3 insights to craft your consumer strategy

Since the first seller thought about the best ways to get more people to buy from him than from his competitors, marketing has been built upon a foundation of consumer insights. Taking the temperature of consumer behavior has always been the first step of any marketing effort -- offline or digital. The more insight you can glean from your consumers, from needs and wants to likes and dislikes, the more effective and efficient your marketing initiatives will be. It is important to use that intelligence to inform how you'll engage your target audience and to make it accessible across your marketing organization. This results in more coordinated marketing efforts and ensures that real-time data leads to real-time action.

The first marketing pioneers relied on focus groups, surveys, panel participation, and other dialogue opportunities, but such high-touch and high-investment methods were also low-speed and low-accuracy. Brands could get a broad idea of what a small cross-section of their consumers liked or disliked, but extrapolating further with any accuracy or timeliness was impossible. Regardless, these insights yielded brand briefs, press releases, and media buys. Doing it the old fashioned way worked, but it wasn't efficient or scalable.

Today, there is a gap between the acquisition of those insights and the moment they are acted upon. Some functions have streamlined their insights-to-action process faster than others. For example, savvy media buyers use digital signals created by consumers' actions to drive a specific goal, like clicking on an ad and purchasing a product. However, those digital signals are only made available to a select few digital specialists downstream during the media buy and not the greater marketing organization thinking about things like product strategy, brand positioning, and consumer messaging. As a result, market research from traditional methods like panels and surveys is still being used as the primary jumping off point for the brand's major product launches and campaigns.

This leads to both a fragmented media department and a fragmented organization, where different teams work from different data sets -- many of them already out of date -- and then wonder why they aren't seeing the results they want. Across any marketing organization, it should be easy for everyone -- not just those with the word "digital" in their titles -- to access and use real-time consumer insight data to do their jobs.

We need to push for a shift in the approach: from small pools of information driving large scale marketing decisions to just the reverse. We now have access to vast amounts of information, and we also have tools and technologies like social platforms, mobile platforms, and data management platforms (DMPs) that enable us to reverse engineer that data into insights on a smaller scale. And the key to that kind of scalability is combining data with real-time data collection for on-demand insights.

Insights to action from social platforms

There's no doubt that marketers have embraced social listening -- everyone saw Oreo's standout "dunk in the dark" ad during the 2013 Super Bowl blackout. A barrage of Twitter updates came through in real-time during the blackout, and Oreo's team was able to not only immediately pick up the buzz from their vast consumer insight dataset, but immediately create and deliver a simple and clever ad as a response. This is a prime example of the importance of gathering broad data and analyzing it quickly to turn consumer sentiments into marketing gold.

Insights to action from mobile platforms

The same thing is happening in the mobile space. Retailers are beginning to link aggregated mobile usage patterns in and around its stores with offline store sales to deliver insights that inform retail marketing initiatives. For instance, since the explosion in popularity of online shopping, many retailers have struggled with losing sales to "showrooming" -- consumers viewing a product in a physical location and then finding a better deal online or browsing online for products then purchasing them in the store. In both cases, tracking that consumer's behavior as he shifts between channels is challenging. However, retail strategists are developing measurement mechanisms to answer this question through mobile analytics and attribution models.

Insights to action from your data management platform

DMPs are enabling marketers to quickly synthesize the barrage of digital signals from consumers as well. Because the DMP gives a unified view of who's engaging with you across channels (e.g., online, mobile, offline, etc.), it is enabling marketers to answer strategic questions. For example, some auto marketers are discovering in hours and not months that the profile and cross-shopping behavior of consumers engaging with their national and local dealer sites change significantly with their national campaigns. Getting consumer signal in a timely fashion is crucial to modifying in-flight tactics that will lead to marketing ROI.

One of the major issues we hear from marketing departments about is that organizational siloes keep them from having all the information they need to do their jobs effectively. Everyone from brand managers to PR to market research professionals should be able to access consumer insight on demand through a platform just as most savvy digital buyers do today to generate consistency throughout the department. If everyone is singing from the same songbook, the sound is going to be much more beautiful and powerful.

James McNamara is the senior director of platform strategy and operations at eXelate.

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