Growing Business

Is Big Data Improving Your Marketing Effectiveness?

New data tools and strategies can help create a bigger marketing impact—here’s how.

by Mark A. Stevens

July 2015

Through large internal data stores and business intelligence tools, companies already have a lot of information about their customers and prospects. But this data represents a small fraction of the consumer data generated daily from web activity, blog posts, and social interactions. The digital universe is expected to more than double every two years, reaching 44 trillion gigabytes of information by 2020, according to IDC. Tapping into this rich flow of new information provides the foundation for more personalized and relevant customer conversations and improved marketing effectiveness.


Here are some examples of how big data is improving marketing today.

1) Enhanced Look-Alike Modeling
This is an advertising technique designed to match a company’s best customers with prospects that “look” the same or have identical attributes. With an enriched customer profile that includes preferences, sentiment, activities, interests, and purchase intent, marketers can become increasingly effective in building campaigns that lead to consumer action.

Let’s say you are a wireless carrier, and you learn that customers with international data plans are your most profitable and loyal customers. With enhanced look-alike modeling, you can find prospects that match the online behaviors of these specific individuals—people who, for example, regularly price international flights and explore travel sites. Moreover, the messages that you as a wireless carrier deliver can reflect different offers and cityscape images based on each prospect’s preferred travel routes.

Armed with an enriched customer profile and access to a similarly broad set of data attributes for prospects, the possibilities for message personalization and contextual relevance are endless.

2) Intelligent Retargeting
A prospect visited your website but chose not to buy. How can you maintain a dialog with him and complement the prior interaction? Through intelligent retargeting, you can identify known prospects navigating sites not affiliated with your own, and deliver specific messages to reinforce their prior interactions with you. Intelligent retargeting is accomplished by adding a cookie or similar identifier to your visitor’s web browser, and then delivering targeted messages to the same visitor on another site.

A deeper, individual level of customer understanding provides the foundation for a more personalized and relevant dialog and improved marketing

For example, a prospect visits the site of an electronics retailer and reviews pages relating to the latest Canon EOS Rebel camera. Through the use of intelligent retargeting, the retailer can send this same individual a display ad for the EOS Rebel while he or she is visiting other third-party sites. Moreover, the message can be customized based on additional attributes known about the prospect—perhaps highlighting the camera’s advantages for outdoor photography or taking pictures of the kids. While the prospect may not have purchased on the retail site the first time, a highly relevant follow-up message helps navigate the conversation back.

Companies can also use intelligent retargeting to retain existing customers. Historical customer churn analysis lets companies know which customers are most at risk of taking their business elsewhere. With intelligent retargeting, companies can follow at-risk customers onto other media properties and serve them targeted messages and offers to bring them back into the fold. This method is particularly useful if your customer is not engaging with you directly through company-owned channels.

3) Ad Suppression
Your marketing budget is limited. Why deliver ad messaging to people who are already your customers or are low-probability prospects? By linking customer profile information to outbound marketing campaigns, companies can suppress ad messages to individuals unsuited for an offer. This step eliminates the waste of spending marketing dollars on people who have already become your customer or have little likelihood of taking you up on your offer.

How Do You Get There?

A recent study by McKinsey & Company found that companies with more advanced marketing capabilities achieve revenue growth 30 percent greater than their sector peers. Another study by Bain & Company found that early adopters of big data analytics have gained a significant lead over the rest of the corporate world.

Building new capabilities for big data starts with aligning big data initiatives with your business strategy. There are different data strategies for customer acquisition, customer retention, and cost reduction. Next, establish a data management platform that can integrate the customer data you already have with the broader customer data sets available on the web. Ensure that all of your company’s marketing channels and teams have access. Establish competencies in data analysis, customer profile enrichment, and rapid execution of more finely tuned marketing campaigns. Build a robust content repository to manage the increasing variety of marketing imagery and messaging.

While the capabilities designed to capture and manage the data provide the foundation, it is equally critical to ensure their use is focused on making the conversation more welcome and relevant. For example, an electronics retailer may know a prospect is interested in the latest Canon EOS Rebel camera, but blasting a camera ad on every site that the prospect visits can turn into a creepy stalking experience. Limit the number of individual impressions, adjust the creative based on a prospect’s profile, change the creative frequently, and place ads on sites that are most relevant to the offer at hand.

Thought LeaderStevens-headshot

Mark A. Stevens, Oracle Insight.

Understanding the timing and context of what prospects are doing online is also critical. For example, someone might be identified as an avid international leisure traveler, but approaching her with an offer for a trip to Paris might not be the best idea when she is online paying last month’s bills or exploring the costs of college tuition. This same person, however, might welcome the offer when researching travel destinations.

Big data offers tremendous opportunities for marketers. New tools can capture the insights available, but the key to success will always be to focus on individuals, matching increasing insights with increasingly welcome and relevant conversations.

Photography by Shutterstock