Data is the bedrock of today’s businesses. As a mobile data platform for marketers, we deal with/in data on a daily basis, but also internally ––like many/most other companies –– we try to ensure both our broader strategy and day-to-day decisions are aided by empirical evidence. We recently conducted a rather analytical value priority exercise across our global teams to ensure company-wide alignment on focus areas and three clear winners emerged as top priorities across all markets:
Result-orientation took pole position in all our surveys, and the reason is evident: the only data that matters is that which performs.
Marketers look to data to increase budgetary efficiencies, improve brand uplift and ––most importantly–– grow sales. Performance on any of these indicators is closely correlated with data quality. In our experience, the single most important factor when evaluating quality is provenance: where the data comes from and how it was collected.
There is a popular adage about the news that “rumor is halfway around the world even before the truth has its boots on”. Data is faced with a similar problem. Over the past few years, there has been a rapid proliferation of data sources of ambiguous origin and dubious quality, especially in the mobile domain. Even ostensibly elementary attributes such as gender and age can be woefully imprecise, more sophisticated audience segments around attributes such as income frequently nothing more than arbitrary guesswork.
A difficult but necessary remedy is to expunge these sophistic datasets and focus on data that is deterministic and, where possible, verified. To that end, the closer one is to the actual source of the data the better –– a crucial factor to consider when selecting a data provider. As institutions become progressively better at taking advantage of their own data, this is particularly important. When procuring external assets to complement internal resources, low-quality external data can easily sully high-quality internal/first-party data and thereby undermine the efficacy of any associated marketing projects.
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In almost all our conversations with clients, they’ve cited various instances of struggles with scale e.g. leading consumer goods companies with profound offline CRMs (i.e. consumer data mapped to home addresses and/or phone numbers) of tens or even hundreds of millions but mobile identifiers (i.e. device IDs, mobile web cookies etc.) for only a fraction, or prominent brands who still eschew the this channel in favour of traditional ones, even though they’re cognizant of their target audiences spending most of their time on mobile, because they’re unable to locate a mobile audience partner who can meet their reach requirements.
One of the greatest strength of mobile marketing is its ability to provide unparalleled reach. But the “spray ‘n’ pray” approach can hardly be endorsed, and limitations in the size of target audience segments can quickly cripple even the most engaging marketing campaigns.
For the longest time, the only available audience options for marketers were on Facebook and Google, and mobile marketing was effectively a euphemism for allocating budget to one/both of these platforms. Fortunately, these challenges have recently begun to abate as others have entered the hitherto duopolistic fray.
From our perch, telecom operators, in particular, hold the most promise as data owners whose assets not only have remarkable quality but simultaneously achieve the scale of the aforementioned heavyweights. There’s also a compelling case to be made for other mobile first and heavy companies, such as OTT platforms, content providers, and digital tools/services, whose data can serve as a valuable complement to those of the telcos and occasionally even match them for scale.
Finally, data aggregation in the form of alliances/collectives is notably effective. These not only mitigate scale issues individual contributors might face but also give rise to astutely comprehensive consumer profiles with demographic and behavioral (interest and intent) signals all available from a single source.
That transparency/measurability ranked so high on the list of priorities is a testament to the feedback from marketers about the constraints they face currently. Whether it is the “walled garden” philosophy of the behemoths or the blended/opaque strategy (media mingled with data; cryptic reporting) of smaller players, marketers are eventually left in the lurch –– measurement, if at all possible, can only be conducted in siloes and many channels often yield either indiscernible or outlandish results. Not least, the lack of transparency in many cases is designed to obscure rampant re-brokering by scores of middlemen who add little value in the best case and, as is unfortunately much more common, employ fraudulent means (read synthetic traffic/impressions/clicks via bots) to achieve campaign goals.
Audience platform are increasingly assuming the product approach of a people-centric data view (interestingly intrinsic in our case since the telecom underpinnings mean every profile represents an actual subscriber), to help purge specious data linked to defunct/fabricated devices/identifiers, as well as the strategic decision to pursue a media-agnostic path, which allows brands/agencies clients complete freedom when it comes to selection of inventory. Simultaneously, many are engaged in projects with the leading measurement companies, ranging from a simple ratification of data to pooled assets being employed for third-party measurement. As data platforms endorse these strategies that contribute to openness and engender transparency, they expedite the much-needed clean-up of the mobile marketing industry that is currently underway.
In conclusion, mobile has advanced in leaps and bounds over the past few years, not just in the sheer number of addressable audiences but also the tools and techniques available to marketers. Unfortunately, certain quality concerns continue to beleaguer the industry, but the application of trustworthy data can mitigate these issues and ignite even more rapid growth.