Digital Dialogues: Why understanding your customer is more than just buzzwords

This article is a summary of Episode 1 of the Dutch-language podcast, Digital Dialogues, made in partnership with Adformatie. Boudewijn Beks leads a team aiming to help advertisers make the most of Google performance advertising solutions.

The customer journey; omnichannel; personalisation; digital transformation. Walk into any corporate meeting and you’ll be guaranteed to hear the latest digital marketing buzzwords.

But what does it actually mean for a company to digitally transform? And how easy is it to cut through the jargon and put data, and the insights it brings, into your strategic thinking?

As a product specialist lead, I use analytical data to understand media effectiveness. The insights it brings are amazing — and incorporating these insights into your strategy can help you create campaigns that will resonate with your core audience.

For example, I’m a car enthusiast (and while I may have a grand total of one car in my collection, everyone has to start somewhere). I love 4x4s and old Jeeps but I’m not a fan of convertibles, so it’s fair to say that I am more likely to engage with digital ads about classic Jeeps than I am shiny new sports cars.

So how can companies use data to ensure that they get a complete picture of who their customer is? Moreover, how can they ensure they do it with due diligence? While it might seem overwhelming to adopt a new approach, it is much easier than it seems.

Start at the end: Build your goal from the outset

In order to understand what data is relevant to your company, it is essential to have a goal so that you know what you are striving towards. Take Buienradar as an example. It is one of the largest weather sites in the Netherlands, with 8.5 million monthly unique visitors, of which about 4 million come via their app.

Niels de Kind, manager at RTL Nieuws Digitaal (which operates Buienradar), explains that data provides insights on what their audience actually want to see. “It’s not just about checking for rain. Our goal is to understand that the products, content, and advertising we offer on the site is relevant to our audience,” says de Kind. “To do that, you need to know more than just the search or viewing behaviour on the website.”

Understanding data and treating it with respect

Data can come in multiple forms. It could be the company’s own data, based on their customers’ purchase history, for example a retailer knowing which customers prefer to shop for sportswear or smart tailoring, or a travel company knowing which customers prefer to holiday in the Mediterranean or have a holiday closer to home, say Ghent, Belgium.

It’s here where I wish to emphasise that respect and transparency should be at the heart of all data usage. One of the biggest challenges of our time in the advertising industry is to ensure responsible usage of data. People need to know which cookies are placed, for example, and exactly what they are being used for. Equally, they must have the choice to opt out.

“Data plays a role, but we want our end user to have control over their data, what is shared, and what it looks like. That is super important to us,” explains de Kind.

Buienradar's digital maturity

To understand how well companies are using data, the Digital Maturity Benchmark tool determines how digitally mature companies are. Buienradar’s score came in at 2.5 out of 4 which means that they are Connected: data is integrated and activated across channels.

“We are currently working at RTL in this area, there is still a lot of work to do,” explains de Kind. “To get to the next level, it’s all about organisation, and that means the organisation of your data — and that takes time.”

Digital Dialogues is a six-part Dutch-language podcast series from Adformatie and Google about digital marketing maturity. The podcast explores how companies can become truly prorgessive with their marketing, and features insights and discussion with industry and science specialists. Listen to the full series on Spotify, Google Podcasts or iTunes.

Digital Dialogues: How to adopt a data-driven approach in 6 steps