A Chat With Neustar's Michael Schoen: Solving the Identity Crisis

While today's CMOs have access to an unprecedented amount of customer data, making use of that information in an effective, strategic way is a huge challenge for even the most data-savvy brands. Finding customer intelligence solutions that can help make sense of all of that data — starting with clearly identifying customers across all channels — is key. We spoke with Michael Schoen, Vice President and General Manager of Marketing Solutions for Neustar, who provided some expert advice for bringing data to life.  

"Neustar is unique in its ability to bring offline and online data together at a granular level, merging offline transactional data with digital anonymous data that enables brands to dig deep from a data science perspective."

What is customer intelligence, and why is it important for brands?
Customer intelligence is all about ensuring that as a brand you understand your customers — who they are and how they're engaging with your brand — so that you can market to them effectively. From our perspective, customer intelligence is important not just to marketing development but product development as well. Many of our clients actually leverage the insights that come from customer intelligence to help in form the way they develop their products.
And it's about being able to bring together data from both offline and online sources in a way that remains sensitive to consumer privacy. It's about understanding who the consumer is and getting a 360-degree view. We're unique in our ability to bring this together at a granular level, merging properly pseudonymized offline transactional data with digital data that enables brands to dig deep from a data science perspective while protecting consumer privacy.

What kind of challenges do brands face when it comes to using customer data effectively?
One of the most fundamental challenges brands have is not that they don't have any data about their customers; very often they have a lot of data. But the data is disconnected. And the challenge is really less a data problem and more an identity problem, which is fundamental to the way we approach the customer intelligence problem. That involves leveraging name and address information from a traditional marketing database. It could involve interactions with a call center that are tied to a phone number. It can involve data tied to an email address or online interaction. And, of course, it includes all of the digital interactions associated with pseudonymous online identifiers through the web and apps.  

Why is it so hard for brands to accurately identify their customers if they have all of this information?
Customer identity changes quickly. Customers can change their name through marriage or divorce; they move frequently; they change phone numbers; and they very frequently change email addresses. So, even if a brand started with good data, from a customer registering a product or applying for a loyalty program, it ages badly, which means your ability to properly recognize that same customer and tie the data together is very difficult.
At Neustar, we've invested a lot in building fundamental identity datasets to ensure that we have the most current information about consumers. And we work with brands to piece this together.

"One of the most fundamental challenges brands have is not that they don't have any data about their customers. They may have a lot, but the data is disconnected."  

How does Neustar help brands use this data, once they're able to access it?
One of the big goals is managing the way a brand engages across all channels. Neustar is unique in terms of our identity-based linkages into TV, directmail, call centers and the digital ecosystem. So, regardless of the way customers are interacting with a brand, we have the ability to effectively measure and target the right audiences. On top of that, we're able to supply analytics to allow brands to understand the effectiveness of their marketing spend.
 We can measure media exposure through TV, direct mail and through all digital channels, including social media, which can typically be challenging for marketing analytics. We can then bring all the data together and help brands determine which media exposures were most effective.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) just went into effect in Europe. How is that affecting the way brands deal with customer data, and how is Neustar helping with that new compliance challenge?
GDPR is a great opportunity for brands, because they're asking the right questions and beginning to think more strategically about their use of customer data. It's creating an opportunity to explicitly get consent from the customer about the use of their data.
 Marketers are having to think critically about their data providers and whether they can work with them in a way that remains compliant. Neustar is engaging with them as well to ensure that, as they leverage those datasets, the customer consent signals flow properly. Brands need to think about consent across multiple touchpoints and understand what to do when customers provide or rescind consent. This is an area where Neustar is able to provide an accurate and clear view of data.
 Brands clearly have legitimate business interests to use customer data. GDPR is driving them to think more proactively about that data, and they're starting a lot of conversations with Neustar.  



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