With the pervasive use of mobiles across Chinese consumer groups, great customer experiences now start with accurate and precise audience profiling. “The influence on the consumer starts with targetting and programmatic media,” says Jean Lin, global CEO of Isobar. “But the next stage is to power programmatic experiences.”
This is widely agreed — futurists are already looking into visualising customised experiences for tomorrow, including merging calendar schedules with advertising opportunities or the personalisation of ads to life stages. But marketers focusing too much on the horizon may miss out on extracting value from the available data sophistication today.
Consumers are already benefitting from precise programmatic marketing. When marketers identify their intended audience with rigour, corporate vice-president of Tencent, Steven Chang tells Campaign Asia-Pacific, they are also designing user experience. “When an advert is delivered in a precise way, user experience is improved,” Chang says. “Marketers are trying to achieve precision-marketing. However, brands often run into problems with their marketing strategies. The lack of understanding of target audience, or users defined by their social attributes, lead to inaccurate decisions. Precision-marketing starts with accurate user profiling.”
With enormous data being collected on consumer behaviour, the bigger opportunity is to harness its inherent value for powerful user insight. “Through a comprehensive and systematic analysis, they reveal to us different aspects of a user in their day,” Chang says. “This is because mobile devices have become the main way for Chinese to access the internet.”
Still, practioners view data with wary eyes — and with good reason. Data can only tell one angle of the consumer’s life. Most brands are predominantly using data to evaluate campaigns — reporting their success accurately, authentically and promptly. “It is important for agencies to realise that, in this digital age, the real value of data is what they contribute to creativity and content,” Chang says.
Mars CMO, Bruce McColl says he sees using data to understand the consumer as one of his biggest opportunities. “The game-changer is [putting] insights in the hands of marketers and sales,” he says. “Technology delivers new insights into how to reach people but [we] never lose that power and need for creativity — an emotional connection with the consumer.
“We can extract powerful insights that can help us develop marketing programmes, new products and new routes to market.”
The value of data for insight-driven creative is picking up pace and ad agencies have reported an increased use of this technique to guide campaign direction. When used efficiently, data can provide brands and agencies with trending topics, Chang adds.“Working in the interest of the consumers, this is how real-time marketing is achieved.”
A path to the consumer
There remain challenges ahead on the roadmap to a seamless understanding of the consumer — and a full view of their day from their mobile usage. Data often exists on separate platforms — isolated from one another, and rarely shared.
“There is a lack of data-sharing because there is no one set of standard for data management to which the industry adheres,” explains Chang. Tencent is leading the charge for better integration, effectiveness and what Chang describes as “a green and transparent advert ecosystem on the mobile internet”.
Agencies and brands also have reservations about how data can be effectively used internally. Without data analysts to organise the insights, there’s a heavy reliance on third-party vendors, and companies still feel one-degree or more removed from data insights and the value it brings.
And as the world’s largest online media matrix, and as close as you can get to the source of insight, Tencent already has a portfolio of products which wrap around major aspects of a Chinese user’s daily life. “This puts us in a leading role in China in the era of mobile media,” says Chang.
Through its Advertising Cooperative Ecosystem, Tencent can capitalise on a system that tracks users across screens and products. Its data policies also emphasise connection, not random access, and this generates in-depth insight. “If we build a closed loop of data from online-to-offline shopping platforms, along with upgrades in marketing platforms, it allows for effective communication with users in all kinds of scenarios,” Chang says.