Data Sourcing in Turkey

Jade Boneff-Walsh

My car sits motionless on the Bosphorus Bridge as I cross over from the Asian side where my meeting was held. Traffic on this iconic bridge, which connects the continents of Europe and Asia, is creeping along. Istanbul is a city split in two, and the one mile crossing has so far taken me ninety minutes.

Bosphorus BridgeTurkey is one stop in my three country data sourcing trip which includes UAE and Bahrain. I am here renewing Infocore’s existing relationships, and connecting with some new contacts who have access to rich data resources. I will end up returning home with new sources for Turkey, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and India.

Hopefully I will not return with too many additional pounds as well – Istanbul is a renowned foodie city, and my hosts ply me with fragrant kebabs, savory spreads, heavenly baklavas and more. Temptations follow even when walking through the beautiful chaos of the streets – they are lined with eateries, stalls and food carts.

Finding your way through the winding streets can be tricky, and historically Turkey has had difficulties with its street addressing system. Local governments and institutions used their own formatting, which was often inconsistent even within their own documents.

The Turkish government is working hard to implement standardization for several reasons. In addition to the efficiencies it would bring, Turkey is a candidate country for the European Union, and improved addressing is one of many criteria that must be met to gain membership. Geocoding has proven extremely difficult here and auto-coding is nearly impossible.

Geocoding is done manually, and one of my new contacts employs a team of people who walk the streets noting new businesses that have opened, and others that have closed since the last walk through of the area. I am told that major search engines are interested in joint ventures and will underwrite the costs of geocoding all of Turkey, partnering with a local firm that has made much valuable progress.

Istanbul is a very hot market now, and a notable percentage of our requests for international data are for this area. Istanbul has a dense, young, ever-growing population, and is in the midst of an economic boom. Companies rely on geomarketing here, which is one reason geocoding is so valuable. Marketers profile an area with the assumption that most residents are homogenous and can be targeted as Affluent, or Young Families with Children etc.

Social Media is becoming ever more popular as people embrace new channels. While direct mail is not prevalent, email to mobile and SMS most certainly are – and boasting a 10 to 25% open rate. Cell phones abound, and while most households don’t have a landline, people often have 2 or 3 different mobiles. Mobile phone penetration in Turkey had surpassed 90% by March 2013, driven by a very young and tech-savvy population. Out of the total population of 76 million, roughly half is under 30, and 26% is under 15.

Consumers are often reluctant to give out their email address when filling out web forms, participating in surveys or sweepstakes, or when shopping online. However they freely offer their mobile numbers. The use of mobile numbers as identifiers is so widespread that loyalty programs like supermarkets, pharmacies, and retail stores do not offer physical membership cards.

A surprising number of kids have cell phones too, with penetration at about 25% for kids 6-15. With little in the way of data privacy regulation, companies can legally market to kids as young as eight. Some companies give free downloads of mobile phone games in return for an email address and collect data that way.

My new contacts are an interesting and varied group, as is their data. Some speak excellent English, and others rely on an interpreter. One commonality is that most tend to do more than simply rent data. They may manage the call center that updates the database, do online advertising, handle creative services, do telemarketing, market research or event management. It is not uncommon for them to not release any data. Rather they will execute the complete campaign themselves and deliver robust analytical reporting.

On my last day I leave for the airport feeling very satisfied with the outcome of my time in Turkey. I have forged solid relationships with eight new contacts at six companies. Infocore maintains a private International Data Repository, which tracks all the non-US marketing data that we can source for our clients and partners. Assessing the acquisitions for Turkey, it looks like 29,000,000 new consumer records and 1,000,000 on the B2B side to enrich the database. A sizeable chunk of it is geocoded.

I arrive at Ataturk airport with time to kill before my flight so I go to Turkish Airlines’ lounge. The lounge is spacious, comfortable, and opulent. Like their in-flight service, the Turkish Air lounge is really hard to beat. I walk in to see an abundance of seating in the dining area – small marble tables and soft leather chairs.

There is a staggering buffet with several different stations, including one just for desserts. I grab a delicious looking pastry and a bottle of water, and sit down alone at one of the small tables. I quickly realize I forgot napkins, so I set my purse on the table and walk up to the buffet.

When I come back I am very confused. I don’t see my table with the pastry plate, water bottle, and purse I had left just seconds ago. After a moment of looking I recognize my purse. It is under the elbow of some guy who is sitting in my chair and gobbling down my pastry.

I walk to the table, feeling a little bit bad for the guy. It is an awkward moment and I am sure he’ll be embarrassed when he realizes he sat at the wrong table. But he does not acknowledge me at all and just keeps eating, elbow firmly planted on my purse. I stand there for a surreal moment, uncertain what to say. I finally settle for “excuse me”, and wriggle my purse from under his elbow.

My flight from Istanbul is less than an hour long, but Turkish Airlines still finds a way to serve a 4-course meal, all of it delicious. A trio of typical appetizers, including an amazing roasted eggplant stuffed with onions and cheese, followed by chicken kebab with potatoes and zucchini, a small plate of cheese and olives, and a vanilla custard with mango-strawberry sauce. Now that they’ve gotten rid of that insidious jingle, I can unequivocally say that Turkish Airlines ROCKS.