Which data assets drive the best ROI—and how can you access them? This is a critical question for data-driven marketers, as available data sources continue to expand – and so does the vendor landscape.
At the RampUp 2016 conference, held in San Francisco yesterday, marketers discussed the challenges of data quality and portability; the conversation was explored in-depth during the “Data as an Asset” panel. Here are the key insights and take-aways you may have missed.
Defining data needs
Alan Gellman, CMO of Esurance, put it in a nutshell during the “Data as An Asset” panel. Noting that as an established, digital-first company, Esurance has immense amounts of first-party data, he added, “It comes down to what data you own, and what do you need to get from others? Then, what is the quality of that data?”
In order to compete, even brands with the deepest data assets, like Esurance, need to make use of other data sources. While this discussion typically focuses on first-, second- or third-party data, Craig Teich, EVP of sales and business development for Connexity, proposed an alternative way of looking at data sources: Connexity categorizes data as declarative, observed or inferred (learn more about these different data types here).
Ideally, Teich said, marketers possess all three kinds of data in their first-party databases; that way they can match declared data against observed behavior. When that’s the case, they can use what they know about their existing customers to find others like them via third-party data.
Bridging the gaps in data
Gellman told the audience that first-party data, hands down, has been most predictive and has driven the most sales. But he admitted that there are gaps in Esurance’s data, massive as it is. Filling those gaps—for Esurance and other marketers who spoke—requires stitching together a tapestry of partners and data sources.
For example, the “Data as an Asset” panel was moderated by Mike Driscoll, CEO of Metamarkets, a real-time analytics platform for digital advertising, and featured David Dowhan, president of TruSignal, a predictive scoring platform that builds custom audiences; and Diego Panama, managing director, strategic partnerships at LiveRamp; as well as Teich of Connexity, which leverages online shopping data and declarative panel-based data to help brands reach their audience. Altogether, this smattering of companies is somewhat representative of the wide variety of data vendors, services and solutions available to marketers. In fact, brands are drowning in choice. Gellman mentioned that he’d ignore all the emails he would receive after the conference, simply because it’s impossible to cut through the noise.
“Most [of the industry] is not adding value and the part that is, I can’t ferret out easily,” Gellman said. He said that his team will evaluate the very few partners that have proven results and customer case studies, adding, the fact “that the landscape is so divided does not serve marketers well.”
So, how do vendors prove that they can help marketers fill those gaps? The key, according to Linda Duncombe, managing director and global head of digital marketing for Citi, speaking on the panel “What Senior Leaders Are Looking For,” is to provide a differentiated offering with crystal clear benefits. When Citi evaluates potential partners, she said, “We look at what is their core competency that complements what we want to do.” She advised potential data partners, “Have something unique that you can help us scale.”
LiveRamp’s Panama noted that the price of getting consumer attention is high. While being able to reach consumers across an ever-increasing number of touch-points requires specialization, the fragmentation in the industry is still a pain point for marketers. What’s resonating with LiveRamp customers, he said, is “the ability to use your most valuable asset—your first-party data— in whatever applications you choose to work with.”
Drive to quality
Gellman noted that data quality, which is influenced by how the data is acquired, collected and managed, varies significantly among vendors.
While any data can be valuable, many speakers at RampUp 2016 emphasized that the definition of “valuable” data varies, depending on what the marketing goal is.
At this point, Gellman said, the cost of data is often higher than the incremental value it can provide. “If we can get five times the value at two times the price, that is awesome. But if it’s the other way around, we are not so interested.” This is why for many brands, seeking data quality and specialization in their partnerships is becoming a growing priority.
The Google & Facebook challenge
Driscoll of Metamarkets noted that Google and Facebook have recognized the tremendous value of their first-party data and are doing everything they can to protect and leverage it. While the data clearly has value to marketers, and Google and Facebook have remained incredibly protective of it, some of the panelists noted that this “walled garden” approach may ultimately inhibit their utility. In the longer term, brands’ inability to combine these data sources with other forms of data will hinder their ability to create full pictures of consumers; meanwhile other vendors who remain flexible can fill those gaps.
Dowhan of TrueSignal said there’s been an unexpected upside to Facebook and Google’s dominance. “Facebook lookalike audiences was the single best thing that accelerated our business,” he said. “Clients could see the value. It was proof.”
However, the walls on those walled gardens continue to climb higher, Teich warned. “That makes it more important to be differentiated and bring something unique to the table.” For example, a retail brand may be more inclined to partner with Connexity, formerly Shopzilla, which has unique shopping data in the retail space and has operated in e-Commerce for over a decade.
People not data
While people-based marketing may have become a buzzword, most panelists agreed it remains a vital concept. Gellman reminded the audience that, while so many conversations revolve around data, targeting, categories and platforms, ultimately “this is about people. It’s about wrapping data around people so we can reach them and provide value to them—so they can add value to us.”