Leveraging web data remains a challenge
by James Lawson.
18 Jun 2012: The web means many different things to UK consumer data owners. Some see it simply as an effective channel for data collection while others offer a wider range of indicators in their files that help marketers make the link between individual behaviour in on- and offline channels. At the leading edge, it’s possible to apply multichannel consumer databases in real time to inform triggered email, product propositions on ecommerce sites or online ad serving.
Painting a picture
The influence of the web and newer online channels like social media is huge – and still growing. More shoppers than ever are going online before heading out to the shops. According to Forrester Research, web research influenced 48% of 2011 in-store sales. But applying the torrent of information that customers and prospects generate online to multichannel targeting is a major challenge. For example, research by Transactis found that individuals using Twitter in any way, be it tweeting themselves or forwarding or responding to tweets, were more likely to buy, bought more frequently and spent more money overall.
Yet the difficulty of individual identification makes bringing social media data into an SCV almost impossible at a granular level. In fact, even the most basic multichannel work is still a huge challenge for most companies. “We still find very few clients will integrate email with a postal acquisition campaign,” says Mike Green, Director of Insight at Transactis. “SMS and email do tend to be used together more in retention campaigns.”
The finer points of integrating social media data into an SCV are academic for most: disparate systems and archaic internal organisation are two more fundamental barriers to better integration of web and email communications with offline channels. “Data is still in silos,” says Green. “Purchases made through the web are often split off from catalogue purchases. These have to be brought together but most large companies’ structures prevent this.”Consumer data owners can help.
With a pre-built picture of consumer behaviour across the on and offline environments, they can supply detailed individual-level attributes to aid targeting in either sphere. But for many marketers, the most important task is simply getting hold of email addresses, either to tag to existing customer records or to use as cold prospect lists. Consumer data owners can help here too.
“Email prospecting is a difficult discipline, but can be very powerful when used effectively in conjunction with offline campaigns,” says Lindsay Lovell, Product Manager at Abacus. “We can append email addresses to our clients’ customer file to expand their email programmes, for example sending advanced notification or follow ups to maximise the impact of a catalogue being sent.”
Most UK consumer databases offer multichannel contact details, so helping clients find emails or mobile numbers for existing customers or to reverse append name and address where they only have an email. With contact details in hand, they can then append other targeting information to their file for campaign planning.
“Even in this age of multichannel campaigns, we still find traditional name and address data is being used as the constant when merging records together,” says Mark Hagger, Business Development Director, Marketing Services at Equifax. “Businesses will often find that gaps in key datasets become apparent when a holistic view is built. Third-party datasets can then be utilised to optimise and enrich the existing data to improve the ROI of marketing campaigns.”
Files like CACI’s Ocean and Acxiom’s InfoBase Lifestyle Universe (ILU) are leading examples here, bringing together a host of information on individual consumers, from the paper they read to whether they are a member of Facebook, along with email address, landline and mobile numbers, and name and address. Within the ILU, Acxiom has 23m addresses available for email appending, though permissioning limits the number that can be sold for cold prospecting. Built on top of the ILU, Acxiom’s Personicx suite of segmentations has considerable application in painting a multichannel picture of both customers and prospects. Personicx Onliners is a 24-cluster, individual-level consumer segmentation that enables the targeting of customers and prospects based on their (real and modelled) online behaviour.
These segmentations offer key behaviours for targeting, including whether segment members are likely to watch TV and films online, if they are Twitter or LinkedIn users, or if they are likely to visit price comparison sites. The 24 clusters also come together into high-level groups that indicate the simple propensity to go online, with names like “Online Addicts”, “Online Socialisers”, “Rarely Online” and “Switched Off”.
Using its contributed data pool, Abacus is also able to see if a mail order customer buys online and can use this to influence mailing selections. These multibuyers are typically more responsive than customers that purchase through one channel only.
“This information is included in our data modelling process to improve responsiveness of names and addresses,” says Lovell. “Our Abacus 360 solutions can determine if the combination of online and offline data will uplift performance for one or all channels.”
Acxiom’s Intelligent Leads service helps validate and enhance the data its clients collect. It employs the ILU to qualify and fraud-test each lead, then tags the relevant Personicx code to each one. The company can also offer a complete outsourced b2c lead generation service as used by clients like Uswitch.
“Removing invalid leads reduces the cost of acquisition for Uswitch,” says Stuart Goldsmith, Product Manager at Acxiom. “The Personicx codes help inform offers to each segment and they can suppress those least likely to switch.”
Online data and applications are also a critical part of CallCredit’s new Define database launched last month. This merges The Trading Floor’s own data with new owner CallCredit’s own Core data pool, including all CallCredit’s Cameo consumer segmentations, risk data and models. Claimed to “contain more individuals with more contact touchpoints” than any other UK file, the new database sports some impressive numbers.
“We’ve loaded over 164 million records in the last 12 months from data that we’ve sourced from 80 contributing partners across 10 verticals,” says Chris McDonald, Managing Director for Data Solutions at Callcredit Marketing Solutions. “We believe it is the strongest data set on the market.”
An attitudinal survey gathered online adds an interesting extra twist. Instead of written questions and answers, the AIM (Attitudinal, Inspirational, Motivational) survey offers alternative images to respondents to classify them into one of 900 types. McDonald says they have gathered just under 1m surveys so far.
Over 60% of the data is verified by a minimum of three sources, and 84% has at least one contact detail gathered less than six months ago, with all landline numbers screened every 30 days. Automation plays a big part in the update and refresh process.
For example, there are real-time email feedback loops to instantly replace hard bounces where an alternative email is present, feeds of online purchase data, and CallCredit will also load results from client email campaigns onto the database to aid future email list selection.
“That will help fine tune our database information,” says McDonald. “We can run tight selections on our email file as we know a great deal about them. It’s real data from real people doing real things.”
As well as multichannel contacts, the file includes what McDonald calls “holistic addressing”. Individual records can include Facebook details, Twitter accounts, indicators of email response and even device preferences: do they use an iPad, a smartphone or a PC – or all three? That means that, besides list selection and tagging, one of the database’s key applications will be as an operational reference file to underpin the company’s custom online targeting services, and CallCredit has made a significant investment in “agile systems” to support this. As well as handling the automated refreshes mentioned above, the company’s high-speed database platform and decision engine is able to work in real time with web content management tools to handle ad serving or offer management.
“Everything’s moving online but clients don’t always capture enough information to help make offers,” says McDonald. “We can help recognise them in real time and recommend the best personalisation of that session. There’s no-one out there in the agency world that has that ability.”
The combination of Acxiom’s ILU and Personicx segmentations also has great potential in identifying and classifying website visitors. However, any ambitions to track customers online using persistent cookies and classify them by the sites they visit are severely tempered by public sentiment and pending privacy legislation.
“Recognition will be key so that they can turn these browsers into real people,” says Goldsmith. “But it will have to be targeting at segment rather than individual level. It will have to be accurate, but without identifying people individually.”
Every consumer marketer has to make the most of the data that his customers supply, day in and day out, and online behaviour and purchase information is no different. But when that data is insufficient, incomplete or simply missing, that’s when external data providers can step in. Whether it’s a list of cold email addresses or informing sub-second decisions, working with the right consumer databases can sharpen any marketer’s competitive edge.
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