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The Renewed Importance of Structured Data

There are multiple benefits of automation for brands, from more consistent user experiences across platforms to a competitive edge in performance optimisation to reduced media waste. According to the iProspect 2020 Global Client Survey, about one marketer out of two has already automated data and analytics (54%), search (50%) and programmatic (47%) activities – at least partially. One out of three (32%) has automated social efforts and one out of four (24%) has automated effectiveness measurement.

As automation is increasingly accessible to brands, with increasing numbers of automation focused solutions made available by vendors and tech platforms, it is relatively easy for brands to launch decent campaigns – but it also makes differentiating from competition more difficult.

This is why structured data and feeds continue to grow in importance.

 

Structured data and feeds power automation

Structured data and feeds are collections of data (e.g., price, product availability, weather) with useful associations that can be used consistently across a large array of marketing channels (e.g., search, social, email). By organising information to be understood and utilised by various systems, structured data is the true cornerstone of automation, powering the brands’ ads across many verticals, such as airlines (e.g., flight rates), hospitality (e.g., hotel listings) and automotive (e.g., nearby dealerships).

Structured data is becoming increasingly important for three reasons:

  • Structured data can be used to automate the integration of any data signal into the media ecosystem, especially the brand's products and service details. Products and service data sets do not include personally identifiable information (PII) data and are not impacted by data privacy concerns, which means marketers can confidently invest in these specific structured data to deliver the best value for audiences regardless of the ever-changing privacy landscape.

     

  • Six marketers out of ten (61%) declare the most powerful lever to business growth is building a highly convenient experience for the consumer (iProspect 2020 Global Client Survey). Feeds enable marketers to make the most of shoppable media opportunities, which make the consumer path to purchase more convenient. They also improve the relevance of ads through more personalisation possibilities. For instance, iProspect helped a retail apparel company to dynamically adjust which product image to use for each product via the feed and connect it to media campaigns. Analysing performance data, we realised that for women's products, images featuring models performed much stronger than images of the product by itself. For men's products, it was the exact opposite. We were able to increase the relevance of ads by optimising the images featured for each product, resulting in stronger engagement and increased average order value.

     

  • With the current recession putting marketing budgets and resources under pressure, structured data and feeds can make media management more efficient. For example, campaigns can automatically be paused when a product is momentarily out of stock, reducing media wastage. They also make maintaining ad accuracy of large catalogues more efficient. For instance, we augmented the feed of all the properties managed by a real estate client with point-of-interest data and neighbourhood data - both critical to how people search for properties - so that the ad copy could be updated automatically with minimal human intervention.

 

How to get started with structured data and feeds

There are three challenges most marketers will face when exploring how to use structured data and feeds to create a positive value exchange: identification, access and execution. The following considerations are key to overcoming these challenges.

  • Data signal audit (People): Conducting a thorough data audit to understand what data sets are available to you and what signals are relevant to your brand is the first step to tap into structured data. When it comes to automation, bad data input can quickly turn into a very bad output, which is why collaboration is critical at this stage. Involving internal stakeholders (e.g., IT department) to align on how to structure data sources and setting quality standards for third-party feeds is a good practice to prevent potential issues later.
  • Data acquisition (Platform): Securing continuous, real-time access to the right data signals requires identifying a technology platform able to both connect to your own internal data systems to pull in relevant data and ingest third-party data sources into a single data environment, such as iProspect’s FeedConnect and iActivate.
  • Data management activation (Process): Connecting structured data to active media programmes can be challenging, as each platform has its own technical integration, and each channel its own requirements. For instance, paid search keyword campaigns typically call for short titles of products without brand names, while product listing ads and organic search require longer titles and descriptions. On top of technical know-how, it is important to include a complete testing strategy to make the most of each data signal in the feed and inform campaign management decisions, for instance, by factoring product seasonality to adjust bids throughout the year, or by including margin data to the feed to optimise against bottom-line performance. 

 

 

Product-to-audience affinity is the future of structured data

We believe the future of structured data leans toward optimising how likely a given audience segment is to purchase a specific product, and we predict there will soon be an opportunity to use additional data signals to maximise the affinity at the product level.

It could mean using analytical data at the CRM and product SKU levels to determine which products drive the highest contributions to a consumer's lifetime value, looking at the types of products that most often drive a second purchase to boost them through advertising and drive customer retention, etc. For instance, a smartphone brand will be able to use structured data and feeds to increase the bid of ads featuring their most recent device - and not the bids for its entire smartphone range - when communicating specifically to early adopters.

 

The possibilities are endless, but it is crucial to coordinate between departments to create models with tangible applications.

 

 

This article is excerpted from the report Future Focus 2021: Brands Accelerated.

Download it now for key insights on how brands can make the most of brand and performance to accelerate their growth.