Understanding Live Intent Data: Lifting The Veil Over Marketers’ Eyes


In last month’s column, “Real Time” In Display Advertising Doesn’t Really Mean Real Time, we discussed how despite the industry talking about doing “real-time marketing” or “real-time bidding” (RTB); in most cases, they are not actually using real-time techniques to run their campaigns. The media itself might be traded in live auctions, but the data being used are typically not live.shutterstock_60483139-matrix

In this month’s column, we are going to address the common questions that arose from that article — what is live intent data, where is it, and how do I use it?

What Is Live Intent Data?

Intent data helps us identify not just an individual, but what it is they are trying to accomplish. These data go beyond the typical demographics such as age or gender, and are more about identifying user needs (such as a traveler being in market for a hotel room, or a new parent needing bedding).

Intent data matters because it takes the guesswork out of targeting, and the fresher that data is, the more accurate it will be, and the greater chance you have of using it successfully before someone else does.

Where Can I Find Live Data?

It is useful to separate your thinking about data into two buckets: first-party data, and third-party data. First-party are your data, what you own or can collect from your own site; and third-party data are generated by someone else and accessed by you, typically for a fee.

Whenever possible, start with your own first-party data, as it is both free and most relevant to you. The most common use of first-party data is for retargeting — the fact that an individual has visited your site and abandoned a cart is valuable first-party data.

The good news is that most retargeters should be capable of firing ads to individuals immediately after they leave the site, making that part of the process “live” — but, when it comes to combining richer intent data, the ability to target live tends to dry up, and resorts back to old segments.

Commonly, the term “third-party data” has been used to describe pre-determined segments (auto intenders, moms, sports enthusiasts, etc.) from well-known data companies. By its nature, this data is rarely live, and rarely granular enough to be considered a true indicator of intent when targeting an individual.

There are, however, many examples of where live, granular intent data is being used today.

Programmatic Site Retargeting

It is possible to overcome the limitations of retargeting by leveraging more data, and using a programmatic tool to glue these data together in a way that makes sense. With the right technology, instead of targeting everyone who left your site, you can analyze their previous browsing patterns, third-party data, interactions with your social channels, CRM data, and so on.

With these data in hand, you can remove the wastage from your programs — yet surprisingly, there are very few technologies in the market today that are capable of live retargeting like this.

(Note that it’s not in the interest of most retargeting companies to develop this capability, because it would have a big impact on their revenue!)

Search Data

Search is arguably the strongest indicator of intent. For the last few years, search data have been used in display advertising, with tactics sometimes referred to as search retargeting.

Some companies (including Chango, my company) collect billions of search terms from the search engines (despite Google and Yahoo’s move to secure sites) and process these data in under 100 milliseconds for live targeting. This is ideal if you are looking for new customers and want to find them as soon as they raise their hand.

How Do I Use Live Intent Data?

The solution to bring your campaigns into the live marketing world is part education and part technology. Many marketers use an agency, demand-side platform, or technology partner to run RTB campaigns and think they have “live” solved; but, you now know that isn’t the case.

It is important to look at all the places your media dollars are being spent and ask questions about the freshness of what is being used. If the targeting is based on broad segments compiled several hours or days before being used, you might want to consider moving that budget, especially if the sales cycle for your product is short.

Retargeting is likely your quickest win. If you are using a standalone retargeting company, particularly click-based or CPA-based, then it is unlikely much data beyond abandonment is coming into play. Look for smart data strategies that marry together site visits with previous searches on Google for instance, and use them to chip away at wasted impressions.

Evolving your marketing spend from real-time media buying, to truly real-time campaigns takes a little more work; but, the payoff always proves to be worth the investment.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Dax Hamman is the Chief Strategy Officer at Chango, the solution to programmatic marketing and “big data”, and is based in San Francisco and London. You can follow him on Twitter @DaxHamman.



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