Marketing in search of the absolute

Trust is such a key component of customer relationships that you would imagine brands do everything possible to achieve a state of certainty. Verifying the identity of each customer seems like an obvious starting point. Providing completely accurate product details ought to be another component.

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Yet two recent news stories suggest much of what marketing does is relative, rather than absolute. Last week saw the release of figures for the opt-out rate on the Edited Electoral Register. For the last decade, the growing number of consumers choosing to withhold their personal information from marketing use when registering to vote has soared and is only now reaching a plateau.

The implications of that rise have been to limit the confidence marketers can have in a customer’s identity. Electoral Register data can be trusted, but if nearly half of it is missing, you have to look elsewhere. Commercial data owners have become very good at mixing data sources to make up for this absence. Yet there is always the element of doubt as to whether somebody is who they say they are.

Product data has not troubled marketers too much outside of the sphere of promotional marketing. Mobile apps are changing all that. With consumers increasingly scanning product bar codes in order to compare prices, brands need to know how accurate the information being sent to a mobile phone through these apps really is.

Before you commit to a price match, do you know it is an identical product of the same size, colour and features being offered elsewhere? A study this week revealed the shocking news that less than one in ten products scanned using generic mobile apps were accurately identified. For three quarters of scans, these apps provided no information at all.

That might be helpful if it dilutes the amount of price discounting required instore. Where it becomes of real concern is if those consumers were checking for things that are contra-indicated by a health condition. Imagine a peanut allergy sufferer scanning your product and being told by an app that it is clear for them to eat when in fact it does contain nuts.

In the explosive market for apps, much of the data being used can not be traced back to a reliable source. Manufacturers tightly control how they distribute and manage their product data. But there is an army of home bloggers who can capture a bar code and do their own data entry, for example. If the revenues are there, Chinese data capture becomes viable, but is no more authentic.

So the arrival of trusted data sources is to be welcomed and should get every support from the marketing industry. Before you push your products out through a mobile app, just ask yourself if you can be absolutely certain the data being used is accurate.

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