Who’s in charge and where is my data? Requirements for marketers to stay relevant in the evolving digital channel

If a user engages in one digital channel, we must be able to communicate that action to any channel where we want to complete an ongoing action.

How to use data to transform digital experiences

Historically,a brand will segment customers through a variety of inference factors, and then uses these segmentation points to cue up campaigns that will be targeted at these groups of users. To build a seamless digital user experience, brands must be able to communicate user actions immediately into corresponding channels to create a triggered response. The reality of this is the requirement for a robust and strongly interconnected data architecture, and a variety of contextually relevant content assets that can be utilized in response to these triggers.

In today’s digital landscape, there are a myriad of channels through which customers can choose to interact with a brand. Strong data management is key ensuring ownership of the digital customer experience.

In this article, we will put into focus our ability to provide contextually relevant information to prospects that supports their specific traits. This is the combined responsibility of the “Data Ownership and Accessibility”, and “Programmatic Content Landscape” functions; two of the Three Rocks of Interconnected Experience.

Data Ownership and Accessibility

In today’s digital landscape, there are a myriad of channels through which customers can choose to interact with a brand. Reviewing the nature of relationship between a prospect’s interactions with a digital marketing channel, and the availability of Data generated by that interaction to brand, we can define brand-data relationships into three tiers:

  • Direct – Data Ownership
  • Indirect – Data Partnership
  • Negotiable – Data Sourcing

The diagram below shows a typical array of digital marketing channels through which a brand may operate, and the breakout of where channels tend to fall within the tiers of data ownership.

In the Direct – Data Ownership tier, data is wholly owned (and frequently managed/housed internally) by the brand. A major challenge frequently faced when handling data within this tier is the difficulty in rapid operationalization of this data once collected. Often the variety of sources of data, and varying methodologies of collection and management make it difficult to connect these data sources in a streamlined manner.  Data within the Direct Data Ownership tier is frequently used for creating audience segmentation, and profiling, but less frequently used in a directly actionable manner to create interconnected and responsive experiences to engagement with the channels serviced by these data sources.

In the Indirect – Data Partnership tier, data is most commonly housed and managed on behalf of the brand by an array of partners. When looking at integration of data across multiple sources, this tier holds the most potential in terms of utilization to create interconnected digital experiences. Often, the easiest path to alignment and interconnected experience can be found through partnering with one company for multiple aspects of engagement in the Indirect Data Partnership tier, but this approach can put the brand at risk of both compromising their flexibility of selection amongst vendors, and also will lessen the likelihood of the brand participating at the leading edge of digital engagement technology development.

The Negotiable – Data Sourcing tier is so named as the key players in these channels typically retain full ownership of data generated within, and will most often utilize this as leverage to monopolize paid brand engagement within their channels. The ‘pay-to-play’ requirement that has become reality for brands in popular social channels has created an environment where more and more brands are looking critically at ROI generated by social channels, and are working to determine full attribution of sales generated to the channel. This in itself is a difficult task, as linking customers driven through a social channel to ultimate brand engagement is difficult without providing players in the channel with direct hooks into your data to identify users cross-platform.

How should We Approach Data Ownership and Accessibility?

When a brand is seeking to build interconnected digital experiences, an audit of the marketing channels in which they operate should be undertaken, and questions posed related to data accessibility within these channels. With digital brand experience being increasingly inter-connected, this is a key challenge. For example, if a retail customer is offered an in-store redemption of loyalty points, how is this interaction transferred from the Point-of-Sale, over to the Mobile App that the customer is using, or to their web profile, to reflect the change in point status. These changes must happen with fluidity, and doing so relies upon a clean management of data between systems and strong bridges to enable transfer of information dynamically across these systems.

In the Direct Data – Ownership tier, teams must assess what customer engagement points can be immediately actionable, and how data transfer between these can be facilitated. If a strong connection can be made, between engagement platforms, this can be often used to create strong and dynamic user experiences.

Accessibility and connectivity of data is a critical factor in the Indirect Data – Partnershiptier, and can be a major influencing factor in determining vendor suitability or partnerships. Working with companies in this tier, their own capabilities when it comes to handling data should be of paramount importance. Their ability to share data generated in their channel to other channels to enable immediate action to be taken should be considered a key need by any forward thinking digital corporate brand.

Some sample questions that can be posted to vendors in the Indirect Data Partnership tier that help to determine their capabilities to support creation of interconnected activities include:

  • How can I link a user identification within this channel’s data to my internally managed user IDs/profiles?
  • What mechanisms exist for dynamic communication of triggers to and from your channel?
  • What pathways exist for your channel to respond to triggers provided by others, either by brand or additional marketing channel vendors?
  • In what ways can you facilitate provision of user managed data to the core business? How frequently can this be done?

Often it is also beneficial to seek out complimentary service providers within this tier; those who either have forged partnerships with one another, or one-stop shops that provide a variety of services.

In the Negotiable Data – Sourcing tier, vendors often have proprietary mechanisms to integrate their own service offering (Ex: Utilizing Facebook login to third party sites).  This approach is suitable for some brands with a weaker native vendor profile.  However, for those who have a strong data profile, and many user engagement touch points, engagements with Negotiable Data tier vendors should be viewed with a note of caution, as often these vendors have a great deal of visibility through their proprietary data sources into your customers, and any engagement will be fully expected to remain on ‘their terms’, mostly homogenizing digital brand engagement to the extent of presenting advertisements.  That said, a number of vendors have begun to use extensive data sourcing and strong user profiling mechanisms to provide strongly targeted advertising, this area of engagement usually represents more of a participatory play for brands rather than representing a true leadership position when it comes to digital experience

Utilizing a Programmatic Content Landscape to Fuel Interconnected Experience.

Once a brand has internally aligned resources and partnered with vendors to establish a strongly interconnected data architecture, they must look at their range of assets available to provide a variety of contextually relevant content assets that can be utilized in response to user engagement touch-points.

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