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4 keys to unlocking your treasure trove of data

4 keys to unlocking your treasure trove of data Sean Cheyney

The definition of data has evolved -- from a collection of bits and bytes to actual assets with value. Along with this redefinition has come the realization that even though data is an asset, its true value is in what you do with it -- and this has fueled a shift in ownership.

Once sold by itself for profit, brands are now beginning to understand the wealth of insight available right at their fingertips, and are instead making the move to leverage this data in-house to help support enterprise initiatives and boost supply sales within their environment.

Despite this realization, many are still unaware of how exactly to go about extracting value from their deluge of data. And without this knowledge, brands are missing critical opportunities to develop and execute successful media programs that strengthen relationships with shoppers and, in turn, drive sales by turning powerful insights into actions.

But before brands and retailers begin sifting through their data, here are four keys to keep top of mind to ensure maximum value.

Key one: Map the shopper journey

Throughout the path to purchase, a user leaves behind a trail of data with every click of a link or social media interaction. This occurs across a variety of touchpoints -- including online, mobile, and in-store -- and reaching consumers at each of these points is critical to improving the prospect of purchase.

With visibility into all of this omnichannel data, brands and retailers are in a position to both measure and market their customers' unique journeys and take advantage of consumers who believe that purchase, delivery, and returns should be available across multiple channels. According to research from IDC, 98 percent of consumers want this, but it is "an expectation that can only be met with true, data-driven omnichannel retail initiatives."

As you can imagine, tracking and analyzing a shopper's journey is no small task. This is why we have seen the emergence of data-focused positions such as chief data officers and data scientists in an effort to help retailers and brands better manage this process. By bringing experts on board, brands and retailers are able to make sense of their wealth of data -- instead of letting it grow to become an intimidating and unusable mess -- by cleaning it, organizing it, and turning its insights into strategic assets. For data-driven strategies to be truly impactful, it is critical to remember that data is more than just a buzzword -- and it's useless unless it has been collected, analyzed, and organized by capable people.

Key two: Enhance the user experience

Once a brand or retailer has mapped its customers' journeys, it is able to analyze what its shoppers love and what factors have the potential to turn them into loyal customers. This data can then be used to influence content across web properties to improve user experience across touchpoints. CEOs recognize the value in this and are increasingly encouraging their CMOs to improve customer experience. In fact, according to Gartner, 25 percent say it is the most increased expectation -- which may be because "the importance of a consistently positive customer experience across all channels and company touchpoints has only recently grown in visibility as a top-level strategic priority," the report said. 

In addition, brands and retailers are also able to further fine-tune user experience by tying their data insights into already existing customer relationship management (CRM) tools, content management systems (CMS) and web-testing platforms, along with personalization engines.

Key three: Refine audience targeting capabilities

Today, brands and retailers have access to every tool necessary to garner a more holistic view of customers by tracking both traditional, segment-based data as well as behavioral data. By pairing them -- that is, garnering insight on age, gender, geography, and income along with details on purchase history and profile preferences, shoppers can be identified, segmented, and targeted in the most efficient and effective way.

Publisher data is extremely powerful because it is the result of a direct relationship between a brand or retailer and a consumer -- making its insights, which are unparalleled in the level of quality, perfect for precise targeting (and retargeting) across touchpoints. Despite this being a key priority over the next year, according to iab's report, "Marketing Data Technology: Cutting Through the Complexity," brands and retailers still have a long way to go.

Harvesting its own consumer data is one way to not only help improve online and offline targeting, but a brand or retailer's personalization efforts as well. While most do this reasonably well for email communication, many fall short when it comes to targeting across touchpoints -- including display, mobile, and video -- for upsell and cross-sell opportunities along a consumer's path to purchase.

One way to improve this is for a brand or retailer to partner with a data or media partner, which can help to build look-alike models of data that can then be compiled and analyzed for the purpose of improving prospecting. Of course, companies can also choose to do this alone, without a partner.

To further refine targeting, brands and retailers can also take advantage of the variety of touchpoints at their disposal by pairing their own publisher data with third-party data. This combination of datasets creates a cycle where a multitude of data combinations can be tested to determine which produces the best results. This insight can then be extrapolated for use within multiple areas of customer communications.

It is also critical to remember that brands and retailers can learn a lot from each other. Exchanging insights on consumer behavior, like shopper identities or how brands are being searched on a retailer's site, for example -- can be extremely powerful. Despite the fact that there are immediate benefits to both sides, this is something that has been mostly underutilized to date.

Key four: Develop a self-sufficient ecosystem

In today's ecosystem, brands and retailers have an opportunity to make their data work for them by developing a self-sufficient system that pushes content to consumers based on insights and then captures new data measuring their level of engagement to refuel the cycle. 

To do this, various systems must be tied into an actionable push system -- typically a data management platform (DMP), which can help brands and retailers to organize and make sense of their analytic infrastructures. In addition to this, there also needs to be a delivery mechanism in place that is able to transport, and on occasion normalize, data across media platforms, ad exchanges, and channels. These systems are also capable of measuring the impact of digital ads to ensure programs are being run as effectively as possible.

Brands and retailers have the ability to familiarize themselves with their customers in a way that was heretofore impossible. By keeping these four keys in mind, both brands and retailers can be sure they're maximizing the value of their data to confidently conquer this new data-driven landscape with relevant, personalized insights on every shopper.

With the knowledge that every customer interaction counts, regardless of channel, it will be critical to use each one as an opportunity to make a positive impression in order to create a better shopping experience -- both for consumers and for their advertisers who are looking to make an effective and efficient impact.

Sean Cheyney is vice president of audience extension sales at Triad Retail Media.

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"Opened decorative treasure chest" image via Shutterstock.

Sean Cheyney currently serves as VP, Audience Extension, at Triad Retail Media, where he oversees sales, strategy, training, positioning, implementation and growth of audience extension sales and solutions for Triad’s clients including Sears,...

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