When I think about the way brands would like consumers to respond when asked ABOUT their brand, Sally Field’s 1984 Oscar acceptance speech for “Places in the Heart” comes to mind. So for those of you asking “who is Sally Field?”….or more likely “hmm? Places in the Heart, never heard of it” let’s skip all that and cut to the end of her iconic acceptance speech….”You LIKE me, you REALLY LIKE me!” Her response to the Hollywood establishment at finally getting some respect and admiration (just guessing). I think a variation of that is what both consumers would like to feel from brands and certainly what brands would like consumers to feel…..”You KNOW me, you REALLY KNOW me”….and not in an invasive way, but rather a delighted way, I want to gush about your brand, products, services, and my experience with anyone that will listen way. Am I right?
But there’s a problem….
Today’s consumer is often bombarded with offers from brands everywhere they turn – be it their mobile device, their email, with display as they traverse across the web, on social media sites, TV, video, and direct mail. Consumers likely feel like they need a personal assistant to make sense of and prioritize all these offers, to find those that fit their needs and desires. Also, each time a consumer engages with an offer across these channels and devices they leave potentially valuable breadcrumbs on who they are and their brand, product, and lifestyle affinities. The key is for brands to drive coordinated offers across these channels and devices, while listening to the consumer when they share valuable information about themselves and their preferences. This allows brands to further enhance their engagement with consumers to communicate to them “You Know Me!”…and in a way that feels permissible and valued, again, never invasive.
So how do brands create this superior level of engagement, essentially evolving from campaign marketing to relationship marketing? Recently Acxiom interviewed 8 marketing executives across Financial Services, Consumer Goods, Media, Insurance, and Automotive as part of a study on identifying the challenges and opportunities when integrating Big Data back to a brand’s core identifier, Little Data, to drive relationship marketing. We also mapped the findings from the client interviews to our 200 plus Maturity Models assessments of top brands in the industry to determine where the leaders are on this journey, as well as the average marketer. The findings were compelling and can be found in our recently published study: (https://www.acxiom.com/resources/promise-big-data-little-data-campaigns-relationships/
The key is the integration of Big Data, the often high volume and high variety of unstructured and semi-structured information brands have on a consumer, most often anonymous, with Little Data the information brands have that is very specific and attributable to an individual, e.g. a brand’s invaluable CRM data. For marketers to connect their data sets and understand key signals from consumers, they must more effectively integrate the signals, preferences and affinities derived from Big Data back to their core identifier on a customer or prospect, their Little Data. Think of both as 2 concentric circles. The value comes when you can widen the overlap between the two.
The response from clients interviewed pointed toward consumer permissioning as the gatekeeper between three key areas to evolve to relationship marketing: Fragmentation, Recognition, and Connectivity while highlighting consumer trust as integral to each.
Let’s explore each of these briefly
Consumer Permissioning came up in every client interview as becoming increasingly important in the age of the empowered consumer, as the key to unlocking Big Data. Again, think of consumer permissions as the gatekeeper between Big Data & Little Data. Would a consumer like Brand X to know something about her that could result in a timely and relevant offer? Does another consumer feel his privacy is not being adequately safeguarded? Like concentric circles Big Data can add heft and invaluable context to Little Data to create a much more meaningful profile of that consumer for a brand.
Feedback from a marketing executive from a worldwide consumer electronics manufacturer:
“We feel like having consumers trust is about as important a thing as you can have. So we’re going pretty hard at being clear with the consumers as to what we are doing and getting their permission to do so.”
Fragmentation surfaced in our interviews as a significant challenge. Encouragingly, many of our clients are leading the market in their ability to solve for it. What we uncovered during our interviews was the importance of tackling fragmentation first, because consumers expect a seamless experience as they traverse across channels and devices. When the data collected across these is siloed then the likeliness for uncoordinated offers spikes, so while you’re collecting more data, it can actually be eroding the customer experience or a prospects perception of your brand.
Many brands have prioritized fragmentation as the first challenge to solve for, and are on their way to managing for it. This is an excerpt from an interview with a marketing executive at a leading financial services institution:
“We now have the ability to analyze huge volumes of high-frequency, unstructured, online data across disparate channels with a high degree of confidence.”
Recognition is the foundation for fortifying brands Little Data with Big Data, as it allows marketers to identify the consumer interacting with their brand. Just as fragmentation of data collected in different silos across the organization is an issue, brands must also consider the issue of recognizing their customers over time and across channels and devices. Without the proper recognition processes and technologies one individual consumer can look like 6 or many more when you consider physical addresses (home/work), email addresses (personal/work), device IDs, names (maiden/married) etc.
From a marketing executive at one of the world’s largest automakers:
“But where it gets interesting is when you start talking about almost real-time offers when a customer is on a website, or if they’re potentially at a dealer lot and they’re checking out vehicles, where you could push notification to their mobile phone of, “Hey, we notice where you’re searching the lot and you’re looking at the XYZ model. There’s a great offer on the XYZ model.”
Connectivity came up as a critical component of relationship marketing in our client interviews, first at the data integration level then at the activation level. Most of our clients agreed that when done effectively and based on ethical and appropriate use this can drive more permission-based marketing ( both explicit and implicit). This is achieved by applying the predominately anonymous, unstructured Big Data, back to your core identifier (Little Data). By doing so, marketers are effectively widening the concentric circles, and fortifying where they overlap to strengthen the profile of a customer beyond the time spent with the brand. Once this integration has been achieved connectivity then centers on distributing those audience segments to all partner necessary to engage consumers with the right offer at the right time in their preferred channel.
I love this quote from a marketing executive at a worldwide consumer electronics manufacturer:
“How valuable is it to connect all the data you have about a consumer? I would say the honest answer is: we don’t even know what the value is. We don’t know how high the ceiling is. We do know that when consumers buy from multiple business units the value to our organization grows in a sort of exponential fashion, versus as a sort of one by one. So, if they’re buying from four businesses, it’s not worth four times, it’s worth twenty times.”
Trust is essential when approaching Permissioning, Fragmentation, Recognition, and Connectivity. It’s all about applying ethical use of data standards to how you collect, manage and connect consumer data sets. Consumers are willing to give information to brands that demonstrate they use the data to drive more meaningful offers, and it increases if they see additional value delivered in exchange for sharing their data, while safeguarding their privacy.
From a marketing executive at a global health & beauty company:
“I think consumers are very well aware that data does get collected and hopefully they know a lot of it is anonymous, but they’re willing to do so if they see that there’s some sort of value that they get back.”
Before embarking on a big effort to move to relationship marketing through more effective integration of Big Data back to your Core Identifier (Little Data) we suggest brands begin by answering key questions on what they’re trying to achieve, to what end, and what are the challenge they will have to tackle along the way. As follows:
- What does success look like?
- How do we address permissioning, fragmentation, recognition and connectivity?
- Do we have an ethical use of data framework?
- Do we have resource gaps preventing us from executing on fortifying Little Data with Big Data?
- Do we have an execution strategy?
The opportunity to create a profile of a consumer that is robust, accurate and recognizes their affinities beyond time spent with your brand is at hand, and the rewards are inarguable. The integration of Big Data with Little Data will drive preference-based permissible offers and services to:
- Expand the relationship with the customer
- Acquire more high-value customers
- Deliver better customer experiences
- Drive brand affinity
Spread the word to consumers: “You KNOW Them, You REALLY KNOW Them!”