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Connecting Offline and Online Data: A Powerful Tool for Marketers/Advertisers

April 16, 2015 by Updated June 3rd, 2016


The rise of big data has ushered in a new era for marketers and advertisers— the era of data driven marketing. With massive amounts of rich online data constantly flowing in from multiple sources, marketers can use analytics to gain insights about customer habits, behaviors and preferences that the analysis of offline data could never reveal. But the real power of data driven marketing can only be fully realized by connecting, combining and analyzing both offline and online data.

Marketers and advertisers are already reaping the benefits of using offline or real-world consumer data to inform their digital campaigns. And as the amount of data generated in the virtual world increases, online data is posed to play a larger role in offline marketing. Here are some of the ways that offline and online data are being brought together, bridging the physical and virtual worlds to the benefit of marketers and advertisers.


Advances in smart technologies and the proliferation of mobile devices are giving rise to the Internet of Things (IOT)—a vast network of Internet-connected objects currently numbering over 25 billion “things” worldwide. Allowing all of these real-world objects—wearables, cars, lamps, coffee pots, toothbrushes, you name it— to seamlessly and effortlessly share data, the IOT is a potential game-changer for marketers and advertisers. After all, the goal of all marketing efforts is to connect and interact with the right people in the right place and at the right time. And the seamless interoperability between the physical and virtual worlds that the IOT allows enables digital marketers to find their target audience, pinpoint where they are and determine the optimal time to reach them. In fact, in the case of smart watches, fitness bands, and other web-connected wearables, these devices not only provide digital marketers with valuable consumer data, they also serve as the ideal platforms for delivering the advertising message to the consumer.

Data On-boarding

In the past, the lack of access to offline data has limited its usefulness to marketers. But in this increasingly connected world things are changing. Thanks to a data process known as “on-boarding” data gathered offline can be successfully transferred to the online world. Companies that offer on-boarding as a service can match offline databases from brick and mortar transactions or customer service call interactions to online data. Typically they use information gathered from travel, dating, or other sites to make these offline-online connections. In addition, they can link cookies created when users visit partner sites to user information in CRM databases. Customer data can also be matched to email addresses for digitized direct-mail campaigns. Through the use of on-boarding services, marketers have a better means of measuring the effectiveness of online campaigns in driving in-store sales.

Local Data

Marketers have long used consumer profiles, developed from online search behavior, to learn where consumers go online. But nothing revels more about a consumer’s purchase intent than where they go in the physical world. That’s where local data comes in. Despite the continued growth of online sales, consumers still spend 90 percent of their expendable income in brick and mortar stores. In this physical world where connected devices such as smartphones, tablets, Wi-Fi routers and Bluetooth beacons are just about everywhere, real-time data revealing the comings and goings of consumers locally provides powerful insights marketers can use to optimize the local marketplace. The rapid growth of mobile advertising in general, and programmatic buying in particular, has resulted in a dramatic spike in demand for local data among digital advertisers and marketers.

Big Data Analytics Platforms

Whether they recognize it or not, big data analytics lies at the heart of every marketer and advertiser’s conversation about connecting offline and online data sets. That’s because big data analytics platforms such as cloud-based Hadoop make the whole process possible. Simply stated, big data is the collection of sets of both structured and unstructured data, not just from digital online sources but from traditional offline sources such as product transactions, financial records, call center, and point-of-sale interaction channels, etc. Only through the proper analysis of all of this disparate data via big data tools can marketers and advertisers gain the kinds of actionable insights they need to optimize both their online and offline interactions with consumers.

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