The concept of the ‘always-on’ consumer has been around for some time. But as each year goes by, the ‘always-on’ consumer just gets more “on”; today’s consumers are constantly interacting with brands across a growing variety of touchpoints, both online and offline, and increasingly expect relevant and personal interactions with a brand. And as they shift from mobile to web to in-store, consumers are sending a continuous stream of digital signals as to what they are looking for. The problem for marketers is just how to recognise all of these customer signals in real time and turn it into intelligent, actionable insights.
Consequently, there is considerable movement within the industry to solve that problem. Just recently, Facebook (as reported in AdNews) signed a deal with three of the biggest global data providers to allow Australian advertisers to merge third-party offline data with Facebook’s online data. In a cross-channel world with heightened consumer expectations, bringing offline behaviour into the online world should indeed refine targeting and ultimately boost conversion.
But partnerships like this don’t help marketers maintain control of their valuable customer data, or help with the challenge of responding to the always-on consumer. In fact, the customer data – and therefore, the customers themselves – are further distanced from the brand due to an over-dependence on technology within walled garden environments. Further, the onboarding of that data can be time consuming and campaign-based, so it’s not addressing real-time intent signals of customers. Increasingly, to avoid the generic, fragmented messages that consumers shy away from, more and more brands are making better use of their own first-party data rather than relying on third-party data, combined or otherwise.
My own company recently commissioned a survey by Econsultancy (you can read the findings here) which found that those brands with the highest-performing data-related marketing investments are the ones that have a complete data strategy and rely on first-party data as the most important element of that strategy. Interestingly, those brands were also more expert in leveraging first-party data beyond the web browser (mobile, email, offline). This gives them powerful competitive advantages, including stronger capabilities in personalisation; audience segmentation; attribution; understanding the customer journey; and targeting.
Most importantly though, the report indicates that first-party data is emerging as the new currency of data-driven marketing success – one that will power deeper consumer engagement. First-party data provides the deepest customer insights, and is critical to building insightful cross-channel identities. Indeed the personalised experiences that today’s consumers increasingly expect from their interactions with a brand rely on first-party data.
The advantages of using first-party data are significant and well documented:
- It’s accurate. It is either information the customer is telling the brand directly, or information a brand has observed from their behaviours.
- It’s unique. It is proprietary information, unlike third-party databases, which are bought and sold on the open market. It is highly valuable, and should be treated as such.
- It has the potential to be immediately available. Once the hard work has been put in to set up systems to collect the data using the right technology, then it is immediately available and able to provide value.
- It’s current. Data decays over time. A brand knows exactly how old its own data is and where it came from which ensures messaging isn’t wasted by using old data.
But while first-party data is gathered from a brand’s website, POS and/or CRM systems, email marketing, mobile apps, mobile web, call centres and beacons, it isn’t enough to just collate and analyse it after the fact. Today’s customers are always on and always addressable, so it is imperative that marketers gain a real-time, 360-degree-view of the customer that shows where they have been, what they want, and where they’re going next.
This becomes even more important when you factor in the additional number of channels that the Internet of Things will usher into the marketing arena. At this point, a tactical data strategy starts to look less like a way to optimise performance and more like a must-have to simply survive.
And for my money, I’d rather be aggregating and organising my own data to gain a single truth of the increasingly complex consumer than having to rely on third parties.