Name that Data: An Ultimate Guide to Distinguishing Behavioral from Profile

Name_that_Data_Blog_ImageMarketers: Know your data distinctions.

Programmatic transactions will make up a majority of non-search digital ad spend by the end of this year. With massive amounts of data needed to fuel programmatic for audience targeting, discerning which data is optimal remains a challenge for digital marketers.

Today, there are essentially two types of data that fuel programmatic advertising: “what data”  and “who data.”

“What” data, also known as behavioral data, is action based. This data refers to specific websites a consumer visits and the actions that are taken online.

“Who” data, also known as profile data, is offline data gathered about consumers and can include demographics, financial summaries, past purchases, or hobbies and interests. And while CRM data is who data by its very nature, third-party offline data providers can provide thousands of additional data points that you don’t already know about a consumer.

Why does this distinction matter? 

“What” data is more common when it comes to programmatic advertising and its real-time capabilities are appealing for marketers looking to immediately convert consumers showing strong online buy signals, e.g. someone surfing insurance comparison sites. As appealing as this sounds, behavioral data, most commonly sourced from a cookie, has several limitations to be aware of and can miss the mark when used as your only data source.

Limitation #1: “What” data is mostly a late-stage tactic.

What data is most actionable when a consumer is already searching for a specific product, keyword or website, typically at the very end of the purchase cycle. But there’s a limited amount of people actively showing online signals today.

The Fix: Offline profile data can be used to find more people who are a great fit for your product or brand regardless of where they are in their buying cycle. For example, if your goal is to reach a broader audience, to either build awareness or influence a consumer’s path to purchase, you need to find consumers with a high propensity to purchase and a high propensity to be a great fit for your product or brand. Profile data helps expand your reach to find all the right people to target, those likely to be a great fit for your product or brand, regardless of where they are spending their time online.

Learn why finding more of the right people requires a people-based marketing strategy.

Limitation #2: Quantity of Data. On average, cookies have about 50 data attributes accumulated at any given time.

While one way to combat behavioral data quantity inefficiencies is to scale up campaigns with lookalike models, 50 attributes is not enough data to accurately find new, high-value prospects for your campaign.

The Fix: Profile data offers a more comprehensive view of consumers and significantly more data attributes so you can better predict a consumer’s likelihood to convert. For example, TruSignal looks at thousands of data attributes per profile. This data fuels a more people-based programmatic advertising strategy, and gives marketers the “who” data that isn’t available online.  In fact, more than 50% of the data TruSignal uses is not available online or in a cookie.

Limitation #3: Behavioral data can’t separate converters from non-converters.

Behavioral data targets any site user, and doesn’t consist of enough attributes to discern good signals from noise.

The Fix: Profile data, using attributes determined from offline information, can make those distinctions, and eliminate unlikely converters from campaigns, helping to decrease advertising waste.

“Who” data is a required fuel for a people-based programmatic advertising strategy and can complement and improve the existing “what” data strategies in use today.

As we move with gusto into this programmatic world, and the need to connect with the always-on consumer ensues, who data will be imperative in order to achieve the efficiency and scale needed to succeed in digital advertising.

Side note: Profile data becomes even more accurate and powerful when paired with predictive audience modeling. To learn how predictive analytics increases digital targeting campaign efficiency and scale read our blog post: Why Predictive Analytics Is a Must-Have for Your Digital Marketing Strategy.

Anna Haire

About Anna Haire

As director of marketing, Anna manages the execution of TruSignal’s marketing strategy including content and thought leadership, events, social media, lead generation and lead nurturing.
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