By Kevin Dean, President and General Manager of Targeting, Experian Marketing Services

Data. One of the few words in the dictionary that can cause marketers to be filled with excitement and suffer from massive headaches at the same time.

There’s no denying the sheer volume of consumer data available today; it includes everything from where people live to what they buy and the media they consume. But without the technology and targeting know-how, data is meaningless. Just numbers in a spreadsheet. It’s not until marketers can gain relevant insight into what the data is saying that it truly becomes invaluable. Data, with the right resources, won’t just fill marketers with excitement, but it has the power to fill in the blanks about their customers.

The re-emergence of third-party data
Every brand, regardless of size, has its own first-party data – the crème de la crème of data, so to speak. There’s no way around it – first-party data gives brands unique information about their customers that no other data set can do. By implementing data stewardship and management best practices, first party data can be incredibly reliable, accurate, and up-to-date. But it can also be limited.

While first-party data paints the outline of a brand’s current customers, third-party data adds rich color to the audience portrait. When combined, first- and third-party data enable marketers to better understand, not just who their customers are in the store, but who they are outside of it as well. What are their interests? Beliefs? Values? Brand preferences? Next life milestone? Without quality third-party data, marketers lack the predictive insight to power intelligent, meaningful customer interactions.

It’s time to break down the data silos
According to Experian Marketing Services’ 2016 Digital Marketer Survey, 81 percent of marketers report facing challenges in achieving a single customer view. Part of the reason could well be related to a finding from a recent Winterberry Group white paper, The Data-Centric Organization: Transforming for the Next Generation of Audience Marketing

. In the report, 58.5 percent of those marketers surveyed admitted that if they were going to derive the full value of data in the future, then it was important for them to dissolve internal silos between business/functional groups.

Brands need to consider shifting how their organizations are structured, so they can also shift how their data is managed. Access to first- and third-party data is important, but brands also need to work with a partner who can link the two data sets together, as well as match this information to the data trail left behind by people as they move across devices. It needs to become about the customer, not the channel. When this happens, marketers can create more of the personalized communications that their customers deserve and expect.

With the right resources, organizational structure, technology and partners, brands can make this ideal customer experience a marketing reality.

Meet customers wherever they are
The future of marketing is here. At one time, marketers dreamed of the day they could move from broadcast to narrowcast, delivering hyper-connected, hyper-personalized messaging to customers and prospects seamlessly across channels. Not only is it possible today, it’s what consumers actually demand. With the right data at their fingertips and the technology to make it actionable, today’s modern marketers can activate their best audiences and deliver customized messaging that speaks to individuals. With this data driven approach, everyone wins — marketers grow their businesses and consumers have better experiences, ultimately rewarding brands with their loyalty (and pocketbooks).

Data has the power to unlock answers, transform interactions and fundamentally impact the future success of business. Brands and marketers who have the bravery the break down team silos, place the best data at their fingertips, and put consumers at the heart of their strategy, are the ones that will be ahead of the curve. Data should be a cause for optimism not headaches. The right resources can take it there.