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How to integrate online and offline data

How to integrate online and offline data

By Francis Wallinger of Alchemetrics
The benefits of integration are huge and the multi-channel environment in which we now operate demands that businesses recognise this.  The problem that many companies face is how to accommodate integration.

Whilst it can appear to be a vast and complex undertaking, there are few things to keep in mind which can make the process more straight forward and less stressful.
Most important when beginning is to set clear objectives for the project.
Always keep in mind why the business is undertaking integration and know exactly what the benefits that you want to take from it are.  These aims will guide important decisions later on in the process and underline the need for integration for the business.
Consistency is key to the smooth integration of on and offline data.  It is important to ensure this with data collection across all touchpoints.  For example, using a core set of questions to gather basic information to meet your data integration objectives.  Make sure that you are presenting these questions in the same way across all channels and that you have effective methods of loading questions and answers to your marketing database.

Also, have a consistent permissioning policy and ensure that permission data is collected in the same way, with the same meaning, across all channels.  Consider what the consumer has given their permission for; is it the brand, a business unit or the business as a whole?

Ensure that you plan how to manage the transition from your current position to a consistent company wide approach and plan a re-permissioning exercise if necessary.
You are going to be collecting a lot of data and you have to make sure that it can be used for matching. It is no use having 100,000 mobile numbers if you can’t match them to contacts in your database. Matching data does not have to be name and address, it could be name, email and date of birth where address is not known.
Rules for contact frequency by channel are an important part of the implementation.  These must be backed up by a process to ensure that they are adhered to and to monitor their effectiveness.  Be prepared to amend them based on customer response to ensure that they remain relevant and effective. 
With so many changes you will have to review the technology that you are using. Any system needs to be easy to use to enable the individuals that are inputting information to do so accurately and quickly.  It must also enable you to meet the objectives that you have set and facilitate the consistent data collection that you desire. 
Ensure that you are collecting activity and response data from all channels, and that you can interpret this data.  You want to know not just that someone has opened an email, but that they then clicked on a link and placed an order within a week.

Or that they have opened, clicked on a link, viewed a video clip, come back to the site a week later for another video clip, then two weeks later subscribed to the related publication. Being able to identify and interpret this type of delayed response is essential if you are to monitor campaign effectiveness accurately.
There are many complexities with collecting data across multiple channels.  One of these is that many people still share an email address, or mobile, so these data items may be for a household, rather than an individual.  Undefined rules can result in data being cross matched to the wrong individual and so activity assigned to the wrong person.

Also, it is essential to  clean the data.  Sometimes false or unusable data is put into mandatory email and mobile fields; for example younger people can sometimes use shorthand, such as h.c for

Another issue is that some email addresses are very long but many systems have a maximum of 100 characters, rendering these emails useless as the end is truncated.  You need to define how you are going to deal with these issues and clean them where possible, to make sure that you are sending out the most effective, targeted communications possible across all channels. 
There are many things to take into account when integrating online and offline data but most essentially, make sure that the system you implement is flexible. As the digital marketplace continues to develop you will need to add data from existing and new channels.

Always be prepared to adapt your system to changes to ensure that all activity is relevant and effective.

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