Email and direct mail continue to be effective strategies for businesses to connect with existing and new customers. But, as technology improves, businesses are changing the way they go about obtaining and using information for mailing purposes. These changes in strategy should allow forward-thinking businesses to reap greater rewards from the trend known as Big Data.
Traditionally, marketers mailed announcements or special offers to consumers who appeared on a list of names they rented from an outside vendor for one-time use. With the rise of digital communications, more marketers began to build their own lists of names. This practice has encouraged more vendors to establish data licensing, an arrangement which allows a marketer to use a list for up to one year. At the same time, vendors and marketers are using a wider array of sources to compile lists. At the recent Business Mailers' Co-op and Interactive Marketing Conference, attendees learned that the 4 major sources of data now include:
- Search – increasingly used to locate business prospects with employees who seek to purchase specific items
- Social – information from these sources can show individual likes and dislikes and can be matched with existing records in list databases
- Web crawling – a key way to find heavy web users
- Crowd sourcing – a key way to find heavy web users
But the drawback for many marketers has been merging information about potential customers from these many sources. Currently, marketers know quite a lot about existing customers because of what’s been stored in CRM systems. But with respect to data that comes from search or social, the details can be quite vague. As Bruce Biegel, senior managing director at marketing consultancy Winterberry Group acknowledges, the challenge for many marketers is determining what kind of email offers to send to consumers on lists where little is known of their buying habits. These consumers shouldn’t receive the same kind of email offers that are directed to loyal and regular shoppers.
The solution to this problem is to compile the list from multiple sources in meaningful ways. As marketers learn more about each individual, they will get much better at crafting personalized offers. This expert management of Big Data should yield improvements in profitability as well.[Source: Hosford, Christopher. The data challenge. BtoBonline.com. 23 Jul. 2012. Web. 31 Jul. 2012]