With all the data coming in from so many sources in a complex consumer journey, an advertiser’s effectiveness becomes a matter not just of determining the channels through which to reach the brand audience, but how to attribute the responses in an accurate way. For a leading name in ratings, like Nielsen, this modern challenge requires a robust analytics offering. For them, the “Wanamaker Problem” still exists: which half of the advertising is wasted? The waste in the old days came from the imprecise means of measuring traditional media. As so much of media today is digital, precise views by individual consumers can be tracked. But there is still a gray area in attribution, and it’s not all associated directly with fraud.
Matt Krepsik, Nielsen’s Global Head, Analytics Product Leadership, framed the problem this way: “We know today that roughly 40 to 50 percent of all impressions are not real.” He suggested, “We need to look at the data to learn how to become more intelligent. I see the world pivoting from capturing all the data to capturing the right bits of data and making that data smart. That’s the major innovation. The promise that attribution brought to the industry is still one we hold to.”
He added that “it’s incredibly important to capture the full journey, every touchpoint to the last click, and include those touchpoints deterministically.”
Krepsik’s colleague, Lana Busignani, EVP, U.S. Analytics, agrees. “In terms of understanding the consumer journey, there’s a lot that marketers are trying to tackle,” Busignani said. “Marketers are realizing that they don’t have all of the data they need to tell a full story about their consumer. Because they realize they don’t have a full picture, they have to rely on different data sources. Marketers need the ability to pull together these sources and link them in a way that makes sense.”
In order to find the “glue” that connects data from different sources, marketers have to realize they don’t have all the information in-house, according to Busignani.
Also, internally, “[marketers] can look at how their organizations drive and support various media channels,” she explained. “They can pull their teams together and not have silos with different people responsible for different parts of the consumer journey. If everyone’s only measuring what they do, that creates an imperfect and incomplete picture for the organization. Who is tying all that together and who is setting the priorities for the greater good, instead of each individual pillar? As the ecosystem evolves, think about how you are adapting your organizational structure to better reflect the customer journey.”
Research from business growth platform HubSpot details the many channels involved, beyond just the hardware devices, 12 different mediums in all. Customers want to engage with companies on their website, through videos, blogs, gated content, Messenger, Twitter, live chat, phone, a Contact Us form, self-service, email and Slack.
“Managing all these channels is a significant lift, but the answer is not to limit channels available to buyers,” said Jon Dick, Hubspot’s VP of Marketing. “Instead, marketers should invest in a CRM or CDP (customer data platform) software that can unite all these inputs and ‘de-duplicate’ contact records. If unification occurs correctly, then the most important data – how well you monetize and retain customers – is easy to measure.”
He added, “Multi-touch attribution is still the holy grail, and is extremely difficult. Most models give helpful directional guidance, but perfection is nearly impossible. Start with the most important business outcomes you want to measure, and measure consistently over time. Even if those metrics can’t give you a perfectly complete view, the consistency will at least allow you to identify patterns and trend-lines.”
From the brand side – although criticism for “walled gardens” comes from other sides of the media ecosystem as well – marketers benefit from access and control of their data in a more “democratized” playing field. (Listen to the views about “black boxes” from media buying platform Beeswax’s CEO Ari Paparo, for instance.)
Online retailer Zulily saw 73 percent of all orders coming through a mobile device in 2018. This trend toward mobile in retail adds complexity, as well as higher stakes concerning revenue, to the problem of organizing data.
“Marketers must embrace the industry’s future: the democratization of data,” said Sasha Bartashnik, Marketing Analytics Manager for Zulily. “If more of your organization is empowered to look into the data and understand the business, we’ll get there better and faster. To understand the data allows marketing teams to drive their own business more strategically and effectively, which also frees up analytics and data science teams’ time to focus on the long-term marketing strategy and customer insights, which are key to any organization’s growth.”
“It’s often tempting,” Bartashnik stated, “to do more – send more emails, create more social ads, push more notifications, etc. More isn’t more; in fact, volume can be a detractor; our focus is about efficiency and efficacy. In the fast-paced world of consumer retail where purchase decisions are made in seconds, if we invest in the upfront marketing and data infrastructure to optimize each touchpoint so that it is additive to the customer experience, we can inspire growth and loyalty.”
According to Bartashnik: “The best strategy is to continuously innovate and push teams to do more with less, lean into unifying marketing with data science and analytics, and to go all-in on building long-term customer relationships.”