All Aboard!

From the legendary Orient Express in Venice to the latest Maharajas’ Express in Delhi, new life is being infused into an old travel paradigm and engineering technology that many thought had reached its end of life. Retrofitting historic trains and putting these cars on existing infrastructure is delivering a new experiential journey with incremental investment.

In the digital marketing experience, data onboarding is breathing new life into the millions (if not billions) of dollars companies have invested in their customer relationship management (CRM) systems. This process enables companies to integrate customer and prospect offline identities with broad attribution and tie those to online identities. The result: this is the closest companies have ever come to leveraging the rich CRM data they have been collecting to target customers across the digital spectrum (e.g., display, video, search, and mobile apps).

When consumers interact with companies, transactions are captured in loyalty, CRM and sales systems and are used to derive insights into purchasing behavior. Identity and customer profiles captured in CRM systems is sent to data onboarders, where identifiable information (postal address, email, etc.) is anonymized and then used to link offline to online identities that have been collected through partnerships with websites, social sites and other digital channels.

By combining the wealth of inferred and known behavioral and attitudinal information, companies can glean deeper consumer insights and deliver targeted, relevant messages through the multitude of available media channels.

Leveraging this insight to create a seamless customer journey unifies the brand experience and continues to deliver on the promise of CRM. A McKinsey study found that companies acting on journey insights experienced a 10%–20% boost in cross-selling revenue and a 10%–25% drop in churn.1 A comScore research study showed that companies experienced a 21% lift in brick-and-mortar sales by combining digital with offline marketing activities.

Before you board this data train, there are a few key things to consider when finding the right partner: scale, agility and privacy.

Data onboarding marketing is about scale and targeting semi-anonymous individuals with relevant messaging at large scale across many platforms. With expected match rates of 30%-55% and further possible drop-off at the exposure partners, starting with a universe of 10,000 targets will probably not yield the expected results.

An inherent benefit of data onboarding is the ability to continually process data, and thereby add to or modify the online audience. The right infrastructure and tools are necessary to drive this continual change. These include a CRM foundation deploying the right tools to analyze activities and deliver analytics that monitor strategy and drive game-changing decisions.

Regulatory compliance, data privacy and security concerns around Personal Identifiable Information (PII) and Protected Health Information (PHI) demand that companies working with consumer data understand how to handle and protect it.  An SC Magazine study found that 60% of respondents cited data confidentiality as their biggest concern. Typically, any PII or PHI is stripped at the onboarding partner before it is transferred for targeting, but the weakest link can be that data is being ingested, processed and managed at the source, which necessitates an analysis of the cost and cycle-time impacts to process the data.

This all sounds easy, but does this train ride deliver to the destination? Early results are promising. A recent survey showed that 77% of companies that used this approach had an average of up to 300%  return on ad campaign spend, with a reported ROI payback in 6–9 months.4

Our experience at HackerAgency is similar, with client campaigns consistently showing a 30% increase in effectiveness, with 50% less media spend.

Of course, no train journey can cross an ocean, but certainly the views and learnings along the way make reaching your final destination more thoughtful and insightful.


1- H. Fanderl, A. Pulido, Don’t Let Data Paralysis Stand Between You and Your Customers; Harvard Business Review, November 2013

2- LiveRamp Article. 15 Minute Guide to Data OnBoarding, 2014

3- A. Greenberg. Study: Financial firms cite data security as top concern regarding cloud adoption, SC Magazine, March 2015

4- TechValidate. Original Research on LiveRamp Data Onboarding, November 2014


Written by: Tonny Wong, VP of Consulting Services