The Challenges of Leveraging Offline Data for Use in Online Targeting

Implementing offline data and customer segmentation to create a more personalised product online


A thorough understanding of your customers is the key to marketing any product. While leveraging online data allows for this in a more general way, with companies using aggregated information to target customer segments, often the best and most specific data available to marketers has been gathered offline - usually hoarded in companies’ CRM systems.

Reconciling the real time behavioural knowledge captured online with the more stable consumer insights available from CRMs has proved a key challenge for marketers. All consumer data is valuable, but it serves no purpose unless it is integrated. CRM is still seen as useful in so much as it can be used to target customers primarily, and inefficiently, through direct mail. Conversely, the real underlying triggers for a potential purchaser are unlikely to be established exclusively through their recent search and online behaviour. For a holistic approach to marketing, harnessing both is vital.

There are a number of obstacles for firms to overcome when looking to introduce their CRM information more thoroughly into their marketing mix for online targeting. First among them is working out whether it is necessary. For larger online companies, such as Amazon, leveraging the data will be of negligible importance. Companies who hold large stores of customer information through loyalty card schemes, however, will have a mass of data unique to their industry waiting to be accessed.

Also vital is establishing which data is the most important. While all consumer data is valuable, it is not all equal. To best target customers, there are certain traits, behaviours and attitudes that are more valuable than others. Discovering what these are and unlocking the insights is key to extracting them efficiently, and using them effectively.

Another obstacle for marketers is accessing all of their CRM data, much of which sits in harder to reach areas and with third parties. Investment in database integration is necessary, if costly. A change in mindset may be required to move marketers away from their reliance on client insights gathered exclusively online, in order to reassign the necessary funds.

Establishing a connection between offline data files and online is also an issue. An account number, for example, can be used as the data match-key, though this will only provide a linkage for a small portion of customers. There are now a number of new technologies available which offer the ability to onboard CRM information and match it with their online data in real time. Determining whether these are cost effective is again vital, with ROI the only way of telling whether the methods have been successful.


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