, client team lead at Merkle. Reach Bo at firstname.lastname@example.org.