Connected data, consumer understanding, and the need for scale, consent and automation

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Thought Leadership

We live in a connected world. As more people turn online for their daily activities, the trajectory of available digital behavioural data steepens. This data can be used to give us a deep picture of ‘what’ consumers are doing, and to some degree we can now use sophisticated modelling to make probabilistic assumptions about ‘why’ they may be doing it, and ‘how’ to influence their future behaviour. But, in many cases, there is still unparalleled benefit in tapping into survey responses to properly understand consumer thought processes more deterministically. However, by combining behavioural data, or digital behaviour “triggers” with survey outcomes, far deeper, more valuable and more actionable insights can be derived.

Those who use consumer insights to make important decisions are quickly finding that bringing together multiple sources of data like this is the only way to understand their audiences’ attitudes and preferences relative to the channels they use to watch, read, shop, socialize and share. But in order to connect the data in a meaningful way, three critical ingredients are required: audience scale, consumer consent and automation.

We sat down with three Cint experts (check out their bios below!) to get their thoughts on what’s driving the need for connected data, and how brands, researchers, agencies and other data-driven organisations can tap into the power of this new ecosystem. Explore our conversation with Greg Dunbar, Oscar Carlsson and Heather Hughes and find out how Cint’s digital insights gathering software platform can help you connect the dots when it comes to consumer data, and build innovative, scalable insight capabilities.

Which consumer macro trends are accelerating the need for “connected data”?

Greg: We already know that consumer behaviour continues to change, and the global COVID pandemic has only further accelerated consumer adoption of digital channels. Customer journeys are becoming digitised faster, and there is no sign of this trajectory slowing any time soon. Sales and marketing channels are increasingly digital and diverse. Consumers expect more tailored, individualised products and experiences. Brands are increasingly operating at global scale. And advertising and marketing is increasingly automated and data-driven. The combination of these factors is creating new and exciting opportunities (and challenges) for marketeers and researchers to leverage connected data throughout the customer journey, and to power their ever-more-sophisticated marketing technologies.

How do these trends affect brands?

Oscar: Brands and marketers must understand and respond to the “new normal” for their audiences. If you just take the one example of marketing channels, you can start to see how fragmented the landscape is becoming across the board. We’ve gone from a handful of mediums to a vast number of locations where we can engage with consumers and get a message in front of them. Lines are being blurred with increased digitisation as consumers participate in social commerce, connected TV, mobile TV, in-app purchases, Video on Demand (VOD), over-the-top streaming media (OTT)…the list goes on. Not only does this behaviour create a vast pool of data we need to understand, but marketers also need to make sense of this confusion to find where they can best reach their customer.

How can we understand people better during these changing times?

Greg: This is an exciting time for market research and consumer insights. The core of our industry has always been about understanding what people do, why are they doing it, and providing insights on how brands can positively reach and influence them. We have an opportunity to uncover insights that are more tangible when we can see what people are doing through digital behavioural data. Then we can turn to market research to understand the “why”: we know they’ve done something, but then survey outreach can ask a real human why they’ve done it. Connecting this data is a huge step to obtaining granular insights on human behaviour and how we can use that to inform marketing, sales and provide better insights for brands that are operating in a whole new world. Connected data can help answer many basic questions more efficiently and save valuable survey real estate for the most value-adding questions. Actionable data facilitates the hyper-targeting expected by brands and consumers alike, but at the scale needed to compete.

What are the necessary elements to taking this approach?

Heather: Market research has generally used a group or cohort to make assumptions, whereas the approach we are discussing here is about understanding a particular person who has done something at a specific moment in time, for a specific reason. The feasibility of connecting with that person to get an understanding of their behaviour is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

In order to make connected data research and personal insights work, we must have three things: scale, consent and automation. In more basic terms, we need a wide group of people from which to draw (or to whom we can match data) so we can find those specific individuals we are seeking (scale). We must have explicit permission from respondents, so they fully understand how their data is being used and why, and to meet growing regulatory mandates (consent). We must be able to actually find and interact with these people in a wide, deep sea of respondents, in real-time and with accuracy (automation).

There is absolutely no way to reach and understand specific individuals without these ingredients. Traditional, manual research processes and supply-chains are simply too inefficient to facilitate these new use cases at scale.

What is Cint doing to address these issues?

Greg: We’ve already established that there is a virtually endless pool of data to which we can now connect, especially as consumers are becoming more and more connected themselves. We have listened to what market research agencies and brands want and need from this new reality, and we have built the technology to deliver on these demands – technology that is scalable, repeatable, efficient, automated and profitable for everyone (from the respondent to the agency or brand researcher). Our software platform has the world’s largest network of API-connected research audiences, with access to a total of more than 130 million respondents across over 130 countries and more than 4,500 panels (scale); we actively collect granular consent in a uniform, standardised way that strictly follows industry body guidelines through our first-party relationship with the respondent (consent); and we have built a fully automated platform that transforms the speed and efficiency of surveying and data-collection, and unifies respondent profiles and digital identifiers in a consolidated identity graph (automation).

Give me some specific examples of how these concepts work on the ground:

Oscar: One good example is Connect by Cint, which provides clients with a way to measure advertising effectiveness and qualify respondents who have been exposed to certain ads. They can send a survey to them and also send it to a control group who have not seen the ad. Traditionally, this process has used cookies, e.g., placing a pixel on the ad and tracking respondents who have opted in. With the upcoming “death” of cookies, plus the proliferation of app-based ads and other places that using cookies isn’t possible, advertisers must find other ways to identify the correct respondents. We are quickly losing this secure way to track advertising.

So what we’ve done is expand Connect by Cint to support in-app tracking, connected TV and multi-device tracking. To do this, we use proprietary technology to utilise identifiers such as the ad ID on a mobile device or the user’s IP address to do a real-time match. Because we collect first-hand, granular consent from respondents, we can use these various identifiers in a compliant, secure way. A good real-world example of this is our partnership with Zappi Ad Pulse, which is using our technology to conduct important ad effectiveness testing and gather consumer insights data without relying on cookies.

Heather: Another way we can find that niche respondent is by matching up the individuals we have in the Cint consumer network with external data sets. This means targeting surveys to individuals based on external identifiers, and enriching data using the same identifiers. For example, when we onboard data providers we can send over certain pieces of personally identifiable information (PII) and match it with external databases to be able to access this data for better targeting.

Tied to this concept is enriching survey data by matching it with respondent behavioural data. One situation where this works well is if a client is running a brand tracker week after week and they want to enrich that collected data with media consumption or purchase behaviour data. Our technology provides the link to allow them to easily match these sources for more complete consumer insights and audience picture.

Why is Cint’s approach ideal for connected data projects?

Oscar: Because we have the largest eco-system of partners who we can opt-in to these programs and we frequently engage with their consumers in a first-party context, we are actively collecting granular consent from respondents and from our connected suppliers. This complies with research industry body guidelines and regulations, while also giving respondents the opportunity to opt-in for more surveys and, ultimately, rewards.

Our automated platform essentially builds a “match table” for every individual so we can match them in real-time to jobs, and also append completed survey data. We aren’t the only ones doing this, but we are the only ones doing it at a massive scale by focusing on standardising consent, matching and connectivity, and enabling our customers to build client-facing products based upon our infrastructure and scale. With hundreds of partner integrations under our Supplier API, plus our work at a strategic level with some of the world’s largest market research agencies and brands, we are in a unique position for connecting data. Coupling our automated approach with our massive supply and demand pipelines means that clients can connect data in a scalable, feasible, and future-proof manner to achieve robust outcomes.

Meet the Interviewees

Oscar Carlsson, Chief Innovation Officer has a technical background and a long tenure at Cint. Initially taking responsibility of Cint’s technology and development and later went on to be one founders of Cint’s unique platform, products and technology. During his serving with Cint he has been responsible for product, technology, operations and business development as well as setting up Cint’s US operation in 2008 before 2017 taking the role as Chief Innovation Officer. Oscar acts as a thought leader in the industry in Market Research Technology and MarTech, presenting and participating in various organisations including ESOMAR, Insights Association, FIPP, Research & Results and SampleCon.

Splitting his time with HQ in Sweden and the U.S., Oscar continues to bring innovation to Cint and its clients by finding new partnerships and launching new product concepts to ensure Cint’s continued leadership in the MarTech space and ensure Cint’s partners have a future-proof solution and stay on top of the latest trends.

Heather Hughes, Vice President, Marketing Effectiveness (Global) started her Cint journey almost four years ago as part of the Partnerships and Alliance team in Hong Kong. Coming from a background in digital marketing, she oversaw data partnerships and Connect sales in the APAC region. Following this role, she became the Vice President of Asia, overseeing commercial growth for the region. After living in Asia for eight years, she returned to the U.S. and currently resides in Southern California. During her time working in the Americas, she has worked on the supply and demand side of the business, giving her a great understanding of the platform as a whole. Heather then moved into the Vice President of Marketing Effectiveness role in charge of commercial growth in the connected data space globally and helping build a cookie-less solution, future-proofing Cint’s Connect product. Heather spends her free time hiking, kayaking, fishing and is an avid gardener.

Greg Dunbar, EVP, Enterprise Solutions has more than 20 years of experience in media and enterprise technology spanning both successful start-up businesses, one of the world’s most recognised media companies, and the Salesforce software eco-system. Prior to joining Cint in 2016, Greg spent seven years on the Advertising Board of Time, Inc., and was most recently EVP of CloudSense, an Enterprise SaaS vendor and tech consultancy specialising in digital transformation. Outside work, Greg enjoys spending time with his family and coaching his local junior cricket team.

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