Spring '13 Brand

February 3-6, 2013 | Amelia Island, Florida

3 steps to filtering big data

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Marketers swimming in a deluge of data need to separate valuable insights from useless information. Here's how to identify exactly what you need to best inform your campaigns.

One of the biggest challenges merchants face is understanding who their customers are so they can interact with them in a way that will drive higher conversions and stronger loyalty. Years of marketing studies coupled with technology innovation and social media adoption means the industry has amassed so many data points on consumers that marketers are swimming in them. Just because you have the data, however, doesn't mean they are all applicable to your business. Knowing what information you need (and what you don't) to meet your KPIs is a vital but daunting part of any marketer's job.

I've simplified this process into three steps:

  • Assess the scope of your customer data
  • Outline your KPIs and business goals
  • Map the data to the KPIs and goals so you understand what will be the most actionable data for your business

Many marketers do not have a grasp on all the different types of data on customers they can access, and this is a missed opportunity. There are a variety of sources for this information. Below I've identified the four main graphs of customer data that marketers can use to gather intelligence:

The social graph represents the influences people have on each other. Companies can most commonly gather this information from social media sites including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

The knowledge graph includes tools that consumers use to gather information that helps them make decisions, such as general web search engines, product review sites, and news articles. For example, Google's Knowledge Graph is designed to augment search results with data from other sources to improve relevance.

The interest graph focuses on the things, products, or topics a consumer cares about, which can be used to personalize advertising, discount offers, and other deals. It reveals what products appeal to consumers or merely pique their curiosity based on the messages they broadcast publicly (brands they follow on Twitter, images they pin on Pinterest, etc.).

The payment graph aggregates information related to purchasing history. This includes data on the payment method (cash, credit/debit card, check, wire transfer); the customer's financial institutions (bank, credit card company, PayPal); tools they use (Google Wallet/NFC, Visa's V.me digital wallet); and where the transaction took place (offline store, online retailer).

All of this information can quickly turn into data overload. To make use of the insight in a way that is most effective and scalable for your business, you need to determine how each graph maps back to your marketing objectives and then prioritize the graphs accordingly.

This leads us to steps two and three. Below I've listed the three most common objectives for marketers and then outlined the priority graphs that can help meet those KPIs:

Goal: increase conversions (turn browsers into buyers, attract new customers, increase ticket size)
Priority graphs: payment and interest

  • First and foremost, a solid understanding of the payments graph is crucial to increasing conversions because it provides details about the consumer's purchasing behaviors and potential for future purchases. If you want to become a habitual part of your customer's life, you need to understand what they typically buy and when.
  • The interest graph can also be very insightful. Let's say a customer has been pinning wedding dresses and flower arrangements on Pinterest. Chances are she is getting married. This information can help retailers tailor offers and communications to help her along the way.

Goal: driving website traffic (increasing page views, time on site, unique visit, referrals)
Priority graphs: interest and social

  • Whether you're a publisher whose revenue model is through advertising and you need more unique and repeat visitors, or you're a retailer that needs to drive traffic to increase conversions, the interest graph is a great place to start because you can see what content people are looking for and what is going on in their lives that they may want guidance on.
  • The social graph is also very valuable to drive traffic because people trust their friends first and foremost for recommendations. If you can identify who your key "influencers" are, then you can target your communications to them, perhaps even giving them velvet rope treatment to forge a deeper connection.

Goal: attracting advertisers (user profiles, SEO)
Priority graphs: social and knowledge

  • Websites that depend on ad revenue need rich data about their visitors to attract advertisers. The social graph information is very helpful to create comprehensive circulation profiles, which can include demographic information, an overview of "likes," and insight into their networks of influence. These are all factors that advertisers need.
  • Advertisers also need to know that your site has good SEO and SEM. The knowledge graph provides key data on what topics, keywords, and sources consumers are using as they gather information so you can improve your SEO rankings.

It should be said that this is just a framework. Every marketer has a very unique set of factors and goals, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to using customer insights to inform your marketing campaigns. But mapping business objectives to the types of data available allows a marketer to set priorities for gathering intelligence and customer insights and to figure out how best to use them.

Are there other marketer goals and customer data sources that are missing? Eager to hear from you; post your comments below!

To learn more, check out this infographic.

Amy Masters is the VP of marketing at Payfone.

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