Product or Consumer Data Summary: There is no clear winner

Consumer DataOver the past few months I have been speaking to Consumer Goods experts within Informatica’s partner community to get a broader view on the importance of product and consumer data in marketing.  I initially set about this task to get an understanding of what was driving investment decisions in consumer and brand marketing.  I have had four conversations, from four viewpoints.  However, each conversation was a different view into the same key trend:

Marketing of consumer goods by manufacturers is rapidly becoming integrated into consumers’ lives via digital and other channels.

If you haven’t read my previous blogs, here are the key points:

  • Devashis Senapati of Cognizant highlighted that the data about the product, and how the product differentiates itself, are the means to convince the consumer to buy a particular product.
  • Kees Jacobs of Capgemini highlighted the trend towards value networks, with the consumer at the center and how CG companies must empower consumers, and be relevant and responsive to them.
  • Tim Bosch of Eperium stressed that consumers have a lot of everything, except time: messages must be timely, appropriate and in context
  • Koen Van Bockstaele of Accenture re-iterated the need for relevant messages, but stressed that this must be done affordably at scale, with customer[i], consumer and product data running through the organization.

In short, there is an increasing focus on marketing directly to consumers by ensuring a product or brand is relevant to individual consumers by linking them to specific experiences in a consumer’s life.

It is clear that to achieve this at a minimum you need to understand two things:

  1. Who are the consumers you are trying to reach, and what life experience are your products most relevant to?
  2. What features of your products are most appealing to consumers, and how does this change during different experiences?

So it is no wonder that my (somewhat rudimentary) scoring system to prioritize customer or consumer data was in effect too close to call.  Both are crucial, and where an individual company starts will probably be based on their assessment of internal strengths and weaknesses balanced against strategic priorities.  This brings me back to my original concern at the start of this exercise:

If both product and consumer data are crucial, why are the majority of the conversations I am aware of between CG companies and Informatica about product data?  Why is there little discussion about consumer data?

I have a couple of ideas about why this should be:

  1. It could be that CG companies do not know we have a very strong offering for mastering consumer data. Just to be sure, we do have an excellent multodomian MDM capability, our customers love it, analysts rate it highly, and you can read all about it here.
  2. Many CG companies acquire an MDM system as part of an ERP enterprise license agreement, and think this will be ‘good enough’ for their consumer data, but it has clear shortcomings for managing product data.
  3. Managing consumer data is much harder politically (e.g. existing agreements at agencies, and requiring brands to work together), and practically (how do you get consumers to readily share their data with you?).

The reality is probably a blend of numbers 2 and 3.  In a world where product data and consumer data have equal priorities, it is quite sensible to start with the domain where more of the data is in the direct control of the CG company. This would result in the situation I am seeing now – a strong bias in conversations with CG companies about our Product 360 offering.

It’s really great to be involved in delivering high quality product data – but it does raise another concern for me.  If a CG company divides consumer experience marketing into the ‘pieces of technology’ that are required, and treats each piece as a separate project, there could be problems down the line to build a complete view of crucial relationships between customers (retailers and other partners), consumers and products.  It is these relationships that will ensure consumer experience marketing success:  Which product features to promote to which consumers, when; and how to ensure they can easily purchase the product through the means they find most convenient at that point in time.  (Hear from a frustrated marketer on this topic)

The conversation we at Informatica would like to have with Consumer Goods companies is about understanding their vision for consumer experience marketing.  Once we understand the complete vision, and share our broad data management experience, we will be able to provide much better support in the long run.  At Informatica we know we can be a long term partner for consumer experience marketing and purchasing.  We have shared our vision of what this could look like here.

[i] Note in this context, a customer will normally be a retailer and the consumer the end user.  However, with the rise of direct to consumer channel for some products, the consumer becomes a direct customer of the CG company.