Customer data is of primary importance for advertising or marketing activity. Good quality data is the starting point for any successful campaign or marketing operation and can be the difference between world-class content and customer experience, and those that fall flat.

“Marketing without data is like driving with your eyes closed.” – Dan Zarella

To get to know your audience and understand your consumer’s behaviour, it’s important to capture, store and analyse quantitative and qualitative data across varied sources.

As newer technologies keep evolving, the data capturing and analysing capabilities also keep improving. Businesses have an increasing ability to draw insights and make informed decisions about their customers.

The three pillars of customer data collection

So, what’s the best way to collect data? Before delving into data collection methods, let’s understand the three basic pillars of data collection methodologies.

  1. Behavioral/Content-based
  2. Tech-based
  3. Declared data

Behavioral data helps you understand how customers act across different channels and interaction points. It gives a holistic understanding of the reason for user actions and gives you insights into what your customers are interested in.

  • Example: Any interaction a user has with your brand over any touchpoint, whether that is opening an email, watching a video or getting in touch with your call centre.
Email behaviour is one type of customer data.
Opening an email from your brand is a type of behavioural data that you can track.

Tech-based or device-related data is collected from an app, local storage, ad tag, cookie or IP address. This data helps to understand the profile of an individual, device or an application.

  • Example: The most commonly used device-related data includes data collected from web browsers (like cookies), operating systems, devices or device types, languages or a user’s geolocation.
Cookies are a common type of customer data used to complete a profile.
What story do your customer’s web cookies tell?

Declared data is usually gathered on a website or an app when a user subscribes to newsletters or fills out registration forms or questionnaires, or makes a purchase. If a user visits an ecommerce website linking her/his social media platform, the declared data can be linked to their devices.

  • Example: Declared data is the easiest for a user to see – they may enter their email address to sign up to a newsletter, or give their date of birth as part of a competition. Progressive profiling is also a form of declared data, in which you ask a user for more personal information over time.
Customers can provide their own data via forms.
Sometimes the best data is that the customer provides freely themselves via forms.

Customer data collection methods

Now let’s deep dive into each of the methods a brand can use to collect data.

1. Website

Website data is collected from owned web properties. This could be someone visiting to read the daily news or visit their favorite blogs for cooking recipes. Web collection data allows brands to attain valuable information about users such as interest, intent, and characteristics.

As users browse these websites, they also leave a trace of content and behavioural signals which can be used.

There are many ways in which these data signals can be collected from a website:

  • Web URL
  • Page Title
  • On-site search keyword (eg: Finding your preferred product/service on a website)
  • User ID (in a hashed format)
  • Interest or Intent-based: Any user data can be traced based on the interest, behaviour or characteristic and can be used as a data signal.

Ecommerce sites: If you are planning to buy a new pair of headphones and visit, data can be collected based on the product category, product viewed, products added to shopping cart, shopping cart (drop off).

Ecommerce websites might also collect additional data signals as mentioned above.

E-commerce data provides valuable insights on the customer.
Behaviour during an e-commerce transaction provides valuable data.

2. Mobile

When collecting data on mobile, you are largely collecting technical/device data, but of course the use of mobile devices also contribute to the majority of behavioral and declared data. Mobile data includes behavioral data such as app IDs, sessions, time of day (the app was used), and geolocation. Declared data such as forms, preferences and purchases can also be recorded.

However, new solutions such as ITP – Intelligent Tracking Prevention for Safari/iOS browsers – restricts the data collection of first party and third party cookies.

3. Ad Campaigns

Campaigns using advertising technology and marketing technology are the most common ways brands can collect data from their target audience. Key performance indicators such as impressions, clicks and conversions are recorded. Other important parameters such as session duration, interaction rate, video views (for video campaigns), and viewability are ways to track campaign level data and understand the audience behaviour. Of course, campaigns can also be used to collect declared data.

4. Email Marketing

Email marketing is at the core of personalised marketing. A user can receive an email newsletter after signing up, get offers and also get to know more about a brand’s product/service offerings.

At the same time, the brand can get to know more about the user. Email data includes subscription status, engagement behavior (email open rate, click-through rate, etc.), or conversion behaviour. It can also show behavioural data, like which parts of an email were clicked.

5. Analytics Tools

The purpose of an analytics tool is to track the performance of a webpage and get details about user behavior. The most popular web analytics tools are Adobe Analytics and Google Analytics to track on-site measures such as page, session duration, and number of pages visited. Data collection occurs at a more granular level to get a deeper understanding of user profiles.

Get a granular view of customer data with analytics tools.
Get a granular view of customer data with analytics tools.

6. CRM

Customer Relationship Management tools are used by organisations to store vital customer information on an individual level. When a product or a service is purchased online or offline, users tend to share personally identifiable information (PII) such as name, address, phone number, purchase history.

The person’s name, address and ID numbers are PII data. Data containing PII can be used for digital advertising, however it must always be anonymised, or “hashed” so that it cannot be tied back to a specific person.

The Future of Customer Data

With the rise of newer and more evolved technologies, there will be more and more new touchpoints to understand people’s data.

It is also important to note privacy. GDPR has been implemented since May 2018 and brings about changes in the way data can be collected from individuals. Essentially, it is a regulation on PII data from a collection and security standpoint. It is mandatory to adhere to a country’s privacy and regulation policies.

With newer and evolving data collection technologies such as over-the-top (OTT) through TV streaming, it will be interesting how brands and consumers adapt to the changes.

In this new business environment, the ability to extract as much value as possible from every platform, data set and process within a brands’ ecosystem becomes paramount – while adhering to the latest security and data safety measures.

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