Tsunami of Offline Customer Data Is Flowing to the Web

Data-Onboarding Business, Now Named Connectivity, Has Grown Significantly

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Call it something dry like "data on-boarding" or something marketable like "connectivity." Whatever it's called, Acxiom-owned LiveRamp is doing a lot more of it than a year ago. The company currently "on-boards" or connects 20 billion consumer records representing individuals or households each month, or around 240 billion per year. That's a big leap from the 3 billion customer records it brought to the web in March 2014, up from 1.3 billion in March 2013.

Those records contain consumer data generated offline, such as information from auto leads, retail transactions or banking relationships. The digitized data is used by companies who want to communicate with their current customers via email or targeted digital ads, optimize website pages or measure the impact of digital ad campaigns on offline sales. More than 200 marketing-technology platforms are integrated with the LiveRamp system -- part of Acxiom's newly-named Connectivity division -- meaning the data can be plugged into all sorts of ad targeting, email marketing, site optimization and campaign analysis tools.

Acxiom reported that Connectivity revenue rose 367% to $22 million in fiscal Q4 2015. The growth is a result of more awareness of data onboarding, said James Arra, VP-strategic partnerships for LiveRamp. But it's also the May 2014 Acxiom acquisition that has facilitated business with clients that may have been out of reach when LiveRamp was still an indie, such as highly regulated financial services firms.

"It would take a two year audit to go through before you can actually do business with them," said Mr. Arra, adding that because Acxiom has already undergone these audits with clients in the banking or auto sector, for instance, "a two year sales cycle can be a three-month sales cycle." He said the company has also added CPG clients, which typically don't have much proprietary customer data. Those firms tend to be interested in on-boarding data to measure the effect of digital advertising on in-store purchases.

The company said the number of clients using the on-boarding service has more than doubled in the past year.

The "connectivity" piece comes in when Acxiom-owned LiveRamp matches its clients' offline databases to online data, often tying them together using registration information gathered by travel or dating site partners. They can also link cookies representing a user's visitation to a partner site to information in CRM databases. As with most offline-to-online matching systems, personal data is stripped once connections are made, and before data is delivered to ad targeting or site optimization platforms.

Acxiom has emphasized its data onboarding business in the past year. It reported in May its Q4 2015 Marketing and Data Services revenue dipped 2% to $206 million. At the time Acxiom still included the Connectivity business, which rose in revenue that quarter, as part of the Marketing and Data Services division, but going forward Connectivity will be considered its own separate division. Meanwhile, the Arkansas firm divested its IT Infrastructure Management business in May for a $190 million.

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