Every business aims to acquire and retain customers at a price that drives profit. For years, business people and marketers have grappled with this task. Many business areas claim they are key to driving success; ‘advertising persuades consumers to buy our products’, ‘our product is the best on the market’, ‘our reputation is solid because we serve our customers with respect’, ‘our manufacturing is better than our competitors’, ‘we secured the best store location’; the list goes on. Clearly, all have a role to play, but a highly debated topic is, ‘how much value does marketing really add’?
Marketers who are tasked with generating revenue from a sizeable budget are at the frontline of accountability, and have a variety of levers they can pull. Before the dawn of the internet, much of the intellectual debate focused on how to best sell the consumer promise between influential media: from TV, to newspapers, to direct mail, and other ‘traditional’ media choices.
Today, with the rich tapestry of choices that the internet offers, the world is frustratingly more complex for marketers. Do they invest in a mobile app, should they risk their Google search word investments for Facebook opportunities, how should they think about Twitter, is it economical to buy key ad spots on AOL if so few people click on the advert? All of these are the types of questions yet to be answered with confidence.
Lay people may find it curious that digital marketing can be difficult to figure out, “Surely the internet is full of tracking technologies?” Marketers share their feelings of bemusement. Marketers typically have 8 – 10 tracking technologies: website tracking from Google Analytics, to advertising tracking from Doubleclick, to reports from Facebook and Twitter about their advertising campaign successes, to email reports, and many more. Each has a deep view of the services they provide. The problem is that these vendors’ reports do not integrate into a single view of the consumer.
The crux of the problem is that tracking vendors can only ‘see’ what they are practically permitted to ‘see’. Internet browsers, such as Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, govern the practicalities. The dominant tracking mechanic is the ‘cookie’. The rule is that the tracking vendor can only see the cookie that they injected into the consumer’s browser. No one vendor, not even Google, covers all the bases of digital marketing, and this is why every vendor can only see a small piece of the consumers’ interaction with advertising and websites.
The double whammy challenge for the marketer is they are left holding high-quality reports from each vendor, but do not have a single view of the consumer journey. Without data integration there is no way to assess if the person who opened the email is also the person who bought their product two hours later via their website. This reality has led marketers to adopt very direct thinking and marketing strategies, typically known as last click marketing. Some of the biggest companies in the world have been built on the back of this strategy, the biggest of which is Google’s search advertising business.
The interesting thing is that even before digital marketing was an arrow in the quiver of the marketing team, the belief was that influencing a consumer’s purchase required multiple marketing touch points. Ford would never think of just running television adverts because they knew they needed to have influence through newspapers, magazines, the dealer network, local radio adverts and so on. The point is that the marketer knew that the consumer needed to hear the orchestra not just the violin to fall in love with the song.
A paradox of having a unified view of the consumer journey is that the digital world becomes a three-dimensional landscape for the marketer. Important marketing questions can finally be addressed: does Facebook drive consumers to purchase, does search create a sales opportunity or act as a navigation tool only, are consumers influenced by banner adverts, does targeting adverts to specific consumer categories make economic sense, which affiliates are performing better to drive conversions? These are the big questions that have vexed digital marketers for years. By having a unified view of the consumer, the ‘facts of behaviour’ are established. From the ‘facts’, hypotheses can be created and tested and digital marketing can be redefined.
Another quantum leap in the world of marketing driven by a TMS is known as ‘auto-optimisation’. Before digital advertising, marketers would make a plan, execute the plan, review the plan and then refine the plan. The whole process could take a year and many long lunch discussions. Today the opportunity lies in ‘auto-optimisation’, where a marketing vendor uses the marketers’ unified view of the consumer journey to optimise their services on the fly, and in real-time. Behind the scenes, the vendors’ data centres consume, crunch and make sense of their place in the consumer journey to auto-optimise their delivery in lightning speed. The TMS is crucial to this process in two ways: firstly, to collect the unified view, or ‘facts’, and secondly, to pass the data to the vendor. The TMS is uniquely able to do this because their core competence is collecting and connecting data across millions of pieces of software in the blink of an eye.
The early results have been impressive, with stories such as Air New Zealand, a global long-haul airline that grew revenue 15% by reducing search and increasing adverts in display; or a leading European retailer who grew performance 200% with their display advertising vendor, myThings, by passing data points from multiple channels and combining them to provide a unified view of the customer journey in real-time. Marketers are actively refining hypotheses, optimising strategies and putting vendor hype to the test now that they have access to the right tools. The impact will be felt on Wall Street as well as Main Street, welcome to web marketing 2.0, less hype and more data-driven decisions.