Data is helping advertisers and brands know their audience and gain insights into customer behaviour. But for companies to use data successfully they need to understand the consumer on an individual level in addition to knowing what they search for online.
Mark Lindsay, sales director at Experian, says: “Take, for example, a student who has a passion and an interest in high-performance cars and who is online looking at websites with expensive cars.
“Does that mean that we can understand from that behaviour that they’re in the market for expensive cars, expensive goods, and services? And should we target them in that way? Probably not, because they don’t have the means to buy those products. So understanding who they are is as valuable as understanding what they’re doing online.”
To help get a broader picture, Mr Lindsay explains that companies should be looking at data from a wider perspective. For example, on purchase history, he says: “Maybe a customer has spent with an organisation over a long period of time, then that's a rich sea of data that we can understand to maybe predict future behaviour and, if you like, their lifetime value to that brand.”
What is important, he points out, is to segment customer behaviour. Experian does this through its cross-channel classification system Mosaic, by examining the demographics, lifestyles, preferences and behaviours of the UK adult population.
“It classifies individuals and households in the UK and puts them into groups and types of similar people so that we can better understand the likely behaviour and the likely propensities of people that sit inside that segment,” he says.
“The activation of those segments in the digital environment really makes sure that that insight is actionable.”
According to Mr Lindsay, it is also more cost-effective as marketers no longer have to pay double for data and use audience inventory from another source as well as their own. Mosaic allows companies to combine their own customer insight with the platform to create customised consumer segments in real time.
But Mr Lindsay points out that not all customers are appreciative of the science and marketers need to be aware that consumers also need to feel comfortable about receiving personalised targeted information.
“All those elements need to work together,” he says. “Consumers and individuals have to trust it, have to see the value, have to get the right message at the right time.
“But at the same time, the economics of it needs to work. Advertisers need to see effective marketing. And of course, all of that within a solid regulatory environment, so everything is safe and secure.”