"Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is written by Ravi Krishnaswamy, chief technology officer and head of engineering at InMobi.
Mobile penetration is reaching saturation in many markets, while growth in new users is declining. As a result, it's imperative for marketers to make maximizing their average revenue per user (ARPU) for existing customers a top priority.
The first step toward improving ARPU for existing customers would be for brands to know their customers better. To do this, it's critical to take a user-centric approach to managing data.
With consumers using so many devices and engaging with brands across multiple touch points, organizations must move from devices and fragmented identities to a single, unified view of the user from a data-management lens.
Brands must get smarter about how they store user data from different channels and how they build holistic profiles of their users.
Why current approaches fall flat
By 2019, eMarketer predicts that US adults will spend more time with mobile devices than watching television – a significant shift in the media consumption landscape. But, mobile device ownership and app usage is starting to plateau.
So while mobile remains the key device for reaching today’s current and potential consumers, effective mobile marketing now requires moving beyond just acquiring “new users.”
As audience sizes stagnate, marketers’ natural – and smart – impulse is to use data to more effectively target, reach and convert specific audience segments, including existing users. However, these efforts require a central repository of good, reliable data – and for many reasons, this is just not possible.
One reason is that available data doesn’t tell the full picture. For example, it can be easy to conflate mobile device IDs with people, even though an individual or family may use different devices during their purchase journey. Last-click data also fails to account for all of the touch points and steps in someone’s purchase (and repurchase) journey.
Meanwhile, third-party data is sometimes out of date, disjointed, incomplete or just plain inaccurate, often making it maddening to use. And data is stored in disparate systems within the enterprise where it can be difficult to connect the dots.
The answer to help marketers more effectively resolve their data woes lies in how they think about their data. Adopting a user-centric approach will help address lingering concerns and ensure marketers get the maximum value from mobile devices and users.
What does user-centric data management look like?
Right now, most data is related to devices, activities and internal efforts. But a user’s journey is never cut and dry.
For starters, marketers need to adopt a multitouch attribution model and ensure their data captures the entire user journey. Right now, many marketers cannot say with certainty what precisely someone was doing before they took a converting action. Did they view 15 ads last week before they got in touch, or did seeing an ad on TV lead them to convert? A user-centric data model should offer clues, but a device-centric one often cannot.
A user-centric approach to data also means an end to internal data silos. Currently, in a typical business, each business unit and department has their own tools, data storage systems and processes. This creates enormous difficulties, especially as the lines between advertising and marketing blur. A user-centric approach to data management ensures that all internal teams are using and updating the same data in the same systems, so they can work together to understand their users and meet their needs all of the time.
User personalization is also key. Whether it’s acquisition, personalization or monetization, data is fragmented in systems within an organization and not kept in a user-centric view that's always up to date and accessible. It’s not enough to just view data in aggregate, as personalization is increasingly critical to marketing competitiveness.
Everyone in an organization must work toward helping all users in a unified and consistent fashion. First-, second- and third-party data must be combined to retain and grow customers. Those that get ahead and master this will thrive, while others will find themselves losing not only competitive advantage but also market share, given the overall stagnation of user reach macrodynamics.
Going forward, data-related woes are likely to get worse unless businesses reconsider how they think about people and use data to further the customer experience all the time. A user-centric approach to data management will have to be the norm.