Back to Blog

It’s not who you know, it’s what you know about them

  • Graham Tricker
  • 3 min read

“Wisdom comes from knowing how much you don’t know”.

That’s the sort of sentiment that crops up on motivational posters, usually accompanied by an image of space, but it’s also crucially important to the way companies should think about their data.

In my previous post I talked about how marketers can start building direct relationships with customers, and begin collecting data about them to inform future communications. But even as you nurture those customers through their journey to purchase, and use their data to inform further acquisition campaigns, it’s vital to remember how little of the picture that first-party data gives you.

This is where premium data partnerships come back into play, to augment your new first-party data. Companies such as YouGov and Kantar can supply you with audience personas that can identify shopper attitudes and preferences, and family composition. Demographic data specialists including Experian and CACI can provide overlays such as age and income profile. Partners with cross-market buyer data, such as IRi and Mastercard, aggregate buyer signals to provide category- and brand-level audiences. All this makes your data more granular and allows you to segment it better. In turn, that allows you to be more precise in how you target your communications and activate your campaigns.

Eyes on the prize?

At the same time, you need to make sure the customers you’re acquiring are the right ones. Are they the people who’ll keep buying your product, rather than just the ones who want the cuddly toy, or who’ll revert back to their old own-brand choice once your offer has finished? To find that out, you need data from retailers. This can show you the shopping history of the people responding to your campaigns, so you can work out whether it’s worth pursuing an on-going relationship with them.

Retail partnerships – for example with Tesco/Dunnhumby or Boots Media Group – also allow you to understand how well your campaigns are performing against your different segments. You can start to test different approaches, see what works, and refine your approach.

Understanding integration

Another source of data to consider is what else you hold about your customers elsewhere in your organisation. Integrating this with the first-party data you’re collecting can be hugely valuable, but means understanding what that data is keyed to; most commonly it’s email addresses, but it can also be names and addresses, or phone numbers.

If you also hold third-party cookie-based data, you only have a narrow window of opportunity to connect that with the rest of your customer information. Once third-party cookies have gone, the data associated will be unusable, so the time to future-proof what you’ve collected is now.

The other thing brands should be thinking about right now is collecting first-party data much earlier. Typically this process starts at the point of purchase, but that misses opportunities in the acquisition and research phases. This is why the first thing every ecommerce website you visit now does is ask you to sign up for their newsletter. It means they can start to join up the customer journey much earlier and bring in visits to their website. And by having everything linked to an identifier based on a real person, brands can map how interactions with their advertising links into a customer’s overall journey to purchase as well.

All of this lays the groundwork for the sort of mass personalisation already being developed by companies like Boots, and which we’ll look at in detail in a forthcoming post. The one caveat is that you shouldn’t let your new-found understanding of how little you know drive you to collect data for the sake of it. Wisdom in data strategy lies in identifying exactly what it is, among all the stuff you don’t know, that you need to find out.