Audience buying is a lot like buying produce. In order to know if it's any good, you really have to know what you're buying. You want to know whether it's fresh or how old it is or, worse, if it's gone bad. You might even want to know where it was grown.
In my experience, marketers too often ignore these seemingly tiny details (source, age, scale). Instead, they defer to their digital media partners. In fact, an alarming 56% of marketers feel they don't have enough visibility into the data used to define their target audiences, according to Forrester Research. The results are wasted dollars and poor return on ad spend as they speak to the wrong people or the same person over and over. Like rotten food, it's enough to make someone sick.
We have access to more consumer data and targeting options than ever before. Yet marketers still struggle to create a single view of consumers and keep that profile up to date. They're struggling to connect with their customers; they're struggling to match consumers across channels, devices and media formats with a high degree of accuracy and persistence.
So how can we get it right? It's not about device graphs, match rates, onboarding or reach rates—at least, not in isolation. It's about creating one data-rich, anonymous view of each consumer, at the individual level, that shows their connections to their devices and cookies. And it needs to persist as they move from device to device, app to app and online to offline.
Getting one view isn't as easy as it seems. Many marketers rely on probabilistic models that only match at the IP or household level, not the individual level. Others work with a number of specialty partners, combining a DMP, DSP and data onboarder. This approach leads to a fragmented view of the consumer and opens you up to errors as well as a huge drop-off in your actionable audience size.
To speak with consumers as unique individuals—rather than en masse—marketers need to focus on five key areas:
1. Know your consumer. Recognize who you're talking to, and on which device or browser. For instance, some consumers only make purchases on one of their devices. If you don't recognize them across devices and browsers, or tailor your message to where they are in the purchase funnel, you'll repeat your message, waste money and create a poor experience.
2. Reach your consumer as an individual, not as part of a group. It sounds pretty obvious, but you need scale to reach a significant portion of your audience, at the individual level, no matter where they are.
3. Make sure you're talking to the right person. Customer IDs should be verifiably accurate and matched with online and offline transactional data. When consumers make purchases, they enter their real email and home addresses at checkout; it doesn't get much more accurate than that.
4. Have ongoing conversations with your consumers. A user's cookies disappear, on average, every seven weeks. You can't rely on cookies alone to reach consumers. You need to tie in other online activities, plus transactions (online and offline), to carry on conversations with the same consumers for years and to make year-over-year comparisons.
5. Respect consumer privacy. Before it's used, data should be anonymized, scrubbed of personally identifiable information and maintained within strict privacy guidelines.
Endless amounts of consumer data can make it intimidating to execute one of the above, let alone all five. Do it correctly and you have the ability to reach consumers individually at scale. Do it poorly and you might as well redirect your spend to TV or radio.
The future will only bring more data and more ways to reach people—from virtual and augmented reality, to wearables, to the media and channels we've yet to imagine. But the key to a marketer's long-term success remains simple: Maintain a concentrated, sustained focus on the consumer. When marketers start paying better attention to the audiences they are buying (and the consumers their messages are reaching), they'll achieve the meaningful results they want.
About the Author
Ric Elert is a recognized industry leader with 24 years of experience in high-scale technology, individualized data and operational development. As president at Conversant, he sets the company's vision and guides more than 900 U.S. employees to ensure brands can have personalized conversations with customers across every device and channel.
Prior to joining Conversant, he was executive VP of engineering at comScore. There, he oversaw the development and management of comScore's global enterprise technology.
About the Sponsor
Conversant is a leader in personalized digital marketing. Conversant helps the world's biggest companies grow by creating personalized experiences that deliver higher returns for brands and greater satisfaction for people. We offer a fully integrated personalization platform, personalized media programs and the world's largest affiliate marketing network—all fueled by a deep understanding of what motivates people to engage, connect and buy. For more information, please visit www.conversantmedia.com.