MarTech Interview with Phil Lore, Chief Revenue Officer at Affinity Solutions

What are some top engagement models that can help marketers drive better marketing ROI? Phil Lore, Chief Revenue Officer at Affinity Solutions shares some tips:

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Tell us more about your journey and about Affinity Solutions

I was fortunate to have had a variety of management roles across different parts of the IBM organization prior to becoming a sales leader for financial services where I worked on Wall Street with key clients, including American Express, Goldman Sachs, and Merrill Lynch. I’ve spent my career building businesses predominantly in financial services, like I did for over 12 years at Acxiom and now as the Chief Revenue Officer at Affinity Solutions. In the simplest of terms, Affinity’s core mission is to help businesses use our data to deepen their relationship with their customers, so they can ultimately grow. On a higher level, our guiding purpose is to use consumer permissioned data to help improve people’s lives

My financial services experience has given me a keen understanding of working in highly regulated spaces. That prior experience provides a great window that empowers me in my current role so I can help Affinity Solutions best respond to the changing landscape for marketing and advertising, particularly as they grapples with consumer privacy, consent & choice. For example, Open Banking regulation in financial services is now requiring the banking industry to give control of their financial data to consumers. Fintech companies like Chime, Robinhood and Plaid are challenging the status quo and reshaping financial services by focusing on customer service curated for the changing needs of consumers, especially Gen Z and Millennials. Unbundling banking products, leading with mobile first strategies, is becoming more and more critical each day.

At Affinity Solutions, we see the same trend emerging in the marketing ecosystem. The collection and use of consumer data is increasingly informed through explicit consent & choice, which heightens the need to meet customers on their terms. This is driven not just by consumer demand, but by expected new federal and state regulations governing data privacy. Concurrently, data deprecation is rendering the use of third-party cookies obsolete, likely strengthening the dominance of walled gardens like Facebook and Amazon. To stay ahead of the curve as we transition to a changing digital marketing landscape, organizations must adopt a new engagement model centered around customer-first.

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Take us through your thoughts on the changing demands in consumer privacy today and what are some top most preferences that marketers need to be keeping in mind?

Brands will need to get a better handle on the sources and use of their permissioned data – and the systems that support their marketing & advertising environments. The top preferences include the obvious ones of opt-in/opt-out. A more sophisticated approach would include context (you know me in a way I value), resonance (e.g. emotionally connect through creative and persona) and relevance (timing and channel). These will be the critical components of valued customer engagement inextricably linked to consumer consent & choice.

Simply put, the pandemic has forever altered the state of consumer expectation, meaning they expect more than ever from the brands they do business with. This paradigm is not changing anytime soon, if ever. This is happening at a time where consumers are demanding to see real value if they are going to opt in and want to share their information. Walking the fine line of this situation will require new means of sharpening customer understanding and doing so in ways which help brands (and their marketing efforts) go from being interruptive to service-driven.

How can marketers re-evaluate their martech stack to meet these needs?

Marketers will continue to give consumers the choice of opting out of using their data. The challenge will be for brands to ensure their partners are also providing choices that aligns with their brand promise. As a result, ‘privacy by design’ will become a critical component of the martech/adtech ecosystem. 

Everything needs to be evaluated through a privacy-first model that accommodates for the changing enterprise structures we are seeing. These changes include everything from placing customers directly at the heart of any organization, to accommodating for business models that no are longer linear, but rather non-linear in their nature.

Now is the time for data acquisition strategies to be sharpened because whether you’re looking to augment your first party data, or replace third party methods that are becoming anachronistic, it’s a critical time to be thinking about how to get closer to customers. It is becoming increasingly common for martech stacks to be routinely assessed to meet changing environmental needs, as well as serve the multitude of stakeholders cross-function who are now data-dependent. There is a lot more rigor taking place around martech stack decision-making, and the bar for excellence and adoption will definitely continue to be elevated.

What are some alternative data sources that you feel marketers need to be paying more attention to?

We believe alternative data sources like credit & debit card transaction data can provide real-time purchase signals to help drive acquisition, upsell, media optimization, and campaign measurement. Location, IoT, sensor, and weather data are other useful data sources to consider, ideally joined to transaction data with the proper permissions and consent. This will enable more context and catalyze trust with consumers. Another thing to consider is how to use emotion as data to improve contextualization, both through the lens of resonance and relevance.

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A few predictions that you have for the future of martech and data / consumer privacy as a whole?

We just commissioned a study with Forrester entitled Data Deprecation the Right Way to look at the root of that very question. The research confirmed our hypothesis that the deprecation of third-party cookies and mobile IDs is creating a vacuum for new alternative data sources. There are three trends we believe will accelerate this shift towards consent and choice:

  1. The increased scale and availability of new dynamic signals, for example – IoT devices will grow from 13.8 billion devices to over 40 billion devices by 2025 generating over zettabytes (note: 1 zettabyte is equivalent to 1 billion terabyte hard drives) of data.
  2. Our ability to process data is growing with cloud computing and new technology innovation. IBM announced a 2-nanometer chip capable of placing 50 billion transistors on a chip the size of a fingernail.
  3. Advancement in tools for AI/ML that make this data available and actionable to data analysts; and those without advanced degrees in data science. 

Some top takeaways for marketing leaders and CMOs/CEOs in 2021: top factors they should keep in mind as they plan for the rest of the year, innovate and expand their teams?

The pace of transformation we have seen accelerate over the past 18 months of the pandemic is far from over. In fact, transformation hasn’t ended, it’s just becoming faster, and more nuanced. Consequently, using insights to grow market capitalization and instigate market growth, will become far more the norm than just using insights derived from data to improve marketing efforts. I don’t think there has ever been a time where the CEO and CMO have needed to be as closely aligned. It’s important for all leaders to recognize the ‘always-on’ business models needed to serve the current environment, build the collective leadership mindset, and create the data and technological infrastructure required to do so.

On a more granular level, digital marketing will be less reliant on third-party cookies and will shift to AI/ML platforms that ingest dynamic real-time purchase signals, which are permissioned, to drive optimized consumer engagement. Those brands and platforms that embrace this change will see tremendous growth and outpace their competitors. Those that don’t get on board early will struggle to catch up, and see their ability to survive, let alone thrive, significantly diminish.

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Affinity Solutions is a first data-led intelligence platform that uses purchase signals as the authoritative source of truth in helping marketers, agencies and media organizations deliver emotionally resonant experiences that enrich people’s lives.

Phil Lore is the Chief Revenue Officer at Affinity Solutions

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