Computers and artificial intelligence have come along at an exponential rate over the past few decades, from being regarded as oversized adding machines to the point where they have played integral roles in some legitimately creative endeavours.
The sheer volume of data generated by online consumers has proven both a bonanza and a curse for marketers: a bonanza in terms of providing a rich source of information for finding and targeting consumers, and a curse in terms of sorting and making use of it.
The need to resolve this dilemma has created a market opportunity for a new breed of data management platform (DMP) providers. But as with all things digital, the speed of their emergence has left some marketers scratching their heads as to what functions a DMP should perform, and how to assess their relative worth.
At their hearts, DMPs are repositories of online consumer behaviour data. They play a key role in building a qualified audience by enabling first and third party behavioural data to be matched against other sources, such as POS and CRM data. For a marketer, this means leads to targeting and reduced wastage.
The qualities of a DMP can be measured any number of ways. Firstly, they need access to data. In addition to taking first party data, this generally means signing deals with major publishers for third party data, and some DMPs also operate their own data networks. Oracle for instance got into the DMP space in 2014 through its acquisition of Bluekai, and offers both a management platform as well as its own third party data service.
DMPs are also expected to be able to match consumers across different channels and devices to paint a singular picture of their behaviour.
Finally, the need for the data from DMPs to be actioned quickly means they must provide audience insights in real-time, and in such a way that they can be acted upon in real time (such as through programmatic buying via a demand-side platform).
Econsultancy’s UK-based research director Linus Gregoriadis said the interest in DMPs flows directly from increased interest in personalisation.
“Marketers want to take a more joined-up approach to cross channel marketing and advertising,” Gregoriadis said. “And there is a lot of talk now of personalisation of the customer journey. If you are able to give more contextually-relevant messaging, that constitutes personalisation.”
The founder and director of data analytics agency Datalicious Christian Bartens believes it is the ability to bring together multiple data sets in one place that makes DMPs appealing.
“A lot of companies in Australia are really quite sophisticated with their CRM – tracking historical transactions, tracking people’s profiles, enhancing them with demographic data and then doing a whole bunch of modelling on that to turn out really smart campaigns,” Bartens explained. “What the DMP adds is that behavioural layer. The CRM is designed to capture the transaction information, which tends to be often quite outdated because it is only as good as the last transaction, which may be a year ago. Whereas a DMP captures every single behaviour which may only be five minutes old.
“So it allows you to build a lot more relevant segments a lot more accurately, especially when you combine it with the historical transactions.”
According to Oracle’s principal consultant for data management platforms, Cameron Strachan, the interest in DMPs is coming from brand marketing managers who are seeking to reach customers across multiple channels.
“People are on the internet, and that is often a channels that a marketer doesn’t have access to without using technology such as a DMP,” Strachan said.
The range of data points that can be matched in a DMP is effectively limitless. Strachan says this might include POS data down to the purchase price and payment method that a customer used.
“Anything that you can collect can be on-boarded and brought into the platform as a selectable element,” Stratchan added. “The interface allows you to drag and drop any data points you have brought in and then combine them to create an audience.
“It really is quite granular, and the DMP’s role is to collect and combine all of that data into a meaningful segment, and then the segment is distributed and executed on.”
A truckload of companies have weighted into the DMP market, including independent DMPs Lotame and Krux, along with integrated offerings from Adobe and Oracle, and related offerings from other large market players.
“At the moment it is mainly limited to media agencies operating a DMP for their advertiser,” Bartens said. “But the advertisers want to own all the data themselves and not have it residing with the agency. And telcos and banks are already doing it.”
The commercial director at Lotame Ian Curd agrees that larger advertisers are also engaging DMPs directly. This is forcing agencies to rethink their long term role.
“Under the classic agency model, it’s been an interesting time for them because they have had to reconsider how they position themselves in market as it relates to this,” Curd claimed. “And some of them have taken the view of having their own technology solution that they provide to clients, while others are providing a consultation layer for clients to help them select the right one.”
According to Curd, the driving force behind interest in DMPs is the desire for marketers to be able to manipulate and enhance understanding of the audience.
“And this is why globally you will always hear a DMP referred to as the digital brains, or the central nervous system of the digital stack,” he added. “Like a brain, it takes stimulus from anywhere a client has data and makes intelligent decisions on the inside, and based on those decisions is able to push out actions that are based on data.”
But the speed which with companies have piled into the DMP space is starting to cause problems. The country manager of DMP Krux ,Jo Gaines. believes there is frustration amongst marketers that anyone with basic analytics or warehousing capabilities seems to be referring to themselves as a ‘data management platform’ now, regardless of their capabilities.
“Our solution enables businesses to recognise people and deliver right-time, real-time experiences tuned to individual preferences —all this across any device, browser and channel,” Gaines said. “What’s more, Krux learns iteratively with every customer and prospect interaction, driving a virtuous cycle of smarter consumer web experiences and higher business revenue for our clients.”
One of the interesting trends accompanying the rise of DMPs is the move of marketers away from third party data towards first a preference for first party data. Gaines believes that over time marketers will rely less on vertical-specific data and relatively anonymous third-party data available on the open market.
“Instead, our clients can use insights from their own customers to drive more relevant experiences to customers and prospects,” she said. “They will be strategic about the ways that they share, buy, and monetise data, and there will also be an increase in demand for DMPs to provide a safe haven for those transactions.
“Once brands begin maximising the use of their existing first-party data, they can start zeroing in on their targets for more effective audience segmentation and analytics with better conversion results.”
This trend away from third party data has also been noticed by Warren Billington, managing director for Australia at cross-channel identity technology company Signal.
“We are in the fairly early stages in the industry around understanding the true value of first party, people-based data targeting,” Billington said. “The ability to take a known user and identify that user from a first party perspective affords a premium against third party targeting.”
But he also finds the real value in DMPs is the ability to make data-driven decisions in real time.
“The industry needs to address the real time needs of people that are in the moment – so being able to identify them through digital channels when they are demonstrating intent with your brand, when they are in market to buy products,” Billington added.
First party or third, a DMP is nothing without data. Hence according to the managing director of targeting specialists Audience360, Damian Cook, DMPs have been working hard to gain access to audiences.
“If you look at where the focus has been over the last two years for DMPs in the Australian market, it has been about working with publishers to unlock their audiences,” Cook said. “But there are still a lot of publishers out there who haven’t been able to surface their audience and put a DMP in place, so they are missing out on the programmatic marketplace. In the next 12 to 24 months we are going to see a lot more mid-tier publishers become available.”
Lotame’s Curd expects that by December this year most publishers will be settled on a DMP strategy. “The new wave in Australia is really centred on corporate and brand marketers and the brand side getting involved with DMPs,” Curd said.
Increasingly however, Curd said he finds clients are willing to trade first party data amongst themselves to create a broader data set. He gives the example of a hotel chain and a credit card company pooling their audience data for mutual benefit.
“They have immensely comparable data sets with a lot of crossover, and by doing that deal directly and having technology to facilitate it, they can expose their first party segments to each other for their mutual benefit,” Curd explained. “This is going to be a powerful growth area, and the DMP can be the harbour for that.”
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