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Interactive Insight: What To Do When Behavioral Data Gets Weird

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 22/03/2016 Advertising Week

Preparing your marketing organization to power consumer experiences with data in the age of augmented reality

By Reese McGillie, Director of Insight Services, Merkle

Close your eyes for a minute. Envision the future along with me.

A time-traveling Delorean screeches to a stop on a tree-lined suburban street. Our hero turns to the insane scientist in the driver’s seat and asks him a question about measuring user behavior on their latest campaign microsite.

The insane scientist flips down his shades and deadpans:

“Clicks? Where we’re going, we don’t need clicks.”

Ok, fine. You caught me. That’s essentially the closing scene from Back to the Future, but Doc still makes a good point before he takes off in his flying car.

How will marketers prepare for an age when digital consumer experiences break free of the traditional screen paradigms of landing pages, shopping carts, and conversion forms? How will you measure a cross-channel journey that includes a fitness device, a thermostat, a self-driving car, and Snapchat?

When the technology landscape eventually becomes a mashup of personalization meets Internet of Things (IoT) with a dash of augmented reality, the ongoing development of consumer intelligence, analytics, and data capture methodologies must adapt to these changes. Unfortunately, most marketers can’t keep up with the current pace of technology, let alone competently ingest, orchestrate, and scale a meaningful consumer journey that moves beyond web and mobile.

However, there is good news. Preparing your enterprise marketing team to power consumer experiences with all of these new sources of behavioral data relies on some foundational concepts and policies that should be put in place now—no matter what platforms you’re using.

1. Privacy issues: Don’t take new consumer behavioral data for granted.

If marketing organizations are taking things seriously, they will make the time to establish their own information security policies. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has provided a plethora of content to guide companies in handling consumer data responsibly. But in addition to policy, companies must examine the lifecycle of the information that they are storing and analyzing.

For example, first-party data in the age of IoT and augmented reality devices may capture personally identifiable information that must be obfuscated before that data is shared with other systems or integrated with other data types.

Overarching governance of IoT data is lacking and remains a source of debate among industry experts. The internet has the IEEE and W3C for governance – but companies who work with IoT data must establish their own processes and policies. Data scientists and analysts who spend their time exploring these datasets understand that they cannot only rely on aggregated views – a finer grain is required to reveal rich insights. Without a well-vetted process to ensure that private information is secure and anonymized, those who are shaping, cleansing, or analyzing these datasets could inadvertently gain access to private information about individual consumers.

It’s not all restrictive, though – the silver lining to prioritizing information security is that marketers can leverage it as a key differentiator for the brands working in this space.

2. Find your actionable data stories.

The path to conversion has taken a turn. Marketers often rely on website vanity metrics, such as clicks and page views, which do not always provide meaningful insight into consumer affinity. Integrating IoT data with site data will be essential in telling the whole story of a customer’s journey.  

IoT and AR devices completely break the paradigm of first-party data capture, offering a whole new crop of metrics and dimensions. But how do we define engagement when every intentional and unintentional interaction that a user has with a device is captured?

Actionable data stories will begin to emerge from methodologies like cohort analysis focused on IoT or AR device usage patterns and shared user attributes. For example, a combination of user behavioral attributes could point to a higher probability of increased purchases, or, conversely, identify users who are at risk for churn.

But don’t wait until the future: all of these insight initiatives can provide value immediately with your current data sets.

3. Focus on meaningful outcomes first. Shiny objects second.

Smart devices record so much information and from millions of users – geolocation, sleep patterns, entertainment preferences, heart rate – all being passively captured and stored. For marketers, the promise of the future for IoT devices is increasingly sophisticated consumer intelligence. But a good marketing objective will always focus on the same thing now or in the future— meaningful outcomes.

As the convenience of smart technology causes the customer journey to morph from stratified funnel steps into a blurred series of micro-moments, it will become more difficult to control and predict outcomes. But having a clear vision of your business model and what success looks like will help to filter through the noise of all this information.

And, hey, if your future-state customer journey includes a flying car, all the better.

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