A People-Based Data Renaissance Is Underway -- And It's About Time!

It was only a few years ago that businesses were suddenly overwhelmed with the opportunities their sophisticated CRM systems unlocked: retail transactions and loyalty programs presented clear, real-time snapshots of their audiences, and it was the dawn of a new day for marketing effectiveness.

Then online data burst into the mix and really took centre stage -- cue the programmatic "boom" and the consequential ad-blocking furor we have seen lately.

Using data to identify people in the online world has fallen short of expectations, however, as usually advertisers are not marketing to real people (what we call “people-based” marketing), but rather to cookies. These do not paint a true picture of a consumer’s digital activities, not least because cookies are not supported on mobile devices, but also because they represent a “best guess” at who a consumer is rather than offering certainty. Despite this fatal flaw, cookies are the metric that a vast number of brands use for targeting and measurement, resulting in a much less individual engagement strategy.

Let’s take an example of how advertisers could use our offline purchase intent signals to make smarter advertising decisions.

Naturally, in the run-up to the summer period, I have picked up various holiday items in some of my favourite shops -- and although I might not have booked a holiday yet, I could be in the market for one very soon. In fact, I wouldn’t mind being targeted with a few deals online to give me some inspiration for when I do decide to book. Despite this, every time I log on, I see the ad for the same pair of shoes I bought two weeks ago. In a perfect world, advertisers wouldn’t rely on my old cookies anymore, but be able to deduce my intentions using my offline intent signals.

Moreover, device proliferation has totally altered the way consumers engage with the world -- when I go online, it’s likely to be on a mobile device rather than on desktop. With an average of 8.3 devices per household in the UK, mobile usage is skyrocketing, and for marketers that presents a significant opportunity to interact meaningfully with consumers.

Specialised companies that manage data through wider partnerships in vertical sectors -- such as retail, automotive and finance -- can help businesses to maximise the scale of their first-party data, or even supply it in the instance that first-party data is minimal or not accessible.

People-based marketing works at its best when a wealth of “real-world” data is integrated into the audience-building process, allowing advertisers to match offline characteristics to online personas. If a car manufacturer is able to access customer data through a partnership with a data provider like the breakdown and insurance service RAC, for example, it can identify all the individuals who own a particular make or model of car, then cross-reference this audience with customers whose car is three or more years old (the typical product life cycle for re-purchase of new vehicles).In this instance, the manufacturer can then target specific audiences that are likely to be in market for a new vehicle, and successfully market to them with products that will suit their needs.

In a world where consumers are fatigued by digital media and are even "switching off" to detox from digital, there is more of an imperative to make sure messages are made relevant and convenient each person behind a device.

The more meaningfully a brand speaks directly to a consumer, the more likely the consumer will be to join the conversation -- and ultimately, this conversation will only be developed through an understanding of each person’s unique online and offline personas.

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