Database: Playing Your Cards Right
My family and I went away for several days last week and, upon return, our mailbox was inundated with catalogs, coupons, magazines, etc. This is a scene everyone encounters from time to time. In my family, my wife is the direct mail filter and I am the digital one. So, while I can keep the email inbox relatively clean from anywhere digitally, the paper stack waiting for our return is my wife's domain.
I was struck by both the amount of content before my wife and her complete lack of dismay at the task before her. With the speed of a six-deck shuffler in Vegas, she rifled through each envelope, sorting them into piles by level of interest for additional follow up or review, and the "other" pile. The "other" pile grew until it was later unceremoniously torn in two and deposited in the kitchen waste bin. My wife had viewed, reviewed and matched the appropriate deals to the appropriate person (her) in a matter of minutes, and the next step of analyzing the content continued on a much smaller subset of successful contestants in the game "Is she interested at this moment?"
Everyday this scene unfolds in homes. Marketing professionals work in a world that both supports this activity and, to some degree, promotes its continued use. But, as individuals outside of work, we also feel the effects of these campaigns and understand what it means to be "targeted." It's sometimes necessary to identify our own view of marketing tactics and their reach into our personal lives to better determine what is working, what needs work and what just doesn't make sense at all.
Which brings us to the question that every company is discussing more and more: What is the proper media mix between digital, print, direct and the myriad other marketing channels?
Getting the right message to the right person at the right time is both more complex and yet more possible. Before, marketers just had to worry about who to target. Now, it's not only about who to target, but also about when, how and with what products and offers. With abundant behavioral data and advanced analytical techniques, some marketers are figuring out exactly that.
Some supermarket chains collect transaction history through their discount-offering loyalty cards and, with that data, they offer the right amount of discount for the product in which you may be interested at the moment when you're about to run out of it. The fact that a young mother received a 10 percent discount coupon though her mobile phone for diapers four weeks after the last purchase of the same product is no coincidence anymore—the amount of data and analytical work to pull it through warrants that it's not a coincidence.
Some may think of data privacy when stories like this are told but, in the end, everybody wins with fewer trees cut down for printing wasted coupons.
Know Where to Fold
Even without any transaction history or other behavioral data, advanced targeting is entirely possible. For example, geodemographics—analyzing and categorizing people based upon where they live—is one way to help sort and deliver messages with far higher probabilities of success. By looking at the demographic data of an area, neighborhood or even street, marketers can craft messages to be more appealing. They can use the same data to avoid marketing to a given area altogether, hopefully increasing their chances in other regions of focus.
For example, when you enter personal information after a tour of a timeshare vacation home, what's on the next screen is exactly carved out for you based on where you live. If you entered your name as well, such offers would be customized on a household level. With hundreds of demographic variables tied to areas and households, the marketers behind it have already calculated the probability of purchase—even by price ranges—and offer you the right package before you see a single salesperson. They will also honor your channel preference as "you" have indicated.
The concepts of demographics and location extend into the digital world. The proper balance of digital to print campaigns needs to account for the individual participant's digital usage patterns, prior response rates, online and offline location history and, where available, a proper understanding of the persona and/or identity of the individual at each given place.
In other words, it's not enough to just know where someone is anymore. Marketers must endeavor to apply a sociological understanding of what frame of mind the target individual is in to further increase the likelihood of success.
Information to help marketers determine that is gaining traction. Today, it still isn't easy to combine online and offline data—for privacy issues and technical reasons. But profiles of each consumer exist on each channel, albeit anonymously. Your phone, your laptop or your iPad have shadows of your behavioral patterns carved into them. Creating the appropriate media mix, particularly between email and print, should leverage both the established data you can access, as in the example above, and the online, newer sources of data you can access going forward.
Know When to Play
As the industry has looked at demographics, geography, transactions and behavioral data sets to create the appropriate mix, a new focus has emerged around prioritizing data sets into more time-focused usage. This is a natural offshoot of the exploding mobile market and increasing awareness of "location now" data about each potential customer. So, while sorting on demographics or location alone now seems outdated, so too is the concept of generating a media mix without taking into account where someone is right now. Or, even more illuminating, where they've been and what they've been doing up until right now.
As individuals allow their mobile devices to "check-in" their locations and social media sites to chronicle their lifestreams, the amount of real-time information available to marketers is skyrocketing. To know someone is home when he opens his direct mail is an obvious assumption, but to know someone is home for the first time after being on a family vacation in Florida for the past week is entirely different. Marketers must manage their delivery, follow-up and mixture of digital and print content in light of this emerging data or suffer the indifference of well-trained six-deck direct marketing shufflers everywhere.
Christian J. Ward is senior vice president, head of data strategy, analytics and capabilities at Omaha, Neb.-based InfoGroup, a provider of data and marketing solutions. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.