Achieving People-Based Marketing in an Age of Walled Gardens

October 26, 2015

Recently Signal’s EMEA team held a workshop at London’s Royal Opera House, which delved into marketers’ latest mission: personalising and co-ordinating the experiences of always-on customers at scale.

Brand marketers and publishers joined Econsultancy, leading publisher Time Out, Signal Founder and Chief Revenue Officer Marc Kiven, and myself for an exploration of the marketing industry’s quest for alternatives to “walled gardens.” We discussed how Signal’s platform is helping brands to own the future, and explored the exciting changes and opportunities confronting the digital marketing industry.

The Holy Grail

Presenters and attendees agreed that achieving truly personalised engagement with customers is the Holy Grail of the marketing world. Brands in every industry increasingly understand the importance of delivering people-based marketing across the plethora of devices and platforms used by today’s always-on consumers. This approach enables brands to see their customers as people rather than pixels, so they can recognize customers and understand their needs on any device or any channel, in real time.

Customers today want and expect tailored messaging from brands about their products and services. If someone loves playing golf, they will appreciate golf club deals, not tennis shoe promotions. Poor, irrelevant advertising switches people off and spells big trouble for brands based upon the millions of pounds that they invest in driving brand equity, especially considering research that shows that since the emergence of mobile, our attention spans have declined to about eight seconds.

“Of course, it’s not as simple as ‘waving a people-based marketing wand,’” reflected Kiven. Brands are struggling to break through the walled gardens of the likes of Facebook and Google. These closed platforms make it difficult for brands to independently piece together a full, consistent, real-time picture of their customers. The only way companies have been able to achieve people-based marketing until now is by investing in a solution from an approved partner for these closed ecosystems, which combine brands’ first-party customer information with theirs to create anonymised data sets.

But the challenge doesn’t stop there. Achieving a consistent dialogue with customers to ensure long-lasting relationships isn’t easy, when the custom audience solutions offered by the walled gardens remain fundamentally campaign-oriented, instead of facilitating ongoing engagement. Establishing genuine, real-time dialogue with customers through a blend of first- and third-party data is still a slippery concept for marketers.

Shifting their focus from third-party to first-party data, second-party data, and actually “all data” could actually be the start of a new, and fruitful, journey for brands. Signal’s recent report conducted with Econsultancy reported that marketers actually found their first-party data delivered the highest return on investment, with more speed and accuracy than other data sets. Quite simply, first-party data provides the richest, highest quality insights into consumer behaviour, and as such marketers are becoming more reliant on this valuable data source, with 82% saying they plan to use more first-party data in their campaigns.

First-Party Data in Practice

Retail is the poster child for the value first-party data can deliver. For example, by analysing the “shopping missions” of a store’s customers, retail brands are identifying the best day to engage and offer deals to certain audience demographics.

Another point in the discussion centered on letting the customers drive the conversation to ensure the right messages are reaching them at the right time. For instance, while email might be better for some groups, on-site or in-app messages might be better for others. By analysing that core first-party data, the publisher can listen to what readers want to know, and how they want to be engaged with, more clearly. Publishers like Time Out can leverage the greatest value from these first-hand insights, rather than relying on the anonymised data with diluted levels of validation.

Indeed, smaller brands will find that tapping into the insights and control that first-party data offers can lead to a more intimate and personalised customer experience in the long run.

Finally, Kiven concluded there has to be a mentality shift from focusing on cookies and soulless targeting, to delivering real-time, relevant 1:1 engagement with customers at scale. At this stage, it’s all about collaboration, which is what we at Signal bring to the table. Not every brand has as much customer data as Amazon, but if you combine first-party customer data with a trusted partner, marketers have a much better chance of connecting with the right consumer at the right time.

Thanks to everyone who joined us in London, and we look forward to seeing you all again soon!

To learn more about how smart publishers are increasing their value to advertisers, read our whitepaper, Digital Publishing: Increasing Advertiser Value Through Data and Identity.

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Neil Joyce

Neil leads Signal’s global sales and business development efforts. Based in Chicago, Joyce has 15 years of experience spanning the digital marketing ecosystem in Europe and the Asia/Pacific region. Neil has held key management positions at IBM, Acxiom and BrightEdge.

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