TechBytes with Kris Barton, Chief Product Officer, Gannett | USA TODAY NETWORK

Kris Barton

Kris Barton
Chief Product Officer at Gannett | USA TODAY NETWORK

The USA Today Network recently announced the launch of LOCALiQ, a data-driven marketing solution designed to simplify the complexity of marketing for businesses and drive improved return on investment. We spoke to Kris Barton, Chief Product Officer at Gannett | USA TODAY NETWORK, to understand the core technical tenets of LOCALiQ and how marketing teams can benefit from this new product.

Tell us about your role at USA TODAY NETWORK | Gannett and the team/technology you handle?  

I’m the Chief Product Officer at the USA TODAY NETWORK | Gannett. I manage the teams that build our online properties, mobile apps and internal platforms for our newsrooms to bring high-quality journalism to all of our properties across the USA TODAY NETWORK. I also manage the teams that build the products and technology we just launched with LOCALiQ, which is a comprehensive, performance-focused marketing solution for businesses.

What are the core technical tenets of LOCALiQ? How can marketing teams benefit from this new product?

LOCALiQ is our product solution brand and the distillation of decades of media experience and investment in technology to build market-leading solutions for businesses that drive growth. The marketing solutions landscape has become increasingly complex for local businesses. With the multitude of offerings, constantly changing tactics, the slew of reporting metrics, the industry too often wastes marketing dollars. LOCALiQ is built around the most important question a marketer or business owner must ask oneself when spending marketing dollars, “What is it that I’m trying to achieve?” LOCALiQ is a complete suite of performance-driven marketing products, and when we work with our clients, we only select the combination of tactics and solutions that deliver against their objectives.

How does your technology enable companies to analyze and manage consumer experiences better?

I believe Marketing ROI is the ultimate adjudicator of success.  And while at the most basic level it is measured by financial metrics tied to customer lifetime value or revenue lift, there are also consumer experience metrics that are fundamental to doing business today. Some examples include monitoring and actively developing reputation scores, increasing engagement with your brand via precision social Content Marketing tactics, and using attribution to make sure you’re catching considered purchases throughout the customer purchase journey.

Our reporting solutions start with understanding marketing objectives and then offering visualization of progress against the goal that can be consumed directly via our reporting app, via site, or via regularly scheduled consultations with our expert client success teams. For clients with advanced internal data aggregation tools, we also offer direct data API feeds of the performance data we report so client marketing teams can build their own internal dashboards to share with their business leaders. For example, for a key product such as reputation management, our platform allows clients to actively manage consumer responses, understand the drivers for positive and negative comments, and based on the findings, cultivate more positive consumer outcomes.

How do you organize your stack for Audience Data, Customer Data and Intent Data? How are these streams different from each other?

LOCALiQ allows marketers, both large and small, to take advantage of the breadth and depth of the USA TODAY NETWORK, which includes our national brand such as USA TODAY and 109 local properties. It also allows marketers to tap into the power of extended audience networks across almost every major platform and exchange available. The LOCALiQ platform scales to meet the needs of the client regardless of their level of sophistication.

For smaller, less sophisticated marketers, it leverages simplicity and automation to take advantage of the best practices of hundreds of thousands of executed campaigns. In these cases, LOCALiQ largely hides complexities from the client while only surfacing customer data in a lightweight CRM and analytics suite with a list of actions that can be taken on those customers.

At the other end of the spectrum, more sophisticated clients can leverage the extensibility and flexibility of the platform.  Audience, customer and intent data are all treated separately.

  1. Audience data is primarily used for standard third-party audience segments as well as first-party segments and lookalikes. We also leverage audience data with deep learning models to understand relative ad creative performance down to the type of image, colors and call-to-actions by segment.
  2. Customer data is paired with a marketing automation suite to create automated action-based triggers to respond to customers based on their behavior or alert the client if specific actions occur.
  3. Intent data is the primary signal that drives our set of algorithms, which use Artificial Intelligence to optimize spend based on the client’s defined goal.

These streams work together to create an end-to-end conversion funnel to drive predictable, efficient ROI for our clients.

How do these data streams impact customer journeys?

As mentioned above, audience data helps define the campaign targeting and lookalikes. Customer data and marketing automation help assist with completing conversions. One thing we hear frequently from our clients is that their goal is to get more customers who pay for their products or services. That keeps all of our efforts and design of our platform around continually trying to prove the ROI of a dollar spent. To assist with that we enable integrations with third-party systems such as accounting systems, finance applications and CRM systems to be able to show reporting transparency down to the penny.

Intent data is critical not only because of how it informs our optimization algorithms but also in how the LOCALiQ platform uses this data to make recommendations to our clients about potential changes or missed opportunities in their overall marketing strategy that should be made. For example, if we see a significant number of leads coming to a business outside of their hours of operation, the LOCALiQ platform will recommend adding our chat offering to ensure lead opportunities aren’t missed. Lastly, the LOCALiQ solution uses all these data streams to benchmark performance against similar businesses.

How do you see trends in Data Management influencing the adoption of Customer Experience platforms further?

Customer Experience platforms help build scalable and repeatable interactions. I expect most companies to begin overuse data to influence customer management. While having an effective data management strategy is key, marketers should keep a focus on the human element and touch that come from a great customer experience. Just because something is more efficient (in terms of speed and cost) doesn’t make it more effective (in terms of long-term sustainability). While data-informed decisions and automation are important, the blend of the tone, look, feel and quality of interactions with a company are key to lasting customer relationships. Companies need to look for ways to keep a balance in place between being data-driven and the old adage, “The customer is always right.”

Tell us more about Intent Data and how these could improve customer-brand interactions at an omni-channel level. How do you deliver these at the USA TODAY NETWORK?

In most cases, the highest value of action driven by intent data is directly from our algorithms.  Our algorithms optimize media spend according to a set of goals that a marketer can choose from. For example, as a marketer, you may be struggling with how to best optimize media spend across all of the different types of advertising and targeting on Facebook. Our Smart Optimization algorithm lets you pick a goal such as reach, engagement or leads and automatically optimizes signals of intent to achieve your goal. Within the USA TODAY NETWORK, properties you may want to choose between views — thus, a certain CPM, reach, etc. In all cases, we use intent data to drive the best execution of your goal.  In addition to our algorithms, we also focus on the following areas:

  1. Brand Safety – A holistic approach to brand safety at an omni-channel level. Intent without brand safety can be detrimental and damaging to the customer-brand relationship.
  2. Analytics – We’ve built our own proprietary analytics suite and tag manager. The tool is built to work with no configuration and attribute not just click stream data but to automatically track all phone calls, chats, emails and form fills. It can be further customized to track just about any event.  But this sophisticated technology allows us to ensure we capture high value signals that most analytic tools either don’t track or are error prone due to the amount of setup required.
  3. Marketing Automation – We have the ability to tie a consumer’s interactions back to a marketing automation suite. The marketing automation suite works both in connecting with consumers as well as in automating lead flow within a company.

What are your predictions on Data-as-a-Service for 2018-2020?

Most companies/marketers have not been able to extract much value from the vast amount of unstructured data they have today such as: clickstream data, intent data, customer data, log data, etc., In most cases, data is still difficult to understand, hard to access and difficult to turn into insights.

The primary drivers for the shift to data-as-a-service thus far include features such as scalability and enhanced efficiency. Other factors include ability to smoothly transfer data among different platforms, compatibility among diverse platforms, and reduction in overall cost of data maintenance and delivery.

That being said, with more data available in real-time than ever before, two things will drive the DaaS landscape in the next 2 years:

  1. Security threats will increase requiring more sophisticated and resilient systems that most businesses will look to outsource.
  2. Big data will become less relevant and will be replaced with the need for applying Artificial Intelligence to smaller more actionable data sets. To take advantage of this, businesses will need easily accessible, always available secure data. Look for companies to utilize bots to bring quick insights to their data.

How should businesses unlock the value of their first-party and third-party data? What makes LOCALiQ a go-to platform for such integrations?

The best way to unlock the value of first- and third-party data is to have a full-funnel strategy that connects all of a business’ tactics and strategies together. In a previous study done by our company, we learned that the average business is running 10 different types of marketing campaigns (e.g. social ads, email, retargeting, video, SEO, PPC, etc.) and they are working with three different companies on average. Executing just a portion of your marketing strategy with these data insights will lead to just a portion of the potential success you can achieve. Working with LOCALiQ gives you the most comprehensive and best technology paired with an expert team to get the most value out of your entire marketing efforts.

Thanks for chatting with us, Kris.

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