According to a study released by Research Intelligencer, the most important word in marketing right now is “transparency.” Transparency pertains to many facets of marketing, including optics into the media supply chain, how data is collected, and where ads are being shown.
Transparency has also been at the root of many pivotal events in the industry over the past year. We’ve seen sweeping regulations such as the GDPR, walled-garden platforms putting greater constraints on how their user data can be accessed, and mounting concern around viewability and transparency.
At the same time, marketers are hearing about the greater importance of first-party data. In simple terms, first-party data is the data you have collected about your audience. This includes obvious things, such as their activity on your website, and some perhaps-not-so-obvious things, such as analytics and insights derived from their phone conversations with your business.
For first-party data to be used confidently, it must be completely transparent, accessible, and verifiable. Marketers can’t have any reservations about its accuracy, where it comes from, and whether is it corrupted by outside biases or irrelevancy. That means no black boxes.
First-party data sources can yield extremely valuable contextual insights that can be structured and integrated into your data management platform (DMP). Think of first-party data sources like a focus group on tap. You can then use that data to build audiences for more effective search and programmatic advertising, and deliver more personalized, relevant experiences in the moments that matter to win customers.
Furthermore, your first-party data sources, such as in-store purchases and phone conversations with consumers, transcend the boundaries of online/offline constructs. This can give you true insights into the voice of your customer as well as what actions your online media is causing your audience to take offline.
But only if you have complete and historical access to all your data in its entirety.
Structured First-Party Data
There are two pieces of good news here. First is that it is now easier to measure and structure first-party data sources and use them as an input when planning your buying activities. The second is that when you effectively harness first-party data sources as a strategic input, digital media and content work significantly harder.
When our clients leverage the context of phone conversations as the basis of their lookalike targeting and digital retargeting efforts, they often report significant increases in conversion rates. Achieving such results requires a few essential factors to be in play first.
1. Eliminate black boxes on your first-party data sources: To leverage your first-party data as an input, you need to be able to do lookbacks and research to affect future decisions. For conversations, you need access to complete and accurate phone call transcriptions. You may not read every transcript, but you’ll need the ability to leverage them to assess trends in other marketing.
For example, one large home services client specializing in tree removal uses conversations to help it understand customer issues. When the company sees inbound call volumes increase in specific geographies, it quickly runs analytics on the calls’ transcripts to assess whether consumers are calling about a tree disease or infestations. The company then rolls out targeted ad messaging for the diagnosed problems, across digital channels in those areas, pairing the right bid strategies with geofencing campaigns. This cross-channel correlation activity has yielded the company 30% more clicks from its paid search and digital channels on a flat investment year-over-year. This would not be possible without full transparency into its transcripts and first-party data.
2. Leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to scale insights on first-party data sets: You would never ask your marketing team to examine your server log files directly to draw insights about what customer behaviors are taking place. It’s unstructured, and there’s simply too much noise to be effective.
Marketers configure analytics with custom KPIs to quickly assess what behaviors matter to them. This mindset should apply to all first-party data sources. If you are treating phone conversations as a data source, you need to ensure there is an AI mechanism that captures the aspects of calls that matter to your business and marketing so you can be effective in how you respond. Or if your marketing team uses website interactions or offline conference attendee data as a source for fueling retargeting, AI can help you determine the aspects of those visitors and attendees that matter to your business, and leverage an algorithm to segment them.
3. Ensure first-party data sets aren’t orphans: If phone conversations or attendee lists are just datasets unto themselves, it’s difficult to act on them. Assess what first-party data sets are available to your business and determine whether they are integrated into your activation stack. For example, your data around offline activity like call analytics could and should be integrated into your customer experience platforms. That way you can view the insights in places where they’re immediately actionable. And your search engine console data should be integrated into your SEO platform. This is the gateway to turning output measurement into strategic input.
Navigating New Marketing Realities
We can expect transparency to continue to be an important factor in new media landscapes. We can also expect that as our respective customer journeys become even more omnichannel, first-party data sources will serve as a single source of truth among walled gardens and ad platforms—and that data can’t be in a black box. It must be transparent and accessible. You would never buy a house with the expectation that you would be allowed to use only one room, so why pay for first-party data and only get access to a fraction of it?
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