There's Power in Consumer Data. Is Your Brand in Control?

Opinion: Otherwise you might be missing out on audience engagement

Customer data is rapidly becoming the dominant currency of the modern marketplace. Recent IAB research credits first-party data as the driver for “all significant functions of the enterprise, including product development, customer value analysis and pricing.” It’s impossible to achieve the critical goals the market now demands—empathy, fluid conversation across touch points, personalization—without nimble, proficient command of customer data.

However, many digital marketers have unwittingly relinquished ownership of data to third-party providers. Lack of access to first-party data has weakened their ability to use data strategically to drive business outcomes. The power struggle over data needs to be resolved. Now.

Whose data is it anyway?

In today’s digital world, data is the source of performance advantage. Specifically, first-party data, which is defined as the information that a brand or company collects about its customers through increasingly digital interactions.

First-party, or customer and marketing, data is available to companies at no cost and is widely considered to be the most relevant and accurate information that can be gathered because it comes directly from the source. Access to this data offers unprecedented insight into customers’ behaviors, motivations and actions, enabling new levels of personalization, optimization and, ultimately, trust.

Access to customer and marketing data allows marketers to achieve new levels of meaningful personalization, driving engagement, increased purchases and loyalty.

But, if you don’t have access to it, you can’t use it. If you don’t control it, you can’t develop it over time or build a sound strategy upon it. And that’s the situation many marketers find themselves in today. It happened by accident. As the ad technology landscape expanded, marketers turned to providers to help them navigate the complex ecosystem and, in the process, lost control and ownership of their data.

And now, increasing consumer expectations of a personalized, seamless cross-channel experience demand a marketing strategy that’s even more tightly targeted to customer needs. But the technology and data silos that have proliferated don’t allow audience insights to be shared across channels, limiting the ability to build a single view of customers.

We find ourselves in a situation today where many marketers are attempting to coordinate functional marketing programs in a landscape of siloed, incomplete and overwhelming data. It’s an unwieldy and time-consuming challenge.

Data as a growth driver

With all that said, the rewards of data ownership and transparency are there for the taking. The accuracy and relevancy of customer and marketing data allow you to predict future patterns, such as behavior, with confidence and to plan accordingly.

Additionally, analyzing your first-party data provides valuable audience insights, which informs your media and creative strategy, and also helps you identify similar customers to grow your business.

And moreover, access to customer and marketing data allows marketers to achieve new levels of meaningful personalization, driving engagement, increased purchases and loyalty.

In fact, according to Accenture Interactive’s 2018 Personalization Pulse report, consumers are more likely to shop with a brand that treats them in a personalized manner. The survey shows that 91 percent of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that recognize, remember and provide them with relevant offers and recommendations.

And, rather than being wary of surrendering their data, consumers want increased levels of personalization. The report finds that consumers are willing to share their data and rarely feel that companies are too personal. Nearly three-quarters of consumers (73 percent) say that no retailer or service provider has ever communicated with them in a way that felt too personalized.

Failure to leverage data to create great experiences comes with a warning. Nearly half (48 percent) of respondents said they have left a business’s website and made a purchase elsewhere because the experience was poorly curated.

Take command

In order to take back control, marketers are beginning to bring management of their programmatic media in-house. By empowering marketers to own their own technology stack, they have greater transparency and full access to their first-party data, and the flexibility and responsiveness to allow real-time campaign optimization.

Data ownership is too integral to business success to be ignored. Insist on owning your customer data. Consider owning your own technology. When you partner, do so intelligently. The landscape is not going to get less complex, with new regulatory requirements like the GDPR coming into force, nor are your customers going to become more forgiving of outdated digital business practices.

Now is the time to take command.

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This story first appeared in the May 14, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.