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Accurate data helps retailers deliver targeted offers to consumers

One of the most interesting developments in retail in recent years has been the growth of targeted, one-to-one marketing. These days, it's not enough for merchants simply to advertise themselves by putting coupons in the newspaper, allowing any consumer to cut it out and use it. People want deals and discounts that are directed specifically toward them, helping them purchase products that they'll appreciate.

It can be logistically tricky to deliver marketing material along these lines. It requires collecting information about consumers and their tendencies, maintaining a high level of data quality and tapping into that data in real time.

Often, it involves managing information collected by disparate teams of marketers across multiple networks, which is where things get complicated. It's especially difficult considering that this data needs to be deployed at high velocity. The moment a customer walks into a store - either in person or online - the vendor needs to be ready with a personalized message.

This is hard, but that doesn't mean companies are giving up. According to the National Retail Federation, marketers are getting better at managing the logistics. Tom O'Reilly, CEO of enterprise marketing and promotions management firm Aptaris, told the NRF's BIG Blog that companies are adjusting their strategies.

"It's one thing to know intellectually that you have to get the right offer at the right time to the right customer through the right media channel," O'Reilly said. "It's another thing altogether to execute on that ideal. It takes agility - and that is a combination of speed, visibility and connectedness."

O'Reilly added that in the past, merchants planned their marketing campaigns by looking to the future - weeks, maybe even months in advance. That's no longer a realistic option. Analytics-driven marketing today requires both data quality and data velocity.