Most marketers are half right about John Wanamaker.
A century ago, the department store owner said that while half of the money he spent on advertising was wasted, he just didn’t “know which half.”
If he had good attribution, according to conventional wisdom, he would have known.
But that’s only half the story. The right attribution would have told Wanamaker which marketing investments led to sales, but it wouldn’t have been completely reliable. To see the whole picture, he would have also needed accurate, complete and persistent customer identity.
Connecting the dots
Without reliable customer identity—not to mention attribution across all their channels and touchpoints—marketers will struggle to answer their most urgent questions:
- Who are my best customers?
- Which prospects most resemble my best customers, who are more likely to buy my products?
- What kind of messaging, in what kinds of places, will have the most ROI-positive effect on these kinds of customers and prospects?
Attribution is the process of connecting all those dots, using statistics to quantify the incremental sales lift resulting from marketing investments and properly giving credit to each engagement in a customer’s journey.
But if all those marketing touchpoints aren’t associated with real people—identified by what they buy, what they watch, where they visit and how they browse—the result is like a paint-by-numbers kit. Painting one will make you an artist no more than having a vague (if any) picture of your customers and prospects at the center of your spend will make you a fully successful marketer.
By understanding the full picture, however, marketers can better understand which messaging should be increased to boost the best repeat customers, or to attract new, younger prospects who are likely to buy.
Connecting messages via identity
Good customer identity can make the difference between living inside John Wanamaker’s world of uncertainty or moving assuredly into the future. Here’s an example of what it looks like when excellent customer identity resolution is connected to the actual channels and touches you need to measure:
A major financial services client heavily invested in direct mail, email, web and Facebook needed to assess the impact of its various marketing spends. The company used test and control to determine the incremental lift of its campaigns. It saw, for example, a sales lift of 12 percent for a segment of customers and prospects who received the company’s physical mailer, compared with a control group that did not. The mailer’s message included a promotion of the company’s Facebook page. Many of the mailer recipients then went to Facebook, received more information and made a purchase.
When the company used identity resolution to create anonymized customer journeys for these individuals, it could finally see that those who received the mailer also went to Facebook at a much higher rate and were more likely to convert, compared with those who didn’t receive the mailer.
In other words, connecting the dots between messages became a complete picture after the journeys were connected to actual people.
Using strong customer identity resolution allowed the company’s marketers to finally understand the key channels involved in the customer journey, and, by having access to walled-garden (e.g., Facebook) impressions at a user level, the company could more clearly see the influence of specific marketing investments on touchpoints leading to sales.
Golfers want golf shoes
Some of those touchpoints, of course, take place in the real world. According to the research firm Internet Retailer, about 86 percent of retail sales in the U.S. in 2018 occurred in physical stores. But journey mapping between an individual’s offline and online selves is all but impossible without identity resolution, because a common email address or street address is often used for the connection.
High-quality customer identity goes beyond these kinds of offline-online linkages and beyond a device graph showing that the same individual uses this phone/laptop/tablet. Robust identity is also more than just resolving fractional identifiers—like addresses, phone numbers and emails—to an individual or household.
It should also provide a picture of that person’s tendency to buy a given product. A golfer, for example, is more likely to buy golf shoes. This propensity becomes a factor in determining whether the messages right before the shoes’ purchase acted as persuaders or as simple reminders that spring was approaching.
With accurate attribution, superior identity resolution and an assessment of propensity, the picture of how marketing drives sales to real people becomes clear.
But it does more than answer questions about customer strategy, marketing budgets or propensity to buy. A complete picture—with the trail of messages leading to an actual customer—may not help John Wanamaker now, but it can finally resolve your own “which half” dilemma.