The insurance purchase funnel is more challenging to navigate than ever before. The truth is that identifying, targeting, and converting segments across media and channels has always been very complex, and is becoming even more so with the explosion of digital marketing media.
As with almost any time of rapid change, the uncertainty of the future can be either frightening or exciting. I believe the opportunity far outweighs the seeming chaos of the digital media revolution that is happening in marketing today. This opportunity hinges on the new connected consumer value chain – where the disciplines of data management, analytics, measurement, and execution can be more tightly integrated across all media and channels and optimized at the consumer level. This represents a dramatic and fundamental shift away from yesterday's silo-controlled, product- and media-focused approaches; where wide gaps existed in the handoffs between consumer insight, planning, and execution; between direct mail, social and digital media; between marketing, sales and customer service. My belief is that in the next five years, a consumer-centered, analytics-driven, real-time value chain will be the front upon which the battle for competitive advantage will be won and lost for insurance firms.
In addition to this change, we are seeing that the use of newer channels (search, social media, display, a brand's website) is far outpacing the traditional channels, and it is accelerating. We now find ourselves trying to answer key questions related to the way we build and think about our marketing solutions:
- How does "Big Data" impact our marketing efforts?
- How do I resolve known and unknown individuals?
- How do I provide relevant and personalized messages in interactive channels?
- How do I coordinate this across all channels?
When we look back on this time of change, we will find that the brands that created sustained competitive advantage were those who seized the opportunity and mastered the ability to use online and offline data sources to gain a holistic view of the consumer. Connecting all of this "big data," directly into an integrated analytics and execution platform, allows for faster, often real-time, optimization of marketing spend.
The classic definition of big data was based upon volume, velocity, and variety. Volume is simply large quantities of data. Velocity refers to the speed at which a marketer, after identifying a customer, must adjust messaging to make sure it is both relevant and presented in the appropriate context to resonate with the customer. Variety has moved beyond formats and structures of messaging and into our ability to integrate and leverage the vast number of data generators and aggregators in the digital world. As we move beyond the classic definition to the challenge of collecting and storing the data, a new problem arises: How do we bring together the disparate data sources and rationalize them to a single individual?
Once we solve for the rationalization of the individual across the offline and online world, we are still left with the challenge of how they interact with our brands today. Consumers expect relevance and context in our marketing messages. And the determination of relevance and context must happen in fractions of a second in the interactive channels. Part of the key to context is in understanding how the consumer has interacted in all of the other channels (search, social media, display, a brand's website).
Many of the key ingredients of our traditional marketing solutions are still present in today's marketing solutions. We have not left one world and ventured into a completely new world. We are just in a place where we must be able to react to larger data volumes, anonymous identities and immediate interactions. The rules of marketing have not changed. Marketing must be measurable and relevant. If anything, I would argue that we are now in a place where we can do this more successfully than in the past. What has changed is the technology we use to enable our marketing efforts. This is why, as marketers, we must be more technologically savvy and learn not to fear Big Data, but use it to our advantage.
About the author: John Lee is SVP of the Insurance & Wealth Management Practice Leader at Merkle. He has more than 15 years of CRM and database marketing consulting experience in the insurance and financial services industries.