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Personalisation, But Not Precision

With the death of cookie-based marketing on the horizon, personalised marketing (or identity-based marketing) is on the rise with the so-called ‘universal ID’. Writing exclusively for ExchangeWire, Ray Kingman, CEO, Semcasting, talks about the challenges the universal ID still faces, the advantages of IP and device-ID matching, and how marketers can boost performance by reaching unique audiences with personalised messaging.

Around the time we started to think of our phones as essential extensions of our identities, consumers began to expect a more personalised marketing experience. Naturally, marketers were only too happy to oblige. According to eMarketer, 90% of marketers worldwide have engaged in strategies that are designed to help brands personalise their outreach. In 2017, that seems like a no-brainer.

But less than a decade ago, the concept of personalisation was a no-no. Back in the days of web 1.0, the cookie was the vehicle that allowed us to strike a balance between consumer privacy and audience targeting. Things change. Instead of a dial-up AOL account for one-third of consumers, today, everyone has at least two, and probably three to four, devices that access the internet.

Ad tech got noisy and had to do something of an about-face in terms of its core mission in order to validate annual double-digit increases in digital spending. Instead of reach and brand awareness, the objective became reaching specific people who are pre-identified as names, addresses, emails and/or device IDs.

The broken cookie & the not-so-universal ID

Ad tech has known for some time that cookies were broken. An overwhelming majority of consumers have been conditioned to regularly delete cookies, while ad blocking has mushroomed from a geeky niche to a mainstream phenomenon. Coupled with an explosion of mobile devices – some of which don’t support cookies – at less than 50% unique user coverage for every single market, it isn’t a surprise that marketers might rally to a universal ID.

But, as we transition from browser-based cookies to universal IDs (derived from an email and/or social ID), we all need to understand that ‘a universal ID’ (as defined) is far from universal.

Inside the walled gardens of Google, Facebook and, to a lesser extent, Apple, Samsung, and Verizon, an email or social ID is being used to create incredibly useful identifiers – a prototype for personalisation, but only if you stay inside the garden. One of the benefits of the universal ID is that it ties back to a person and/or device, which enables verified onboarding and important measurement and attribution of advertising spend. But once you leave one walled garden and enter the next, the chain of custody is broken and the ID is nothing more than an anonymous cookie.

Can’t these IDs be pushed out into the cookie pool?

Part of the process of onboarding involves going from a person-based email ID to a browser-based ID. Once you hit the cookie pool, however, you run into a problem; because you’re stripping away an identity and placing it in a pool of anonymity. Inside a walled garden, like Facebook, a user has only one ID. But on the web, the people who don’t block third-party cookies can literally have dozens of associated cookies that are cycling from active to inactive.

When you visit Yahoo Finance, for example, a cookie is placed on your browser. The same thing happens when you visit Bloomberg or any other site. In the aggregate, it would not be unusual for you to have 20 to 50 different cookies that point to you. If a B2B marketer is trying to match a specific email-based ID to that pool of cookies in order to target you, they would have to target 1,000s of your closest friends who also set user cookies as a result of a finance site visit. Onboarding email involves a guess (based on context) and chances of a one-to-one match is pretty close to random.

Use device IDs & IP addresses

B2B marketers don’t rely on cookies because IT departments have always been vigilant about blocking third-party cookies. But what has been an obstacle may increasingly be an advantage. Because of new matching technology, B2B marketers may be in an excellent position to accurately identify, locate, and match their audiences to the businesses they want to reach.

Ray Kingman, CEO, Semcasting

The gold standard of deterministic identity resolution is a good old fashioned mailing list. That said, B2B marketers also know that digital audience matching has always been challenging because of an inability to accurately identify decision makers, or to reach a critical mass of individuals who work in the building. Pushing a mailing list into a pool of anonymous cookies (which are going to get blocked anyway), B2B marketers have turned to mobile as a way to focus their matching to relevant device IDs and IP addresses.

The matching process is often location-based, which allows for all kinds of flexibility in the audience targeting process. A device ID captured from a trade show, for example, can be matched to a particular business, the business network, and even a home Wi-Fi, all with physical addresses and additional IP address references.

OK, that works for B2B, but I’m B2C

The historic dividing line in marketing is between B2C and B2B. In a lot of ways, audience targeting tactics are making that line fuzzy and somewhat obsolete. Instead, marketers are starting to ask whether they’re trying to reach places where transactions occur (trade areas) or specific people.

True mass-marketing is incredibly rare because there are very few products in today’s economy that are equally suitable for hundreds of millions of undifferentiated people. Most products have become segmented into specialised uses and appeal to a narrow audience. Advancements in IP- and device-ID-based audience targeting correlate well to promotional tactics in these specialised niches, as they can be identified down to the person or business and addressed to their specific ID for targeting and attribution.

What this means is that, in light of the ability to reach a target consumer across locations and across devices in a mobile-first society, consumer marketers would be better suited if they followed the B2B playbook. Whether your task is B2C or B2B marketing, the goal is to reach the right audience with precision and at scale. Personalise your message by creating the optimal target audience up front and then onboard it to device IDs and IP addresses to make an accurate unique user match that performs.

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