Deterministic Data: A Powerful Holiday Tool

Deterministic Data: A Powerful Holiday Marketing Tool for Predicting User Behavior and Finding High-Value Customers

By Evan Barocas, Director of Display Advertising, Point It Digital Marketing

In a crowded digital marketing world, every company is looking for an advantage—especially for key buying periods such as the holiday season. Sophisticated marketers and the agencies that support them are beginning to look deeply at using deterministic data—that is, data collected first-hand, aggregated from sources like subscriptions, opt ins, and onsite user behaviors. We can also look to external sources of first party data like Facebook, Google and PushSpring to help extend a brand’s reach to their highest-value customers.

It’s a challenging task, because deterministic data is more limited in scale than its cousin, probabilistic data (where we tease out the probability of a certain
audience type responding in a certain way, based on what other users with similar characteristics have historically done). It’s also really challenging to find portable sources of deterministic data outside of the walled gardens of Facebook and Google.

Evan Barocas

Driven to execute effective and efficient campaigns, Evan manages the strategy, planning, implementation and optimization of display campaigns at Point It. Drawing on eight years of experience in national politics, Evan applies his strong analytical instincts and deep knowledge of media planning and optimization to his client’s success.

Unwrap the Gift of Data

That said, there is no more powerful data available to online marketers today than deterministic data. Analyzed and then activated, it can provide the backbone for a well-honed marketing strategy able to granularly target in-market consumers while also measuring their interactions with a product or brand across devices. The holiday season is a great time to start looking more deeply at how you are collecting and activating your own data, as well as the quality of the data you are using to extend your reach to consumers who have yet to interact with your brand.

Holiday Help: Best Practices for Programmatic Ad Buying + Deterministic Data

Here are some of the best practices I recommend for clients who have experience with programmatic ad buying and want to leverage deterministic data analysis for their upcoming holiday campaigns:

1. Get the most out of your data

Your data will always be the most valuable when it’s collected by you. This data reflects the exact behavior of your consumers and the way in which they are interacting with your brand. It’s the best predictor of future behavior you have, so it’s worth your time and effort to invest in a Data Management Platform (DMP). A DMP will offer a variety of ways to harvest and activate first-party data. Also, look for ways to extend the value of your own data with look-a-like modeling. Compare it against qualified deterministic data sets to help remove the ambiguity around where your next ad dollar should go.

2. Respect the limitations of deterministic data

As powerful as a properly deployed DMP is, it is only as powerful as the size of the data set you have available for analysis. That begs the chicken-and-egg question: you want more user data to analyze, but in order to get it, you have to attract more users to your site. Emphasize the quality of your top-of-thefunnel marketing efforts to attract qualified in-market audiences and give them multiple opportunities to interact with your web property so that you can harvest that user data and build out your data sets.

3. Use deterministic signals to get out from behind the walled gardens

Facebook and Google provide amazing access to deterministic data – the catch is that you can’t leave Google or Facebook. This paradigm limit’s scale and inhibits marketing campaigns by being too reliant on either company. There are other ways to achieve the same level of granular targeting; Let’s say you’re selling a product targeted to commuters. Knowing who has the NextBus or Metro North App installed on their phone would be a great way to qualify a consumer as in-market for that product. App ownership data through data companies like PushSpring can provide unprecedented access to deterministically validated user action or attribute and extrapolate a qualifying behavior. The best part is that the data set is portable and can be leveraged to inform buying decisions across devices and inventory sources (imagine being able to target a TV ad to a consumer based on an app they owned).

Tyler Davidson, the co-founder and Chief Revenue Officer at Seattle-based PushSpring, is one of the deterministic data partners we count on to help us identify qualifying audience behaviors and activate them for media targeting. He’s bullish on mobile as the next great frontier in gathering and accurately analyzing first-party data to predict user behavior.

“A full 75% of American adults now own smartphones, and 90% of them never have that device more than an arm’s length away,” Davidson told me. “It’s effectively become the consumer’s ‘remote control’ for their lives. Because of that proximity, mobile is really the best place to get closest to the consumer because those devices are at the nexus of everything those consumers are doing, from a commerce, social, and information-gathering perspective.”

Once that data is gathered and deterministically validated, it becomes much easier to analyze in order to predict what a user’s future action is likely to be, especially in commerce during the holiday season (when far more first-party data can be generated due to increased shopping and research traffic). In essence, when you’ve located consumers who have made prior purchases, especially in brand-loyal verticals such as technology and lifestyle products, there’s a much higher likelihood that they will continue to buy that brand on an ongoing basis.

“App ownership data through companies like PushSpring is an effective way to look at a deterministically validated user action or attribute and extrapolate a qualifying behavior. The best part is that the data set is portable and can be leveraged to  inform buying decisions across devices and inventory sources.”

The challenge, of course, is scale. Davidson says it’s the paradox of deterministic data. “With deterministic data sets, you’ve got validated audiences that are much more tightly defined than probabilistic data sets, but you also sometimes can run into issues with scale if you simply don’t have enough data to widen your sales funnel based on what your data is telling you.” That makes the role of data aggregators who fully understand how to validate deterministic data all the more important when you’re looking to expand your marketing reach and get the most for your ad budget.

So, what’s next in the world of leveraging deterministic data for digital ad buying? We’re looking towards a future that includes access to more portable data; in other words, being able to take a deterministically sourced, validated audience and activate it across mobile, desktop, tablet and TV while never losing view of the user.

The takeaway? As our industry continues to get better at collecting, aggregating and activating deterministic data, it’s going to make us smarter and more efficient marketers. It will help us hone the best approaches for finding the users that are most likely to become our highest-value consumers, and over time that process will become tighter, more accurate, and more economical. That’s a win-win for everyone, so take time this holiday season to test different ways to deterministically target your audiences and see how that improves your campaign’s effectiveness.

“75% of American adults now own smartphones, and 90% of them never have that device more than an arm’s length away. It’s effectively become  the consumer’s ‘remote control’ for  their lives.”

Tyler Davidson – Co-founder & CRO, Push Spring

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