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How data can help bootstrapped startups create authentic brand experiences

Cyrille Vincey, data scientist and chief data officer at Ve, explains the financial benefits for growing brands in using data to serve up a more engaging brand experience online – even on a limited budget.

Evoking sensations, cognitions, and behavioural responses in your customers is the very pinnacle of a well-executed brand experience.

However, conjuring these brand-based stimuli usually comes at a cost, but for those in the know, creating an authentic experience on a budget is possible.

The key is to invest in perhaps the most valuable commodity in marketing today: data.

Delivering an engaging brand experience

The quality of the brand experience that startups deliver through advertising is the foundation of what will hopefully be a profitable relationship between the company and their target market. And whether it’s making a memorable first impression with a new prospect or touching base with an existing customer, success relies on relevance to your audience.

Gathering insight from multiple data sources will help you cut straight to the heart of the customer’s needs and wants for sure, but it is when this data is transformed into actionable insight that this relevance can be achieved. This is the vital difference between targeting audiences with the right message, at the right time, using the right prompt – and not merely being another voice in the rabble.

Given a brand is built through the total experience that if offers, misfiring on just one customer touchpoint could put your authenticity at risk, as you’ve failed to understand both your customers and the journey they take to completing a sale.

Using data marketing on a limited budget

Leveraging data often evokes thoughts of complex algorithms, the thought of which would make the finance team collectively shudder, but you’ll be happy to know that your most valuable data is also the cheapest and most readily available.

First-person data is the information you collect from your own visitors and customers. This is undoubtedly the most valuable because of its quality and it comes at no extra cost to your business. This primary data, which includes things like purchase and browsing history, provides key insights into the behaviours, interests, and actions demonstrated across your website. Taking control of this data is step one in nailing an authentic brand experience as it deepens your understanding of existing customers, allowing you to serve content, recommendations, and services based on interest, locations and intent – what they really care about, in other words.

This is only step one however. Step two is where it all comes together, piecing together a fuller and more nuanced profile of individual customers by what interests them as they journey around the web. This is where third-party data comes in. Third-party data is amassed from other websites and can give startups further insight into a customers’ tastes and behaviours.

Think differently when sourcing data

The savviest of startups should, however, ignore some ‘off the shelf’ and ‘bargain bucket’ third-party data, which can be costly and vary in quality. Any external data you bring in should enrich your existing first-party data, not detract from it.

With that in mind, try obtaining data that’s already in the public domain. The Electoral Roll, Licensing Agency and the phone book are just three examples of public records that you could use to learn more about your existing customers. However, social listening tools provide, in my opinion, greater opportunities to extract game-changing insights from conversions happening across social media.

There are multiple social listening solutions available on the market, with SME pricing models to suit. The Holy Grail would be to marry up your social listening tool with your CRM system, allowing you to nurture existing customers, learn more about them and uncover potential new customers by analysing keywords, mentions and users who follow your profiles.

For those brave enough, you could venture further down the rabbit hole and arrive at second-party data. This relatively new form of data collection is basically another business’ first-party data that you can purchase. Why bother? Well, if I ran a hotel chain and wanted more customers, it would be advantageous to share my data with an airline and vice versa.

Understanding new customers

So, it’s evident that collecting and activating customer data will undoubtedly improve and perfect the brand experience you offer consumers. Off the back of this you’ll also be able to create some pretty potent customer personas as well as lookalike models, enabling you to target audiences exhibiting similar interests to those you have already. However, you’re still someway off developing a 360° view of people if you don’t understand which marketing activities triggered their interest in the first place.

My last piece of advice is to obtain data from those mechanisms used to hook customers at the start of their journey. Display advertisements, content, online news and other customer touchpoints, provide the outreach necessary to engage customers. Accurate attribution modelling will help you determine valuable touchpoints in your customers’ journeys and the value each has in generating a return for your business.

Being a former business owner myself, I fully appreciate that for a company in the midst of growth, the allocation of time and resource to harness data for the purposes of authenticity may not be a priority. That is why Ve recently launched its data-driven SaaS (Software as a Service) platform, which offers startups and growing brands intelligent, conversion-enhancing tech at their finger-tips saving countless hours in campaign set-up and management. It’s Pay on Performance model ensures that businesses only get charged when the tech directly drives an increase in online sales.

Additionally, because we’re the only business that both maps a customer’s journey from the initial advert exposure, all the way through to when they’ve made a purchase, our technologies trigger highly tailored messaging based on the unique journey they have taken online and the behaviour they’ve exhibited along the way.

Knowing your customer has always been lesson one in the marketer’s handbook and, as modern expectations of an effective brand experience continue to rise, leveraging the right data has become an integral part in this. So whether startups go it alone or lean on companies like Ve for a little help, data is not something to be feared but embraced by all growing companies – even those on a boot-strapped budget.