Behind every big stage show, there’s a talented crew at work just around the curtain. And despite their tireless efforts to orchestrate the show, most often the only ones who are ever acknowledged are the ones in the limelight. Yet without the help of numerous other experts, the production would never have been possible.
The same is true in the digital space—from brilliantly executed ad campaigns to the daily epic feats of Google, it all requires quiet hands (and companies) to make everything come together so seamlessly.
In the digital space, one of those ‘quiet hands’ is data marketing. With companies like Google and AOL leaning on them for vital information, it is no surprise that it’s currently a multi-billion dollar industry—and growing.
Up until about a year ago, few people had ever heard of companies like Acxiom. Nestled in Little Rock, AR, this customer database behemoth quietly pulls in hundreds of billions in revenue. But doing what, exactly?
Acxiom developed a product called the Audience Operating System (AOS), the self-described “world’s most powerful marketing platform”. It functions as “one integrated platform that ties all the disparate sources of media channels and technology together”.
Their claim to fame is their ability to collect great swathes of big data, and then harness it to help reach customers with things they care about.
But as we discussed in one of our previous articles, harnessing big data requires an understanding of small data. One of the most important resources for this? Offline data.
Comprised of non-digital customer interactions like sales transactions, loyalty programs, and call center logs, offline data can serve as a bridge between the digital space and real world experiences–providing valuable information about how well digital marketing efforts actually work, areas of opportunity that haven’t been tapped into, and ways to customize digital advertising that will enhance consumers’ digital experiences while offering greater return on marketing dollars.
Sounds like something worth investing in, right?
Leading digital companies like Google, AOL, Acxiom—as well as social media giants Twitter and Facebook—certainly think so.
Acxiom recently made the decision to buy LiveKamp, an offline database marketing company, for a cool $310 billion dollars.
Google and AOL are hot on their heels, acquiring similar companies who collect and store offline data.
By acquiring these smaller companies, even at an expensive upfront fee, the investment will be well worth it. Projections for growth in this category are exponential. And unlike some efforts in digital, offline-to-online doesn’t appear to be a trend.
While moguls like Google and AOL have made their billions online, new trends towards small, measurable data and metric-driven marketing decisions mean that their future revenue will depend more and more on a holistic approach.
So how does ‘onboarding’ offline data for a holistic picture of customer experience affect business?
First and foremost, offline data provides insights into the efficacy of digital marketing efforts. When we understand and can quantify the extent to which online advertising drives offline conversions, there’s simply much less room for ambiguity. By correlating offline data with online marketing efforts, we can demonstrate metrics, from who called the call center and with what questions to what they bought, how much, and when.
Through those insights, companies can create new digital marketing opportunities, personalize messaging to increase relevancy and improve their return on ad spend. If a company knows that say, a trial period of PPC advertising drove more people foot-traffic than their trial YouTube ads, they’d be far more likely to put more money into the PPC ads moving forward. (This of course, is a simplified example to illustrate the point). On the same token, mining off-line data to understand which customer is going to respond to a specific message or product allows companies to leverage advertising that will have the strongest impact.
In cases where these efforts demonstrate measurable success, “on-boarding” offline data builds a strong case for digital in the eyes of the client—encouraging greater spending on those efforts and some might say, a strengthened relationship between the client and the marketer.
Where did this emerging trend come from?
Like so many initiatives these days, the rise of offline data (and small data) is in large part attributed to social media sites.
Twitter and Facebook partnered with an on-boarding firm called DataLogix to convince advertisers that digital ads do in fact drive in-store transactions. This “proof is in the pudding” approach leverages resources that are already out there, but hadn’t yet been tapped. They then use the integrated data for online ad targeting, measuring the success of campaigns, and optimizing sites for unique customer profiles.
Companies like Datalogix had some predictive power in this process. They knew that as budgets got leaner and advertising got increasingly more competitive, the demand for data would not only increase, but evolve. In the past three years, the number of clients that turn to Datalogix and other companies with offline-to-online data services is said to have increased tenfold.
Integrated Marketing in an Integrated World
We sometimes get so caught up in the digital space that it’s easy to forget—we still live in this dimension. Looking at all aspects of advertising provides the most complete picture of the brand and consumer relationship.
For each brand, that could differ greatly—depending upon demographic, product or service type, price point, and many other factors.
But integrating offline with online data provides insights into that complete picture—providing a clearer, more objective understanding of what’s working, what isn’t, and therefore, where the cash should be spent to see progress moving forward.
To some, it might come across as strikingly ironic that after such a vast, swift movement in the direction of the digital space, we are now returning our perspective to the value of offline resources. It’s bafflingly intriguing—from digitized direct-mail outreach to custom site optimization, we’re learning that analyzing the real world can enrich the digital experience.