Anders Ekman is President of Data Mentors, a provider of data quality, data management, business intelligence, and Data-as-a-Service (DaaS) solutions. Previously, Anders was Executive Vice President of MRM Worldwide, serving as Eastern Region head and Chief Growth Officer. While at MRM, Anders drove the company’s evolution by bringing data-driven innovation to clients such as the U.S. Army, MasterCard and Kohl’s. Anders has also served as a Senior Vice President at Digitas, building CRM infrastructure and marketing success for the firm’s largest clients, including GM and AT&T Wireless.
UnboundID: One of your offerings to customers is data as a service. Can you explain how this works and where it’s most useful?
AE: DaaS is an emerging part of the marketing ecosystem and it’s ultimately about generating new lead sources. In the world of data, the acquisition and use of data is antiquated. Lists are already old when companies buy them. Building predictive models is another antique method. The new method is to reach people in the moment. We see DaaS as made up of a few components: first, sourcing across the Web. We have 200 relationships for data mining to see who is showing in-market activity in the moment. Second, structure the data and merge it with existing customer data to gain a profile of this new customer. Third is delivery. The data has to get into the marketer’s systems in real time so they can react to it quickly. Fourth is to analyze results.
UnboundID: What types of organizations are using DaaS?
AE: it’s quite variable. One of our customers is a B2C financial services provider. Our systems monitor feeds from the credit bureaus to look for active needs for funds, and then on top of this we layer social signal data to show indication of interest in a particular product. We then onboarded the offline data set—a customer database or a list — with the new prospects to qualify them further. We also work with BtoB companies, such as a truck manufacturer that sells to government agencies.
UnboundID: Personalization is something that marketers continue to discuss. How has the thinking on this changed and what are some of the newer tactics?
AE: We work a lot in retail and increasingly there is talk about the impact of Millennials. Furniture companies are often behind the curve here. One customer in this industry remarked that a shopper came into the store and said he was disappointed that the company didn’t ask more about him when he was on the website, so that when he came into the store they would know something about his interests. The cross-channel shopping experience has changed a lot of tactics. Now it’s not uncommon to see sales reps walking around with tablets to help shoppers find something or to deliver a more personal shopping experience. By asking for just a small bit of data, a retailer can understand so much more about an individual’s needs and help them in the moment. People ask us all the time if the increasing emphasis on privacy is slowing down personalized marketing. But all you need to do is look at how much data people are sharing to realize that there’s an expectation in doing so that a company will give something back of value. Customers want to be treated individually.
UnboundID: What do customers really want in terms of personalization?
AE: With big data, every little action can be a signal and making use of that requires marketers to use that data in context of the relationship. Customers, including myself, used to always expect a tangible offer. Now it’s more subtle. We are going from a direct quid pro quo for sharing data to something that is harder to define and more experiential. It’s about being recognized by the merchant when you walk into the store. It’s about being treated well, and developing a long-term relationship.
UnboundID: How can and should customers be more in charge of their own identity data that is being collected and stored by companies?
AE: This is a gap of knowledge for customers and there are a limited number of preference centers available on websites. Customers will seek them out as they evolve and will be able to take advantage of having more organized ways to provide information and regain control of their own data. That’s going to benefit companies and the customer.
UnboundID: Which marketing technologies do you think will be most important this year and why?
AE: Virtually any tool that can ingest large volumes of data, structure it, and then produce action items quickly will be important. This will require a blend of integration tools and real-time analytics. We’re talking about millions of interactions that must be mapped against actual customers to define what the next offer or experience should be. Companies will need a fast network infrastructure, which might be the cloud, for rapid data transfer. They will also need a way to hook that intelligence into their marketing automation systems to automate those real-time processes. Our company is spending so much on our infrastructure right now to support this kind of work, it’s hard to believe.
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