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Developing Your Data Strategy

March 4, 2012
At some point in the lifespan of any company you need to be asking yourself about your data strategy. You need to think about all of the opportunities that data can afford you, from providing a better service, to attracting more customers, and ultimately improving the bottom line of your company. Chances are that if you are not answering these questions one of your competitors probably is giving it some consideration, and while I for one do not put much stock in the ‘competitor x is doing y, so I need to as well’ line of thinking, ignoring your data strategy is doing a disservice to both you and your customers.
Today there are any number of tools and vendors out there that will tell you that they can help you with these kinds of data management and usage problems. One tool that you can add to your arsenal for executing against a data strategy is a Data Management Platform (DMP). “Great…” you are probably thinking, another buzzword and another vendor to worry about. “What is a DMP and how can one help me anyway?”
First, I would suggest that you do not view whomever you choose to work with as a vendor, but rather that you view them (and they view you) as a partner. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I am going to ignore any number of the definitions that you might be able to find out there from vendor or industry sites, and I’m going to tell you what I think it is and what it can do to help you.
I view a DMP as a platform that helps you:
• Determine how your customers or users interact with you through any number of contact points, including a desktop browser, a mobile device, or even other applications you may use in your enterprise.
• Combine this data with data you may have from other platforms such as a CRM or POS or third party data.
• Allow you to view that data in a way that makes sense to you.
• Analyse and report on that data so that you can visualise the relationships between the various ways that your users interact with you.
• Use all of that data information to create a better user experience for that user, whether that be showing them more targeted content, serving them a more relevant ad, or even provide them a better purchasing or call centre experience.
• Use the data any way you see fit – it is your data after all.
You may choose to use any number of those types of features in combination or not use any of them at all, but a DMP should ultimately provide those options so that it can support your organisation as it grows and evolves. Elaborating a bit from the points above, a DMP shouldn’t be a closed system that collects your data and just sucks it into a black box where you don’t get many – if any – choice of exactly how to view it or use it. Instead, a DMP should be an open platform that allows you to combine data from multiple sources, and allows you to use that data any way you want through APIs and integrations. You don’t want to be one of those electricity providers that always had to ask the engineering firm permission to get their own data.
Instead, you want to be that company that is in charge of your own data and strategy. You should be in charge, and you should have options to control the data that is collected, the classification or categorisation and lifespan of that data, and the use of the data. A system that provides defaults for you is great. But a system that has defaults and provides you the option of customising them is even better. One that offers all of that and is easy to use and offers some level of transparency into how the system works is best.
And let’s not forget the ePrivacy Directive in Europe, which makes ownership of all data emanating from a given site the responsibility of that site’s owners. If you do not control your data, but cede even a small amount of control to other companies who pixel your site, the ePrivacy directive is clear – this will become your liability. It is vital to understand all of the tracking on your own site. Work with the partner you choose to set up a system to regularly monitor and audit all the code on your sites.
This is more than just a ‘cookie audit’. Much of the tracking covered by the ePrivacy Directive doesn’t use cookies at all. You need to know the actual scripts that run on your pages. If you haven’t obtained a full tracking audit recently, be sure this is your first step. You’ll be surprised by the results. Once complete, you’ll need to categorise each tracker as essential or non-essential, and then rank them on a scale of relative intrusiveness. Bake this into your data strategy at the onset of your planning.
Once you have a data strategy and start working with a DMP, then you can put that data to work for you, moving from a state of rest to a state of competitive advantage. Build a strategy, pick a DMP partner, and wow all of your customers through providing them great content, meaningful targeted ads that they are more likely to find interesting, or even person-to-person customer support.
This article originally appeared in Figaro Digital.