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With consumers now spending significantly more time online, the notion of maximizing your brand’s digital presence has become a necessity. If you’re not reaching and engaging potential customers across a purchase journey that’s increasingly online, you can be sure another brand is.

Becoming more digitally mature — by adopting the right technology and organizational strategies to achieve effective reach and measurement while also prioritizing consumer privacy — can feel like a long shot in such a dynamic ecosystem. But research shows that doing so can significantly improve cost savings and help drive revenue.

A few months ago, we teamed up with Boston Consulting Group to look at advertising transformation in the context of the pandemic. Together, we identified three things marketers can do to accelerate transformation and prepare their businesses for what’s next:

  • Let first-party data be your guide.
  • Connect your data to unlock audience insights and improve ROI.
  • Prioritize strategic partnerships.

I recently sat down with four industry experts to get their advice on how to put these principles into practice. Michael Loban, Jayne Babine, Vin Paolozzi, and Sarah Walker are all leaders at companies on the front lines of digital transformation.

Here’s what they had to say.

A photo array of 4 executive headshots. In each photo, the person, dressed in business attire, smiles while facing the camera. Clockwise from top left: Jayne Babine, MightyHive; Michael Loban, InfoTrust; Vin Paolozzi, Kinesso; Sarah Walker, Essence

Let first-party data be your guide

“Use this crisis as an opportunity to create a clean slate and look at your first-party data with fresh eyes. What does the data say about your customers’ deeper motivations? How can you bring extra value to their lives? Knowing how many people visited your website or your average order value won’t give you this level of understanding. To help our retail clients gain more powerful insights, we’re using machine learning to automatically create customer segments, based on their lifetime value with the brand. This helps us anticipate customers’ future actions to create more personalized websites and promotional messages, which ultimately helps increase engagement and return on ad spend.”

Michael Loban, Chief Growth Officer at InfoTrust

“This moment requires you to show up empathetically for your customers. People everywhere are reevaluating the relationships they have with brands; they’re looking for the brands that have a solid grasp of the situation and something meaningful to say. Showing up for consumers requires you to get close to your first-party data and put user privacy at the heart of it. We’re seeing more and more brands come to this realization.”

Jayne Babine, EVP of Sales and Partnerships at MightyHive

Connect your data to unlock audience insights and improve ROI

“Connecting data from all the various places it may exist within your organization in an anonymized, aggregated way gives you a more complete picture of your audience and the customer journey. An important first step toward connected data is to consider all the online and offline databases you have. Some companies have offline loyalty programs they’ve invested in for years. Others have supply chain data that impacts which inventory is available on shelves. If this information isn’t directly connected to your marketing initiatives or your online data and digital media solutions, it isn’t useful to you.”

Vin Paolozzi, Chief Investment Officer at Kinesso

“Join your data to quickly adapt. More than ever, marketers need to move their media dollars around to ensure that they’re investing in channels that work. Marketers who use integrated technologies that bring all their data together will reap the benefits by being able to assess trade offs and optimize in near-real time. Due to COVID-19, one of our customers recently experimented with a direct-to-home strategy. Because they had an infrastructure in place to connect their data, they could measure the success of their digital advertising against in-home consumption right away. They can now take those lessons and incorporate them into their strategy moving forward.”

Sarah Walker, Chief Business Strategy Officer at Essence

Prioritize strategic partnerships

“Making better use of data usually requires working with folks outside of your organization who have specialized skills. We regularly see websites that are tracked by two or three different analytics platforms and have dozens of other marketing tags, which can lead to inefficiency. Truth be told, the value of these tools is not always straightforward. It’s important to ask: Do we need all of this? How can we actually consolidate everything into a single platform, versus a ‘frankenstack’ that uses dozens of so-called solutions? As a strategic partner, we’re helping marketers answer these questions, cut licensing costs when necessary, and limit waste.”

Michael Loban, Chief Growth Officer at InfoTrust

“Lean into media agencies to help you identify trusted data and technology partners. I think this is where media agencies bring unique value to brands: by helping them develop the right relationships with trusted technology partners. These partnerships have become increasingly complex in the past few years, as many regions and countries have adopted their own privacy regulations. Media agencies stay on top of this evolving landscape and help ensure that brands know what’s legally sound across different markets, as well as what consumers in those markets are most comfortable with. This is critical knowledge that provides a safe environment for clients to get the most out of their data.”

Sarah Walker, Chief Business Strategy Officer at Essence

To see how your own advertising transformation measures up and where your organization is in its maturity journey, explore our digital maturity benchmark tool.