DEFINITION of 'Data On-Boarding'

Data on-boarding refers to the process of bringing related offline information into a digital format where it can be combined for the purpose of analysis. Data on-boarding is most often used in the context of marketing, sales and behavioral analytics. Essentially, companies are attempting to collect more offline data and bring it into their analytics to get a complete picture of the customer’s buying process and the impact of marketing efforts. Data on-boarding may also be referred to as data on-ramping or simply onboarding.

BREAKING DOWN 'Data On-Boarding'

The main challenge for companies is how to capture and digitize the offline data sources. There are a few different methods that are commonly used for data on-boarding. One is to digitize and then sort. This means finding individual software solutions to capture digital data at source, pulling it all into the database and then sorting and organizing it for analysis. An example of this is the recording of customer phone calls as audio files which is saved along with transcripts of those files as well as completed post-call customer satisfaction survey results. This data is all valuable, but the surveys are often given more weight because they are direct customer response to a question. Next in priority for analysis is the call transcriptions that will be run through algorithmic analysis to find trends in issues, keywords, and so on. Last, the audio files are kept for reference but most will not be accessed after the transcription is complete. 

Another approach is to go digital first, with customer facing interactions captured by employees using customer relationship management (CRM) software. Detailed customer files can be analyzed and connected to other data stores to profile the customer, assign a cohort, and then do a cohort analysis to see what other offerings would likely be successful with that particular customer. This system favors business models where customers have ongoing transactions as with a bank rather than a single purchase of an item from an online store - although ecommerce platforms like Amazon have enough raw data to do this sans offline data support. The digital first, CRM approach also depends heavily on having employees invested in the system and seeing the benefits of collecting full customer data. 

Benefits of Data On-Boarding

Online analytics are straight forward for the most part. A marketer gets a report of how many people clicked an ad and how many of those responded to the call to action. With some additional spending to purchase data, a marketer might also see other online sources a similar customer checks before making a decision. If a consumer relies solely on the internet for content consumption, purchase research and ordering, that is enough. More likely, however, there are offline components that are not being captured. Perhaps the consumer is predisposed to a certain brand because it sponsors a sporting event she is passionate about. Perhaps she read about the service in a trade magazine. Perhaps she has been walking the aisles in a particular retail location to see the product before buying. These types of interactions which can justify offline, traditional advertising activities do not get reported in combination with online analytical performance. Without data on-boarding, these types of activities may be given a pass on driving results or is unjustly cut as a useless expense. 

That said, data on-boarding is currently far from being perfect in capturing and delivering offline data. There are issues with the completeness, accuracy, and speed at which the data can be on-boarded. Because there is such a large potential payoff for marketer and business intelligence, however, investments will continue to drive innovation in data on-boarding. 

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