Using Customer Data: What the Best Marketers do Differently

Partner Content

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In customer data as in life, we’re all just out here trying to do the right thing. Get smart insights on our customers, activate them, deliver strong ROI - and do it all without getting in trouble with our DPO. 

But recent data has found that when it comes to customer data, the marketing world is much more divergent than you might think. The highest-performing marketers have a markedly different approach to data than their lower-performing counterparts - and unsurprisingly, those differing habits might well be behind their success. Let’s dig in…

The research 

In Q4 2021 Zeotap commissioned a survey of 500 senior marketers in order to understand how marketers’ data privacy practices corresponded to marketing success. 

Respondents were asked how far above (or below) they achieved on their 2021 targets - and according to their attainment, they were then sorted into five distinct success archetypes: from the ‘Top 1%’ (achieving 70-100% above target) to the ‘Bottom Tier Marketer’ who achieved 60-100% less than their target. Their data practices were then indexed against these archetypes to find patterns in how data practices correspond to success. Here’s what we found…

1. Unsuccessful marketers are usually over-confident marketers 

The first curveball the study found was the overwhelming confidence that marketers have in their data privacy practices, with only a handful of respondents saying that they weren’t yet confident: 

However, there’s a problem hiding in this. Data privacy requires one thing at its base: a single customer view. This is when data is unified into a ‘golden record’ of the individual user and their associated consent preferences drawn from every touchpoint - and a good deal of ‘confident’ unsuccessful marketers don’t have it: 


So what’s the big deal? A single customer view is critical to data privacy because of how consent is captured in today’s multi-touch journeys. Essentially, it’s likely that consent is captured across multiple tools (for example a consent management platform, a loyalty programme and email marketing), which means that an individual can express (and withdraw) consent in many different places. Unless those choices are resolved into a single view, it’s likely that activating that data can fall foul of regulations.  

There’s therefore a significant chunk of lower-performing marketers that believe that they have their data privacy practices locked down, when in reality they could be making mistakes with the potential to earn hefty penalties. 

2. Successful marketers are dumping DMPs (and adopting CDPs)

The CDP industry reached an estimated $1.6 billion in revenue last year - and the research showed a clear correlation between CDP use and marketing success, with a 39 percentage point difference in adoption between the least and most successful marketers: 


But while the most successful marketers transition to CDPs, the less successful marketers continue to cling to DMPs. The latter primarily rely on third-party data, retain data for shorter periods of time, and are unable to identify users to create the most accurate audiences possible the way a CDP can. 

In the context of the impending cookieless future, this means that successful marketers have already started migrating toward solutions that enable them to leverage their first-party datasets - putting them at an advantage over marketers who are stuck on DMPs.

3. Successful marketers are ahead of the cookieless curve 

The cookieless future is coming in short order, and this leads us onto the third way in which high-performing marketers are using data differently to leave the rest of the pack behind. 

While the ‘top end’ of the spectrum sees marketers planning to adopt a wide variety of solutions, over two-thirds (67%) of ‘Bottom Tier’ marketers reported that their teams plan to use ‘cohort-based advertising’ as their main means of offsetting cookie deprecation. Their adoption rates for other technologies fall far short of their colleagues further ‘up’ the scale:

Source: Zeotap

The warning here is against ‘putting all your eggs in one basket’ for the cookieless future - particularly if that basket is cohort-based, which has been beset with issues around user privacy. There is no ‘one and done’ solution for offsetting third-party cookie deprecation, and the clock is ticking for marketers to strike the right balance between scale, quality and privacy.

The way forward

To be amongst the top-tier of marketers, you need to challenge what kind of data you collect, how you manage it and what you use that data for. Here’s a set of best practices to follow:

  • Critique your data collection practices. Take stock of the data you’re collecting indexed against what you use it for, and see if the two truly line up. 
  • Get serious about data storage and access. Not everyone in your business should have the same level of access to customer data, nor should it be used for every purpose. Take steps to audit this with your Data Protection Officer (DPO). 
  • Review the consent collection process and messaging to the consumer. Ask yourself: does the messaging cover all aspects of data collected? Are the purposes reflecting what you really do? 
  • Adopt the right tools to manage and unify the consent journey. Data privacy is about more than collecting consent: to create the all-important single customer view, invest in a Customer Data Platform (CDP) to help you manage cross-channel consent preferences, enabling them to be automatically reflected in all marketing campaigns at all times.