The role of the data management platform

In this blog we’ll take a look at the issues of targeted customer engagements; exploring the barriers inherent in today’s data-driven marketing, and how to smash through them. It all begins with effective data management. It ends with a 360-degree view of the customer and the ability to deliver truly targeted campaigns… in real time.

Let’s start with some stats. According to a great looking infographic produced by Amazon’s Alexa business, 67% of the marketers use data to make decisions to increase the accuracy of their campaigns. 59% do so to ‘respond faster’, and 57% use data to ‘get better results’.

We’re an industry with a fondness for surveys, and today’s data marketing conversations are heavy with statistics. While they provide useful insight, the numbers got us thinking:

“Why, when we know the value of data to our campaigns, aren’t these percentage figures up in the high 90s? Why isn’t everyone doing data-driven marketing, and doing it well?”

Big data, big problems

The answer’s simple enough. The reason our industry is not effectively leveraging data is because it’s an incredibly difficult thing to do.

The numbers tell us, and have been telling us for a while, that converting terabytes of raw customer data into usable insights is a complex task. And it’s not just a volume problem.

Many of today’s data-marketing environments are too fragmented, with information locked up in hard to reach silos that create a host of integration and accessibility issues. But for all its complexity, getting data right is a matter of competitive advantage to brands, agencies and advertisers.

Knowing your customer is the Holy Grail for every brand and marketer. It’s what turns audiences into individuals, speculative mail-out to targeted campaigns, and interest into action. And this begins and ends with the data. 

So, the question for marketers is how do we make sense of all the customer data coming in from the paid, earned and owned channels we use every day? How do we sift through all the customer information we generate on how people interact with their multiple devices and deliver the kind of personalized experiences that drive action?

Ultimately, how do we use our data to realize a single view of the customer – because once we have this, we can really get to work.

Achieving targeted insights

The starting point is, as with most things, understanding. We need to know what data we have, and where it’s coming from. For example, what kind of behavioural, geographic and psychographic insights are we collecting from our physical stores, web visitors, mobile apps users and call center enquiries? And where is it all being stored?

It’s worth noting here much of your customer data may not, in fact, be found in the organization at all. It’s increasingly stored in the databases of multiple cloud service providers or in vendor-owned systems. All of which adds to the challenge of access and understanding.

This data fragmentation is also a major problem for advertisers and publishers – for whom access and use of accurate, real-time data from multiple sources is what defines their success.

So, it’s easy to see why we have the low numbers above, and why, according to a recent survey from Mapp, just 26% of brands take even the most basic of steps to personalize emails. Because 1) bringing all data together in the first place is no little challenge and 2) once it’s in one place (if that’s possible at all), volumes are so huge that leveraging this data in real-world campaigns is an all but impossible task.

This isn’t a new problem, of course. Since the Big Data revolution of the early 2000s, organizations have been struggling to ‘operationalize’ vast quantities of data from Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems and similar - to strip out cost, improve efficiency, increase customer engagement and so on. The good news is that much of the work has been done and many have succeeded. This learning is now being applied in the marketing and advertising sphere.

Data Management Platforms

The growing adoption of Data Management Platforms (DMP) in marketing departments is one such result. According to Forrester Research a DMP is “a unified technology platform that intakes disparate first-, second-, and third-party data sets, provides normalization and segmentation on that data, and allows a user to push the resulting segmentation into live interactive channel environments.”

In short, it’s what the industry has been waiting for – a way to bring online advertising and customer marketing data together to drive immediate insight and action. Data Management Platforms allow marketers to collect data on an individual level from multiple sources, and then drive personalized communications across email, mobile, social, and web. This offers a host of campaignable options.

How a Data Management Platform works

How a Data Management Platform works

For example, Blue Mango Interactive, the Dutch digital agency, is using the Data Management Platform to support a new prospecting and customer acquistion strategy for advertising clients. By making sense of customer data, and by integrating it across digital and offline touch points, the agency has developed a look-alike model able to generate, and vastly improve targetting to, specific audience groups. Engagement is up, and cost per acquisition is down.

It sounds sophisticated, and it is. There are a lot of moving parts to an effective DMP. But sophisticated doesn’t have to mean complicated. And, to my mind at least, this complexity of managing and leveraging real-time data has been holding marketing organizations and advertisers/publishers back from being able to achieve a true 360-degree view of the customer.

The stats support the theory. According to Marketers Worldwide, seven out of ten marketers have gaps in the capabilities and effectiveness of their technology when it comes to creating a single view of the customer[1].

Breaking down silos

Just as in the enterprise world of a decade ago, data is siloed in applications that don’t talk to one another. Which means they can’t provide a big-picture view across the full customer relationship. So too, many digital marketing ‘solutions’ only live in the channel and have little or no direct access to data. And, because it’s hard to do, many clients fail to retain, or do not have access to, marketing and advertising data – which makes them reliant on third party cloud partners, email providers, messaging systems and so on.

But break these siloes down, bring data together and it becomes possible not only to build that 360-degree view, but to analyze the data and deliver mass campaigns that target the very specific criteria of individuals. And with this, a more informed and action oriented engagement becomes possible.

Look-alike Modelling with Mapp DMP

See how Blue Mango Interactive, one of Europe’s leading digital agencies, leveraged the pattern-matching capabilities in the Mapp Data Management Platform to enhance audience targeting and reduce cost per acquisition by 35%.

How to effectively engage new audiences and ultimately increase revenue with a DMP?
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[1] Signal, “Preparing for Cross-Channel Success: Solving the Identity Puzzle,” March 24, 2015