Data Collection Of The Future: Going Beyond The Tag
As the FCC's new Net neutrality rules reshape the digital ecosystem, columnist Josh Manion explains what it means for the future of marketing.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission last month released its long-awaited rules for Net neutrality, which reclassify broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service — in effect, a public utility — with new rules governing its use.
Despite the much-debated content of the rules, the government policy now reflects the true nature of the Internet as a worldwide medium for communication, commerce and culture, increasingly offered as a utility service in cloud infrastructures.
Super-abundant, instantly-available computing power and network capacity have forged a new paradigm, reshaping virtually every part of human interaction, upending classical economic models, and redistributing opportunity and wealth.
We indeed live in extraordinary times.
So, what does this new paradigm mean to the future of marketing when it comes to collecting, analyzing and acting on data to optimize the customer experience?
Marketers know they need to engage consumers across an array of digital platforms, channels and devices, as well as traditional offline touchpoints like stores or call centers. But many marketing organizations still behave as if they’re constrained by a set of technology limitations that no longer exist as they attempt to optimize the omni-channel journey.
Limited network bandwidth, inadequate storage and imperfect data collection were once significant obstacles in digital marketing and the data management required to support it. That has changed with vast improvements in computing power and network bandwidth supported now in cloud infrastructures and coupled with sharply declining costs.
The Future Of Data Collection
As the Internet has matured into a worldwide network — a true single system of connected computing — many limitations that made the task at hand difficult have fallen away, becoming a thing of the past. Here’s what this means to marketing organizations:
• Faster Data Transfer and Collection – Marketing teams once had to assign priority to data for collection. Now limitations in uploading and transferring data are greatly reduced, regardless of volume and where it is sourced. That’s the result of exponential improvements in Internet network bandwidth.
• Improved User Experience – The burden that traditional tagging and data collection imposed on websites often made page loading cumbersome and slow.
With optimized tagging and improved computing speed, the user experience can be significantly enhanced. That’s vitally important because we know that visitors expect instant loading on websites and mobile devices. If frustrated, they abandon without hesitation.
Recent technology innovation now enables marketers to optimize the user experience on the Web and in mobile apps in real time, bypassing the hardcoding once needed with software development kits (SDKs).
• Virtually Unlimited Storage – Marketers were once constrained by the size of data repositories managed by their IT groups. With storage basically adhering to Moore’s law, there’s virtually no limit to the amount available for marketing data at low, to almost no, cost.
• Significant advances in data mining and machine learning – Historically, it was virtually impossible to answer all but the most basic questions out of very large data sets. But with major advances in both “big data” storage systems and the ability to dynamically query unstructured data, marketers no longer need to be afraid of creating vary large, unstructured data sets.
In the real world of day-to-day marketing, however, technologies don’t always keep step. In that context, let’s look at Web analytics as an example.
As every marketer knows, Web visitors produce large volumes of data as they visit websites. Web analytics tools, as a result, were developed to process aggregate-level data for trend analysis. Because of the volume, however, user-level data was either archived or thrown away due to limitations in data collection, size of repositories and analytical tools.
But with today’s enhanced technologies, the marketing team can now collect all the data available and store it easily at very low costs. And they can do all this without impacting the user experience adversely with slow load times. No limitations. Period.
A New World Of Marketing
These new capabilities enable CMOs and their marketing teams to extract significantly more value from data. Because it’s now possible to collect, analyze and act on much larger data sets, including user-level data, marketers can adopt an experimental mindset in testing and optimizing everything from mobile campaigns to online advertising.
It’s no longer necessary to develop a predetermined set of questions, then collect only the data that seems most relevant to the anticipated answers. Rather, we can now query all the data, quickly getting answers that can be tested, leading to new sets of queries.
Even more, remember that user-level data is fundamental to the 1:1 marketing conversations enabling marketing to support customer preferences and needs.
Technology advances enable marketing organizations to optimize the user experience across the entire digital landscape, including the world of mobile apps, one of the next big opportunities for marketing organizations.
Marketers today use both Web-based, Internet-enabled apps optimized for mobile, as well as native apps custom-built for the mobile OS.
Native apps, however, are significantly more impactful, being both intuitive and personalized. Nonetheless, these native apps have been more difficult to develop and test because they are hard-coded, requiring app developers to modify and marketers to re-submit to app stores.
All that’s changed with the new no-SDK innovations that enable marketers to tag, test and optimize native apps in real time.
It’s now possible to customize mobile apps rapidly, based on insights from A/B and multivariate testing, as well as other analytics. This approach allows mobile marketers to easily introduce new concepts that lead to increased customer, engagement, conversion and loyalty.
What does this all add up to? Think back on some of the major shifts that technology has brought to human life — from horse-drawn carriages to power-driven vehicles, from early calculators to computers. As Nicholas Carr said in his book, “The Big Switch – Rewriting the World, from Edison to Google”:
Today, we’re in the midst of another epochal transformation … What happened to the generation of power a century ago is now happening to the process of information … Computing is turning into a utility, and once again the economic equations that determine the way we work and live are being rewritten.
Clearly, no part of our lives is left untouched. And marketing, one of the professions most profoundly transformed by our new digital ecosystem, will never be the same.