18/04/11

By Frank Bobo, VP Business Development, Digital Element

With advertising expenditures predicted to reach unprecedented levels of growth during the next few yearsi, there has never been a more crucial time for businesses to closely evaluate their marketing strategies in order to maximise their return on investment. The online advertising market, in particular, is forecast to experience a record growth rate of 48 percent for the next three yearsii, reflecting the steady increase in the number of people turning to the Internet to find information, products and services — whether they are looking to buy on the spot or to make an informed decision when shopping offline.

Relevance Makes First Impressions More Memorable

With more than 60 percent of the UK population accessing the Internet every day, and with almost 2 billion Internet users worldwideiii, marketers are presented with endless opportunities online to engage with a wide base of potential customers. However, with the average user’s time spent visiting websites amounting to seconds, not minutes, there is only a short window of opportunity to establish a direct connection with visitors.

As a result, businesses are continually clamouring for new and better ways to expand reach and become more relevant online, and a number of technologies claim to deliver better audience segmentation and targeting capabilities. But, do they? In reality, online marketing comes down to just one thing: relevance. At that point, a business is only as good as its data.

Accurate Data Drives Bottom-line Results

In today’s increasingly competitive online market, whether you’re a small specialty retailer or a multinational corporate giant, the success or failure of your business is tied to the quality of your data. Obtaining accurate data about your audience has never been more important, as it establishes not only how you market and sell to potential customers, but also how you build loyalty once they’ve made a purchase.

Through IP Intelligence, marketers have a number of different online data parameters at their fingertips, including geographic location (country, city, postcode), connection speed, home/business, company name, industry, domain name, ISP, and language. This information can be combined with various lifestyle, demographic, financial and purchase data to derive additional insight into a wide range of online interactions.

Knowing the Origins of Your Data Is Key
Given the dynamic nature of the Internet, keeping online marketing data up-to-date and relevant can prove difficult, and businesses must carefully consider the origins of such data. Is the information supplied directly by users when they originally register with a site? Or, has the data been obtained from a third-party list, for which marketers often pay handsomely? How much knowledge do you actually have to prove that the data is reliable and accurate?

There are unfortunately a number of online technologies on the market that fall short of their promise to deliver the desired results — simply because their datasets are outdated, unreliable and inaccurate. Accuracy should undoubtedly be the most important feature companies consider when they evaluate any data-driven technology to be used in their marketing plans. Yet, many businesses still struggle to recognise what’s accurate and what’s not.

Do Your Due Diligence When Evaluating Vendors

When it comes to evaluating data for use in online marketing efforts, businesses shouldn’t just take a vendor at its word — especially in terms of the accuracy of the information in question.

Businesses should focus on looking for companies that continually strive to improve their data accuracy and have their datasets independently validated yearly. Technology providers that utilize third-party tests conducted by reputable organisations are good examples. However, you should ensure that tests are conducted on the vendor’s data itself, as opposed to merely focusing on data-collection “methods”. It also helps to ensure that the vendor has a reputable list of reference customers whose service offerings depend specifically (or at least heavily) on providing precise and reliable data.

It has been proven that having the right data and analytics makes marketers more effective online. It improves the online experience for consumers and, consequently, maximises the monetisation of adverts. Geo-targeted ads, for example, commonly achieve a 50 percent higher click-through rate and, as a result, less wasted impressions than regular online advertising. Companies ultimately need to ensure that accuracy and reliability are at the foundation of any data-driven strategy in order to build effective online marketing campaigns and maintain a lucrative business model.