Do you really want to market your competitor?

Imagine you find that your TV spend is driving search traffic and subsequent sales. Sounds successful, right? Well, what if that surge in traffic was drawing more people to your biggest competitor’s site?

Recently, when reviewing one client’s marketing spend and performance, it became apparent that its TV spend didn’t match its best audience segments’ viewing habits. Given the amount spent on TV advertising, there was a potentially huge opportunity to reallocate spend and integrate channels that naturally connect with TV, such as search.

Diving deeper into its search performance, we discovered its media spend was successfully drawing people to search for them, but its competition was using even more effective search terms. Therefore, the company’s TV media spend was actually driving traffic for their competition, as well.

Kudos to its competition, but this is something that could be easily fixed by wisely selecting the right audience segments, getting more creative on search, and integrating channels to create a customer-centric experience that is more difficult for a competitor to emulate.

As the above example illustrates, brands still struggle to implement an integrated approach to optimizing customer experiences. Although new channels and ways of engaging have greatly exacerbated the challenge, there has never been as much opportunity for brands to begin to unlock the economic opportunity available by a better understanding of the consumer lifecycle.

A data-driven approach

Creating value through data-driven marketing requires brands to access, integrate, and coordinate the precious customer data that is trapped in their various customer-touching data systems. For example, in the scenario I mentioned above, the ability to better link TV and search as channels would be a part of mapping the consumer decision journey, to be sure. But, the ability to understand that a large optimization opportunity existed by better targeted, data-driven segments would have been missed. It’s the marriage of these two opportunities that represent some of the biggest opportunities for companies to create a meaningful experience for their customers, and thus also drive a large economic impact for themselves.

Channels that were previously not addressable, or only partly addressable, now have much more potential for targeting. In the example shared above, it was possible to see a data-driven segmentation view of TV, search, display, and behavior across multiple areas of the open web. Recent moves by Facebook in launching its Custom Audience offering (and the interest from the stock market generated from the launch) show that the opportunity for increasingly better targeting is front and center in today’s marketing landscape. This ability to combine addressable channels with syndicated, data-driven segmentation creates opportunities for new insights on consumer behavior. Using techniques such as look-alike models, brand affinity models, and in-market-timing models across channels allows traditional offline data assets to be put to work in the digital environment. Leveraging data and analytics in this way allow insights to be applied in real time, as consumers are showing interest in and engaging with the brand.

An additional upside to using data more creatively is to better understand competitive behavior and where your customers spend their time, opening up a variety of strategic marketing possibilities. Data assets available from third parties and affinity parties can be leveraged to uncover an amazing level of detail on what your competitors are doing. Developing a more acute understanding of where your competition places their bets (and on whom) will help you to be more nimble when offering a competitive response.

Finally, brands will need to continue building customer-centric capabilities both internally and with a robust partner ecosystem. It will be very difficult for any one firm to build all necessary capabilities in house, so finding the right partner or group of partners will be essential. Strategically finding the right mix of capabilities to build, and the right capabilities to outsource will remain important but will feature new and more partners. These can include partners with unique data assets, or increasingly from what I’ve seen, partners who know how to use data and analytics to unlock valuable customer insights.

I recommend keeping the following in mind when attempting to create and deliver a consumer experience that will deliver the goods:

  • Map the consumer decision journey (qualitatively and quantitatively), and understand the linkages between what consumers do and how channels work together to drive desired outcomes.
  • Use a syndicated or data-driven customer segmentation system to understand how your best audience segments perform across channels.
  • Build a partnership ecosystem (or partner with someone who has one) to generate valuable insights about consumer behavior and competitive threats/opportunities.
  • Challenge your teams and partners to identify where data can add value and influence the decision journey. Create a pilot to test, measure, and evaluate your hypothesis.
  • Focus on the right metrics, particularly customer lifetime value (CLV). Even if you master the front end of the consumer decision journey, but aren’t attracting profitable customers, there is still work to be done.

Bryan Throckmorton global practice leader at Acxiom. Contact him at [email protected] or @globalthrock.

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