Using New Data for Marketing that is “Just Right”

You go to and you see baby clothes prominently featured on the homepage. You sign up for the newsletter that promises daily special deals on baby clothes and toys. It is a no-brainer, your first child is on the way.

Macy’s newsletter arrives in your inbox promptly at 5:55 AM every morning, just as you sit down with coffee and fire up your email. On Fridays, it arrives at 6:30 AM. You always sleep in a little on Friday.

On Saturday, you walk into your local furniture for the nursery. On Monday, you notice a crib in the sidebar of your Macy’s email.

Across town, your friend receives an email from Macy’s at 8:25 AM. Well timed, it arrives as she sits down in the office to check personal email before the real work day begins.

With new advances in marketing technology, tailored marketing campaigns like this are around the corner. The experience outlined requires just three data sources; two of them are available today, the last one is being developed.

1. Showing the Right Offer

Information about your online behaviors and interests are widely available today. They are developed based on the pages you visit and the forms you fill out.

For B2B Marketing
For B2B marketers, Bizo provides information on the likely role and level of seniority of a visitor as well as industry and company size. Demandbase provides the specific company and company information. Based on company information, installed hardware/software and purchase plans are available from providers like Harte Hanks.

2. Timing Email Delivery

Numerous studies have looked at the best time to send email. In a far more interesting new offering from Epsilon, marketers will be able to deliver email to each individual at the best time. They are aggregating information about each email address from multiple marketers, so even if you have never emailed the address before, Epsilon will still be able to determine the best time to send the email.

[Epsilon’s press release is here]

For B2B Marketing
Although Epsilon’s offerings are definitely designed today for consumer marketers, since so many people mix personal and professional correspondence in an email account (just take note of the number of non-corporate accounts used to sign up for professional information), I would expect this information to be valuable to B2B marketers today as well.

3. Linking Offline Activity Back to Online

Facial recognition is one of the emerging technologies that will impact marketing. Imagine if the stores and products you browse offline was available to target marketing, just like the online browsing is today?

For B2B Marketing
What if Staples or Office Depot could identify regular in-store visitors that may be business customers? If information is available publicly, even in aggregate, it would be possible to identify and target frequent business travelers of other airlines, attendees of major conferences or even infrequent visitors to competitor’s office buildings.

In Summary

The potential for marketing to be one-to-one and extremely relevant is improving every year. Today’s possibilities are amazing and maybe a little bit scary.

Your Turn

These possibilities raise a moral and ethical question for some: is it right for companies to glean more and more information about you to get you to buy their products? If so, how far is too far?

Share your reaction in the comments below or with me on Twitter (@wittlake).

Photo Credit: Terminal by Photo Extremist

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  • Some of the B2B applications here are a bit of a stretch (facial recognition, questionable; timing email delivery, definitely!), but there’s no doubt that the rapid pace at which technology is advancing is changing marketing as we know it. I think the biggest lesson for B2B marketers is to be flexible, agile, and ready to adopt. Take some risks!

    • Well put, we need to be ready to adopt and at times test when we see opportunities ahead of the curve.

      Facial recognition: I think it is way too early to know what the applications will be and, at the core of that, what information will be possible to get. The idea that someone could take my home (postal) address and use it to target me online was pretty inconcievable when DoubleClick broke away from Abacus because of privacy concerns. Today its possible through what is being called CRM Retargeting. The future will be interesting, right?

      Thank you for the comment, always good to hear from you!

  • The technology that already exists certainly needs to be fine-tuned to meet the demands of the B2B buyer(s), but it will eventually get there. The challenge will probably be in meeting those demands without being too intrusive. The basic ideas are good ones and will certainly be of benefit within the B2B market, in my opinion. I personally hope that technology will be developed that eventually shortens the often long and drawn-out sales cycles that we currently endure.

    • Jenn, thanks for commenting. I think the decision to be intrusive or not rests in marketers hands, but I’m not encouraged they will all make the right decision.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Oz

    How far is too far? In gathering information or using the information?
    Here’s what I’m thinking:

    Do marketers realize that when they require certain information they are inviting corrupt data? When they use squeeze pages or require a birthday, consumers are learning to load bogus information, use disposable email addresses, etc. in order to get around initial barriers between ourselves and something we may or may not be interested in.

    Let’s say there’s cool information that’s interesting me but there’s a squeeze page demanding everything about my whole life. Now I’m suspicious. Will the info be delivered if I cooperate, or will there just be an ad asking for money? I’m not going to risk giving them my real data and then they give me an ad for a $2000 course.

    I used to think of such marketers as having “gone too far” but I don’t any more. Their drip campaigns go into an account I rarely use … with the wrong gender, wrong marital status, etc.

    Ultimately, I don’t think of “too far” as much as I think “what incentive do I have to offer the REAL information?” I don’t do the surveys “for a chance to win a $5000 shopping spree.” There isn’t enough incentive.

    • Oz, great point, and one of my favorite topics to rant against marketers. I wrote a few months ago that marketers are begging for bad data. What you shared here is a perfect example of it, so thanks for sharing!

  • This is highly personalized marketing enabled by intelligent software, chips and hardware. The premise always was that people would appreciate information tailored to their needs and interests at appropriate times. The scenario you lay out exemplifies that. As marketers the idea of it excites. As a society, the reality is that as I observe my less digitally engaged friends, they are incensed that the information they put on Facebook would actually be shared or broadcast – as if they thought the internet was just a series of private rooms where nothing would be shared unless you wanted it to be. So, implement a scenario like this – and maybe those same people would be outraged as well. Then again – if it was valuable and tailored maybe they would appreciate it. It’s sort of Orwell’s 1984 – where ‘big brother’ knows where you are and what you like and what you do. But it does no evil – sort of like Google said. LOL I think as marketers we need to attempt to implement this type of marketing in ways that prove value to our consumers – and allow them to opt out if it becomes annoying. Time will tell if society accepts it or rebels. Thanks for stirring the thought.

    • Oz

      Charles, I like what you’re saying here. Some people are freaked out at all of this precision in marketing and one way to calm them is to make it a point to provide value.

    • Charles, thanks for the great comment!

      One additional layer I would add here: if marketing actually becomes this targeted and relevant, unless the number of marketing emails (or ads, calls, …) dramatically decreases, I still will ignore most of it. What happens when you are flooded by relevance?

      It will be very interesting if we have the chance to find out.

  • Jarod

    Regarding timing email delivery, do you know if companies like Epsilon only provide a set number of email instances per given “best time”? If my best time is at 7am, and Epsilon sells that to 100 different marketers, then this will quickly turn into my worst time.

    • Jarod, I was wondering the same thing myself, unfortunately the release isn’t clear. However, if eveyone starts emailing at the same time, this approach should correct, seeing the drop in performance. This is where blending in first party data (your own email sends) into the algorithm will become critical, I believe, as well as having some additional dimensions about WHAT people respond to at various times.

      Reagrdless, I will take a chance to test data that has the potential to be predictive. Until we test it, we won’t have those answers.

      Thanks for adding a great point here!

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