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Mark Stiles, a Principal Developer at Velir, talked with Adam Ribaudo, VP of Data Integration and Activation, about our data strategy and integration services for our Public Interface series. They discuss the services Velir offers, current data problems clients face, how we can help clients break down their data silos with a “data hub” architecture, and how the “data hub” model can help organizations address data privacy concerns.

In this episode of Public Interface, you will learn:

  • What Velir’s Data Integration and Activation team is focused on (0:46)
  • Current data problems that clients face and the tools we’re using to solve those problems (1:05)
  • How marketers can break down data silos and get their Martech tools communicating with each other through “data hub” architecture (2:45)
  • How the “data hub” model can help organizations respond to data privacy concerns (4:20)

Unlocking 360-Degree Customer Data for Retailer johnnie-O

How we built an enterprise-class customer data warehouse and integrations to give johnnie-O advanced analytics and personalization capabilities. 
"What we're trying to promote at Velir are architectures and tools and methodologies that ensure that from the very ground up—from the design of your Martech stack—your systems are meant to communicate with one another in a real way that can give you access to activate the data at your fingertips. "
Adam Ribaudo VP, Data Integration and Activation, Velir

Video Transcript (Edited for Clarity)

[Public Interface Intro]

Episode: Data Integration and Activation

Mark Stiles: Welcome to another episode of Public Interface. My name is Mark Stiles and today I'm going to be joined by Adam Ribaudo, Velir’s VP of Data Integration and Activation. Today we're going to be talking about digital marketing tools—how they've been evolving and where we can expect them to be headed. Thank you for joining me today, Adam.

Adam Ribaudo: Yeah, thanks a lot, Mark.

Mark: My first question for you Adam is what is the team that you're leading here, the Data Integration and Activation team? What are they focusing on and what are they producing?

Adam: We're focused on customer data first and foremost and trying to implement modern practices around collecting that data, processing it, and making it useful to an organization.

Mark: What are some of the current data problems that clients are starting to face and what kind of tools are they using to solve those problems?

Adam: I’d say the number one complaint I hear from clients as it relates to customer data is they don't feel like they have a centralized understanding or centralized record for their customers. What they have are data silos and there's a frustration that exists when they have this gap between having so much data, but they feel like they're doing so little with it. What we're trying to promote at Velir are architectures and tools and methodologies that ensure that from the very ground up—from the design of your Martech stack—your systems are meant to communicate with one another in a real way that can give you access to activate the data at your fingertips.

Mark: The other thing is that Martech chart which over the years has grown exponentially with all the tools that are available to us. Is that really helping us or is that hurting us?

Adam: It's a little bit of both, right? For every new marketing technology toy—I think we're referring to Scott Brinker's blog—Chief Martech. He releases an annual report on the number of Martech vendors out there, and I think we're up to 8,000 right now. With every new Martech vendor that gets released, some niche problem is solved, but I think over time when you have 30 niche solutions plugged into your website there can be some issues that arise.

Mark: With that you have all these disparate tools and one of the key things must be trying to get them to talk to each other. What is it that marketers can do to help them devise a good digital strategy to make use of the data so that it's not stuck in these silos?

Adam: The architecture that I’ve been focused on lately is called a “data hub.” It’s a storage point for consolidated customer data that can be ingested from other data sources and distributed out to other data sources so you can imagine kind of a hub and spoke graphic where in the center is the data hub and one of the spokes might be your CRM system, another spoke might be your web analytics, another spoke might be your email service provider, another spoke might be form tracking or landing pages, or advertisers.

In that scenario you have far fewer connections to maintain between Martech systems as compared to what I like to call your data spaghetti diagram. As opposed to your data hub diagram, you have your data spaghetti when you have every single data source talking to five or six other ones and it just creates this whole confusing chart. But there are serious blockers for organizations adopting that architecture. It requires more coordination with IT, and it requires a bit more savviness in terms of the back-end integrations and point-to-point integrations necessary to set up between those systems. So there's a lot of blockers out there, but I think in the long run it’s going to be the best choice for marketers to look at that type of an architecture.

Mark: When you have that hub does that make it easier to kind of manage some of the privacy issues that we're seeing around data collection and user information?

Adam: Yeah, absolutely. It might seem counterintuitive in a way because by definition by implementing a data hub you are replicating your data into one more spot, but it's kind of like the last time that you need to replicate data. It's the ultimate spot and because everything is connecting through it it's the ideal place to implement any sort of regulatory or compliance needs. Because right now it just feels like the Wild West when you're putting third-party JavaScript libraries onto the user's browser you don't have ultimate control over where that data ends up at the end of the day but when you focus more on server-side solutions and you have a clear data lineage—meaning you understand where the data is coming from and where it's going to—you have more control over that and more control at the end of the day is going to reduce your reliability and risk in the long run.

Mark: You mentioned the client side and the server side. Can you maybe give a little bit more detail to the differences and the benefits between those?

Adam: This is an important distinction and one that I think is sometimes lost on marketers who are more focused on the results of the tool not that the implementation or the guts of how that tool operates. The end result has been that as marketers have more control to be able to test out and try different marketing technologies, it’s become so easy to deploy them in the user's browser. The user's browser is being crushed by the weight of all these tools. So that's one issue just from the pure performance perspective. I mean, my god, go to right now which gets a 3 out of 100 on the Google Lighthouse performance score. You can tell what I'm talking about—they have so many trackers running on that site.

The other thing to be aware of are the privacy implications like I mentioned. You are not in control of where that data is going if you're using a client-side solution like that. What I'm pushing for again looking to the long view—here are more server-side technologies where you the operator of the website, have control over that again the data lineage—where the data is coming from where it's going. So I would look towards solutions like a Google Tag Manager server-side which is a server-side implementation of Tag Manager, I would look towards server-side analytics solutions like we implement Sitecore and BlueRidge has a server-side analytics and server-side personalization and A/B testing solution. That’s all managed from the server it doesn't impact the performance of the client's browser and you have control over where the data is going unlike those client-side libraries.

Mark: All right, thank you for sitting with me here and walking me through some of the latest and greatest in the digital strategy and analytics activation. Thank you for your time.

Adam: Yeah, thank you!

Mark: So that was Public Interface thank you for watching. You just met Adam Ribaudo, Velir’s VP of Data Integration and Activation. Make sure you catch us on, read some of the latest blog posts we have on any number of different technology topics, and make sure you catch us on Twitter (@Velir). And hit that subscribe button to make sure you follow up and catch the next video as it comes out.

[Outro Music and Closing Credits]

Special Guest: Adam Ribaudo
Producer: Velir
Director: Mark Stiles

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