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Data race is on

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Brands that are able to control and analyse their customer data will establish themselves as market leaders, says RICHARD MULLINS.

Brands and publishers are scrambling to gather, control and analyse data about their customers and readers. Those that win this data race will be able to establish themselves as market leaders by creating the sort of engaging experiences that attract new customers and ensure that their existing audiences keep coming back for more.

That’s one of the key insights to emerge from Acceleration’s Digital Ignition Symposium for 2014 held at the Le Franschhoek Hotel and Spa near Cape Town. Richard Mullins, director of Acceleration, says that speakers at the Symposium highlighted how access to real-time data is speeding up digital campaigns for the world’s leading digital brands, allowing for deeper personalisation of marketing messages, and ultimately, driving customer acquisition and retention.

Says Mullins: “All too often we get caught up in the technical side of data management, but a number of the presentations at our Symposium highlighted that it’s actually all about using data to interact and engage with consumers. The companies that are starting to master this discipline are well on their way to doing one-to-one marketing at the pace of the digital world.

This year’s Symposium theme was “Know your audience”, with presentations from leading local and international speakers in the digital marketing space including:

¬∑ Mike Stopforth, CEO of South Africa’s social business authority, Cerebra

· Elliot Reuben, Principal Business Consultant, Exact Target

· Devon Tighe, Vice President of Data Strategy and Operations at The WPP Data Alliance

¬∑ Steve Plimsoll, who is responsible for Mindshare’s global technology and data vision

· Jeff Eales, Director of Systems & Development at BSKYB and is TV advertising veteran of nearly 40 years

Their presentations highlighted how the speed of engagement is accelerating as the data race heats up, says Mullins. “Several speakers highlighted how we can rapidly profile hundreds of thousands of people down to their location, interests and the products they are browsing at an unprecedented speed,” he adds. “The challenge is how we use that data to provide better service and engagements to consumers.

Personalisation, targeting and relevance are improving as brands and publishers collect data and become better at using it for nuanced and genuinely personal interactions in their digital channels. And as technologies such as location-based services, facial recognition and loyalty cards are tied to companies’ digital platforms, we can also expect to see this level of engagement in brands’ physical channels, too, says Mullins.

However, Symposium speakers also highlighted some challenges for brands in leveraging big data for better customer engagement. One element is getting the data architecture and strategy right, says Mullins. This starts with an understanding of what you want to do with the data.

You can’t track everything, so it’s important to gather data that is relevant and useful to your customer strategy. Of course, this is complicated by the fact that you don’t know what you might need tomorrow. What’s more, you need to gather and use data in a manner that is mindful of consumers’ and regulators’ privacy concerns,” he says.

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