It’s Alive: The Power Of First-Party Intent Signals

How do you achieve true people-based marketing? Columnist Mike Sands explains why it’s all about reaching customers at the right time with the right message.


My last column dissected the difference between first-, second- and third-party data and why first-party data in particular is critical to people-based marketing.

But true people-based marketing does not mean reaching known customers with generic content. To do people-based marketing right, companies must reach those customers at the right time, with messaging that’s relevant to what they’re doing in that moment.

Consider the pace of today’s consumers: They’re fast-moving and always connected, everywhere. On their smartphones and PCs, they’re continuously sending out signals of their intent every moment of the day.

If marketers can capture that live intent data and persistently resolve identity across devices and channels, they’ll always be able to keep up with their customers, no matter how fast they move — and see real business impact as a result. Research from Econsultancy and Monetate found that companies delivering real-time marketing experiences realized a 26-percent lift in conversion rates.

Some marketers and advertisers might be reading this and thinking, “I’ve been doing real-time marketing for years with tactics like search and retargeting.”

However, there’s a significant difference between retargeting a tracking “cookie” that visited your site, and targeting known customers whose digital signals indicate they’re in the market for your product right now.

Your options are very limited when you’re targeting a cookie. You don’t know anything about the person behind the cookie besides the fact that he or she has viewed something on your site.

You can see only Web behavior — not the cross-device journey. You don’t know how to personalize an ad or relate to the person’s interests.

There’s a good chance you’ll never convert them, no matter how many times you serve them an ad.

Speed Is Critical To Leveraging Intent Data

Over 80 percent of consumers begin their customer journeys online. In leveraging intent signals to capitalize on a customer’s immediate needs, speed is a critical factor.

Intent data is extremely valuable, but it’s also short-lived. As a result, successful people-based marketing requires the ability to recognize customers at each touch point in real time, all the time.

The unfortunate reality is that most brands lose the opportunity to connect with in-market customers because they can’t capture and act on live intent cues in the moment, and they can’t identify their multi-screening customers fast enough to optimize the shopping experience.

You have to be able to harness these real-time signals and react to them within minutes, or you’ll lose the opportunity to engage consumers in the critical moments when they’re most likely to make a purchase. This reality presents today’s biggest challenges for marketers:

  • How do you leverage these digital cues from shoppers in real time?
  • How can you recognize the same customer across devices and channels?
  • How can you react instantly with the right message or offer?

These challenges have been very difficult to resolve because in many cases, marketers are using a dozen or more technologies that don’t talk to each other, leaving data isolated in silos.

If marketers do manage to connect online and offline data and resolve identity across channels, often the aggregated data is stale by the time the offline data can be uploaded, matched and activated.

Or if marketers rely on walled gardens to find their customers, they don’t receive the data they need to close the loop to understand what worked, and they don’t truly own their identity graph — or their customer relationships.

The marriage of audience recognition and live intent data is a powerful advantage that can supercharge your people-based marketing efforts. But it requires a disruptive technology for cross-channel identity resolution and real-time execution.

3 Steps To Boost Your People-Based Marketing Efforts

Here are three steps to guide marketers to achieving intent-focused, people-based marketing:

• Start With Real-Time Data Collection. Technology and processes should be put in place to collect live data from every channel where your customers are, including digital channels like the Web and mobile and non-digital channels like in-store and customer call centers.

Capturing live intent signals as customers interact across all of these channels is key to engaging them with relevant content.

• Your Identity Graph Should Be Always-on. Once data is collected, it’s crucial to stitch that data together into holistic customer profiles, and again, this must be done in real time. Connecting the data fragments is where speed really matters — data collection and recognition should happen within milliseconds.

It’s also important to note that the ability to recognize customers in the moment requires persistent profiles that are durable for the long term, continuously enriched and accessible at every touch point.

• Activate Quickly. Once your data is transformed into customer profiles, it should be instantly available and ready for powering cross-channel execution.

Again, distribution to any endpoint (including DSPs/SSPs/DMPs and more) for personalization and media activation use cases should occur within milliseconds.

The brands that will win the battle for the always-on customer are the ones with the strategy and the technology to combine live intent, identity and profile data, as well as real-time marketing and media activation. Will your brand be one of them?

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

(Some images used under license from


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