The sharing economy will envelop brand data

warren billingtonIn this guest post Warren Billington argues the sharing economy will stretch to brands sharing more consumer data in the future.

The revolutionary impact of Uber and Airbnb on their respective industries has been well documented. “Uberization” has become the buzzword that’s sent venture capitalists scurrying to find the next industry that’s ripe for Uber-like disruption.

The principle behind the two best-known examples of the sharing economy is already transforming other industries. Collaboration is disrupting car-hiring, bike-sharing, staffing, finance, and music and video streaming, to name just a few.

Consumers are happy to reap the benefits of low prices and convenient new options, as anyone who has stood in the queue at the Sydney Airport at 5pm on a Friday can attest. As a result, the sharing economy has become a significant wealth creator for individuals and businesses alike, with the potential for growing global revenues from $15 billion today to $335 billion in 10 years, according to a 2015 report by PwC.

At its heart, the sharing economy is a movement to turn under-utilised assets into new revenue streams – a concept that appeals well beyond the consumer marketplace. And this is something that marketers should be very familiar with, because they’ve actually been collaborating to leverage an in demand asset – consumer data – for decades. Think back to catalogue retailers sharing customer lists for acquisition purposes for examples.

Fast-forward several decades and the concept of data-sharing in digital marketing has never been hotter or more relevant.

This is because the technologies and platforms that have driven the sharing economy – broadband, social, mobile, tablets – have also worked to fragment consumer touch points.

uber-logo-234x40Every day, always-on consumers are sending digital signals to brands about their wants and needs. They’re constantly moving between laptops, smartphones, tablets and stores. These interactions are all happening in real time, and the path to purchase is rarely linear. This leaves marketers struggling to connect the dots quickly enough.

The most pressing challenge for brands today is gaining the ability to recognise and understand the needs of a customer at each and every interaction as their path to purchase zigzags across devices and digital and offline channels. As CEOs demand more accountability from CMOs, this kind of data-driven addressability is being prioritized as the key to more accurate targeting, improved customer experiences, better measurement, and greater ROI.

To address this challenge, new forms of data collaboration are emerging. We are beginning to see symbiotic data-sharing networks that allow trusted partners, such as a publisher and an advertiser, to share de-identified customer information in a safe, privacy-compliant and controlled manner.

By cooperatively exchanging data, these alliances – ‘collaborative identity networks’ if you will – can fill in the blanks for participating marketers, helping them to become smarter about each customer and their journey to deliver people-based marketing experiences.

Critically, the participants in these networks won’t be throwing data over the wall for anyone to use. Instead, they’ll typically consist of complementary partners who make their own decisions about what data is shared and with whom to achieve the mutual goals of scaling their audience data and bringing the customer into focus. This could include sub-brands within a larger retail organisation, publishers within a premium ad exchange, or co-ops of retailers and suppliers.

Trusted networks also provide a way for publishers to create a level of scale and aggregation of inventory to build a premium marketplace that can compete with alpha publishers like Facebook and Google. So, advertiser brands will get the same benefits of reaching known audiences at scale, but without losing control of their own data.

Going forward, high-quality customer data will be a key driver of competitive advantage if it is used in a consumer-centric and value-creating manner. The live stream of signals people send as they search, browse and buy – the best source of truth about customers – has been an under-utilised asset. And third-party data, however accurate at the time of collation, just can’t provide the same real-time knowledge about customer brand interactions.

Co-operative, collaborative sharing of identity within marketing is going to be one of the emerging global marketing trends of 2016. It promises to change how marketers use customer data, scale it, and share it in order to give the always-on consumer an optimal brand experience.

I might even be inclined to say that it will ‘Uberize’ digital marketing (but I won’t).

  • Warren Billington is managing director of Signal APAC

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