Offline Data Is Critical to Winning the Hearts of Digital-First Customers

October 28, 2016

With all the focus on digital marketing, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the majority of consumer spending still takes place offline. Sure, foot traffic is dwindling. Stores are closing. Ecommerce and, increasingly, mcommerce is on the rise. But you can’t ignore the fact that over 90% of retail revenues still take place in the physical world.

And you certainly shouldn’t overlook the incremental value that offline first-party data offers a brand.

Offline data may include an individual customer’s purchase history, product preferences, demographic info, loyalty status, lifetime value, birthday and anniversaries. It can even include records of inquiries or complaints to a call center. Think about the vast amounts of customer data stored offline in CRM, point-of-sale, call center and loyalty program systems.

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If brands aren’t connecting these rich stores of offline data to their digital data, they can’t possibly gain a holistic understanding of the customer. This is essential for customer-centric marketing – for creating the type of relevant, meaningful and connected experiences that lead to conversions and long-term loyalty.

This is still a challenge for most marketers.

Signal’s research shows that only 6% of marketers worldwide report having a single view of the customer across online and offline channels. What’s the problem? Certainly legacy technologies and siloed marketing systems are an issue. But perhaps the biggest challenge is the lack of a comprehensive first-party data and identity strategy.

Integrating all that rich information into persistent customer profiles, and tying data sets back to real people, will enable brands to continuously recognize their customers wherever they are, as they switch between devices, and digital and physical environments.  Moreover, connecting offline and online data helps marketers provide contextually relevant experiences, shaping interactions with the customer based on needs and wants, and where they are in their journeys.

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When a brand matches its offline data with its customers’ digital identities, critical parts of the buyer journey become connected, leading to better marketing strategies, robust targeting, cross-channel addressability, and more accurate insights and consistent measurement.

Connecting digital and CRM data isn’t new, of course; it’s been around for several years.  But it’s been done on a campaign-by-campaign basis, using old-time batch processing, which isn’t enough anymore.

Leading brands are now managing this data in a more strategic and comprehensive way.  They’re using real-time methods to connect cross-channel data sets in an always-on and persistent fashion. This is the key to building strong, long-term relationships with customers.  Consumers, after all, evaluate brand experiences on a continuum and expect interactions to address their current needs rather than what they were looking for days or weeks ago.

Here are three ways that connecting online and offline data on a continuous basis can open the door to true, customer-centric marketing:

1. Create addressable advertising.

Tying together a brand’s offline and online data allows marketers to identify real customers and target them with the right content in the right context at the right time across addressable devices. By knowing who their customers are and where their interests lie, marketers can better manage media spend. That means leveraging opportunities to cross-sell or upsell rather than showing digital ads for products that a customer has already purchased or isn’t interested in – to reduce wasted media spend.

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The time has come when the same sophisticated marketing that’s been used in direct mail and email to take advantage of first-party data can finally be leveraged with the power of digital. And smart marketers are taking advantage of it today.

2. Measure the impact of marketing more accurately.

By connecting all of a brand’s offline and online data, marketers can see how a customer moved from an email to a website to a mobile app before completing the purchase in store. Think about your digital attribution without offline data: If you’re missing 90% of your conversions, how accurate can it really be?

Connecting offline data allows marketers to more accurately measure the effectiveness of campaigns across touchpoints, analyze attribution and gain measurable results more quickly than digital alone. With a complete view into the buyer journey, marketers can optimize campaigns toward what works, inform smarter budget allocations and understand how online engagement affects in-store sales.

3. Personalize customer experiences at scale.

Integrating online and offline data opens up opportunities to tailor more genuine brand interactions. Knowing that someone has researched a product before visiting the store, for example, brands can make sure the right item is in stock, have it ready and waiting, even offer incentives to buy. Knowing that a passenger’s flight has been delayed, an airline can mitigate the annoyance by making a timely offer for free WIFI to the customer waiting at the gate.

Marketers can use offline knowledge, like in-store purchase history, to customize website content and ensure messaging is contextually germane. Ultimately, marketers can use these insights to predict future behavior and enhance customer relationships though experiences that are welcome and helpful.

Without question, the digital footprints consumers leave are massive. But only by connecting this online knowledge with stored and historical data can marketers respond appropriately to every step of their customer journeys.

In the past, the task of merging offline and online data has been cumbersome and time-consuming, to say the least. But new technology now makes it possible to link CRM, point-of-sale and even call center data to digital identifiers continuously, in real time, in a matter of minutes.

To win the hearts and wallets of today’s consumers with the type of immediate 1:1 experiences they’ve come to expect, brands must integrate their first-party offline and online data to resolve identity in a privacy-safe way for people-based targeting, measurement and personalization.

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Jon Padilla

Jon is a data-driven marketer who's passionate about using technology to deliver innovative media strategies and create meaningful digital measurement. He the former Director of Product Strategy at Signal.