Brands need to share their most valuable resource - customer data
Brands need to share their most valuable resource - customer data
A view from Dan de Sybel

How marketers can share data without losing control

Marketers' reluctance to share the first-hand data and knowledge about customers means they're missing out on huge potential benefits in this programmatic world. Infectious Media's...

What marketers know about their customers is their most valuable resource, one which they’re understandably reluctant to share with external companies

What marketers know about their customers is their most valuable resource, one which they’re understandably reluctant to share with external companies for fear of losing control – be it to violate the customer relationship or have it potentially siphoned off into competitor’s ad campaigns.

However, this reluctance means they’re missing out on the huge benefits their data can bring if they share it externally, such as with programmatic providers. Particularly as the IAB showed 45% of online ads are now bought programmatically – and predicted to hit 70-80% by 2018.

So what are the benefits of sharing?

The information you have about your customers can be used to find other similar people out in the wild. Think of programmatic technology as a food mixer – you input the ingredients (your customer data), turn it on and suddenly there’s a new solution. In this case, it’s the ability to find and engage with swathes of new similar targets in a more accurate fashion and using messaging most likely to engage them.

More importantly, you can start to connect up the different channels you advertise on, understand the user journey across many different touchpoints, and start to predict when and what people are likely to buy from you. It all starts and ends with data, but to make it work effectively, it needs to be shared.

There are three simple steps marketers can take to share their data intelligently to reap these benefits without losing control.  

Don’t be afraid

Just the word "data" can instil panic and fear but making use of your data need not be complex or frightening.

Cookie data, for example, rather than being a dirty word is simply data recorded from an advertiser’s website, it’s not a profile about individual customers. Your technical team should know basic data processing techniques so you can’t ‘translate’ cookies into personally identifiable information (PII).

Also, marketers should know they have the power to quickly switch off cookie data to any supplier they suspect of wrongdoing. Furthermore, due to cookie deletion, the data itself often becomes obsolete after a couple of weeks.

Coupling these small technical solutions with robust privacy and cookie policies allows you to harvest your data without fear of recrimination.

Be aware of tools that help

There are also technologies for making data sharing and use simple. Data Management Platforms (DMPs) – such as Oracle BlueKai and Adobe Audience Manager – allow marketers to share customer purchase data in a controlled but effective way.

Crucially, DMPs can function as a kind of one-stop shop gatekeeper into which any other partner – be it a Demand Side Platform (DSP), re-targeting vendor or other programmatic partner – can be plugged in. Thus, you only have to do one integration – with the DMP, which then takes care of all the others – rather than having to undertake lengthy integration work with each partner individually.

In other words, you simply put your data into one DMP and it delivers the relevant part of that data to the appropriate partner in a seamless and automated fashion.

Be vigilant – no heads in the sand

The worst thing marketers can do is ignore the data issue and expect their agency to handle it all for them. Agencies are paid to manage your advertising spend, not your data security. Thus, to minimise the chance of your data leaking you need to make sure you scrutinise all contracts – demanding clauses are included that cite you as the owner of the data and prevent its use with other advertisers.

It is also worth attempting to limit the number of active partners you work with at any one time, as the opportunity for data leakage increases with every new partner you sign up.

The biggest cause of data leakage is when you stop working with a particular partner but don’t remove any of the technology processes you had in place to harvest data, such as their pixels on your website. I’ve seen advertiser sites littered with pixels from, literally, hundreds of DSPs, networks and re-targeters. The consequent legacy is you’re continuing to leak your data in one form or another to almost every one of them.

Think of terminating a contract with a partner as moving house – clean up properly. You wouldn’t leave your valuables, bank cards and log-in details behind for the next incumbents, would you?