Technology and data give today’s marketers unprecedented power to understand their customers, deliver personalized one-to-one experiences, and drive significant bottom-line results. You might know this concept by the buzzword “data-driven marketing.”
And one key to successful data-driven marketing that deserves far more attention? The marketing event stream.
The marketing event stream is a fundamental component of the data architecture for data-driven marketing. It brings together all of a customer’s interactions with your company, enhancing your understanding of that person’s needs.
Many organizations face common hurdles to effective data-driven marketing. First of all, many companies have siloed data. Other issues are a focus on channels over customers, non-linear consumer journeys, and, finally, a lack of insight.
Developing a robust event stream is one way to overcome these challenges. Marketing event streams offer a way to see how and when customers engage with your company, across a range of channels. Those insights enable companies to deliver the experiences that consumers now expect.
In this piece, we’ll explore:
- What an event stream is, and how it helps marketers
- How to develop an event stream
- A case study of one big bank’s use of event streams
Solving the Customer Data Challenge with Marketing Event Streams
Technologies and methodologies have emerged to help make sense of all the data generated by digital and social channels.
In fact, the latest edition of the MarTech supergraphic features over 5,000 vendors. And marketers are investing more than ever. CMOs are on track to spend over $32 billion annually on marketing technology.
It’s no wonder that data-driven spending is booming. Data-driven marketing’s benefits and results are competitive differentiators in today’s digital world.
Companies that succeed with data-driven marketing take a systematic approach to identifying all their customer touchpoints. They also develop an integrated view. These companies tend to treat customer data and insights as a core competency and source of competitive advantage.
They invest time and resources in identifying marketing channel data. These firms then integrate their data, and marry it to their customer profiles. As a result, they have new views of their customer and marketing data based on event streams.
What Is a Marketing Event Stream?
An event stream is a data structure for marketing interactions. It unifies all touchpoints across all marketing channels for each individual customer.
Event streams require collecting granular data from each marketing channel. Then, marketing organizations must match that data with individual customer profiles.
This allows companies to understand what happens in a customer interaction, and when.
A marketing event stream typically covers many interactions occurring in the days or weeks before purchase. These touchpoints can include both online and offline channels. See the graphic below for an example:
Why You Need Marketing Event Streams to Support Data-Driven Marketing
Bringing together marketing event data into a sequential view has clear benefits. Here are four key reasons why you should develop event streams.
1. Customer Context
These views give better insight into recent interactions, and additionally, how the customer responded. They also improve relevance for the next marketing message or offer. That includes both human interaction and automated decisioning.
This contextual understanding of consumer behaviors can influence both initial sales and ongoing loyalty.
2. Customer Journey
With enhanced views, marketers can better understand the journeys of both individual customers and segments.
Those views include the decision journeys across all phases of engagement:
Knowing what works supports smarter budget and investment decisions about channels and tactics.
Marketing teams can also find opportunities to improve the customer experience. Where are the gaps, and how can you solve them? Event streams provide key insights to those questions.
3. Customer Focus
These integrated views let marketers focus on customers instead of channels. As a result, reporting and analysis can be customer-based. Marketers can also deconflict offers and messages across channels.
With improved longitudinal insights, there’s better understanding of customers’ behavior after purchase, too.
4. Measurement and Attribution
With event streams, you can move away from “last click” attribution to see the bigger picture. More precise and fuller views of marketing activities enable better attribution of credit to the things that drive purchases.
As a result, this gives marketers a stronger foundation for measuring true return on marketing investment (ROMI). That also means clearer views into total cost of acquisition and customer value.
How to Build a Marketing Event Stream: 3 Steps
Building an event stream requires a disciplined approach to consolidating and integrating both marketing and customer data. Here are three key steps to develop event streams for your customers.
Step 1: Inventory and integrate marketing and customer data
Once marketing organizations take a closer look at relevant data sources, many discover that they have yet to acquire much of the data they need. Typically, much valuable data remains locked away with advertising agencies, web analytics vendors, or other third-party partners or vendors.
The first step in building an event stream, therefore, is to inventory all necessary data sources. That includes both those that are already available, and also those that the company must bring in.
There are many data sources to consider. To jump start your thinking, here’s a list of some of the most common examples of data:
- Email campaign
- Direct mail campaign
- Web and mobile clickstream
- Call center
- Organic and paid search
- Loyalty program
- Affiliate marketing
- Social media
- Streaming video and radio
- Display ads
- Mass media
- Marketing automation
- Addressable TV
- Marketing cost
- Customer/prospect demographics and behavior
Once you know your data sources, you can begin the process of integrating the data. This is one area where those thousands of martech vendors come in handy. Key technologies include data management platforms (DMPs), customer data platforms (CDPs), and marketing automation and/or marketing clouds to name a few.
Integration involves consolidating all this data into a centralized data repository. This requires some rationalization of all the different channel data, because channels do not necessarily capture data in the same ways.
Step 2: Identify customers across channels and devices
Now you have a handle on the data sources that are relevant to your marketing efforts. Next, consider how you can build a singular view of customer identity. This is more challenging than it may seem at first glance—and more important as well.
You must pinpoint the individual customers as they interact with your organization across multiple channels and devices. Most large organizations have robust solutions in place for managing offline customer identity and master data management (MDM). These organizations can synthesize multiple customer accounts across various lines of business into a master customer identifier.
But when it comes to the myriad of online identifiers (cookies, device IDs, email addresses, social media handles, etc.), most organizations have barely scratched the surface. This graphic shows some of that range, and how it all connects:
Step 3: Construct the event stream
The next step is to integrate some of that data. Start with data from your most important marketing channels and go from there.
You can use traditional data warehousing techniques to consolidate the data. Consider using big data technologies to master the large volume and unstructured nature of some of the data sources.
Marketing Event Stream Case Study: Top-Ten US Bank
Let’s look at the experience of one of our clients that saw the value of event streams. This large bank holding company wanted to invest in next-generation intelligence and analytics. The company aimed to undergo a complete digital transformation by developing strong capabilities in:
- Multi-channel attribution
- Customer intelligence
- Media mix modeling
- Omni-channel offer decisioning
But today’s customer is a formidable force, with ever-increasing expectations. There’s lots of technology available that give customers more:
- Power (example: easy to compare financial institutions)
- Choice (example: easy to switch banks)
- Influence (example: easy to share experiences—both positive and negative—via word of mouth and social media)
In fact, more than 70% of the bank’s customers regularly use multiple channels. The company’s marketing leaders knew that they had their work cut out for them if they were to hit these moving targets.
These senior leaders partnered with Infinitive to articulate specific strategic objectives and define the role of data in the customer experience. We also worked together to inventory customer and marketing data sources to determine the best fit. The project required the team to chart detailed roadmaps for data, reporting, and analytics to ensure the transformation was on the right track.
After the planning phase, we helped the bank define an event stream of consumer interactions. This would be the foundation for marketing channel attribution, in addition to enabling customer path analysis.
Since stakeholders needed to know what information and insights would best benefit them, we hosted structured workshops to educate the people and teams involved. It was also crucial to guide IT associates on the design and implementation of the new marketing hub that brought all the pieces together. Here’s what that looks like:
How an Event Stream Helped This Bank Understand Its Customer Journey
As a result of this transformation, the bank gained a new sense of control over the customer journey. With an optimized event stream, the company’s marketers could now:
- Provide a data foundation for new digital capabilities critical to future growth and expansion
- Support multi-channel attribution and media mix modeling to both guide and optimize marketing processes
- Support decisioning to make the right offer to the right person in the right time, place, and context
- Generate improvements in data quality, trust and use
- Align internal constituencies’ priorities on the path forward
This is just one example of an organization that realized the value of tailoring the customer journey for maximum effectiveness.
But knowing that optimizing the event stream is the key to successful digital marketing is only one part of the equation.
The deeper you are willing to dig into your data, the more dots you can connect along customer pathways. And that will consequently encourage less channel focus and far more customer focus. Greater focus on your customers will open new avenues for growth.
Guide for Data-Driven CMOs
Dealing with data starts at the top. Learn why CMOs should establish and maintain well-designed data environments as a key first step to leading data-driven marketing programs. Download The CMO as Data Scientist: Experimenting & Winning with Data-Driven Marketing now for expert insights.