Why Marketing Sometimes Misses the Boat

Whether a brand was built up from a foundation of bricks-and-mortar like Walmart, or digital from its inception like Amazon, thriving in today’s marketing climate depends on a strategy that incorporates continuous, real-time relationships with customers. That means finding a way to deliver what customers want when they want it and not annoy them with irrelevant ads.

It might mean using the solution offered by Chicago-based  Signal. I spoke with Mike Sands, Signal’s CEO about the evolution of marketing and how it is now possible to finally solve the problem of being served ads for what you’ve already bought. 

He recounted that that when he first started in the business what was considered “fast” was a plan for a mail drop over half a year. But expectations have reduced the time for marketing “from months to weeks to days to hours to real-time relevancy.” What band need to do today is “have dialogue with customers in the moments.” I raised the question of why we still see so many messages that are irrelevant. With all the data collected on our purchases why do we  still get served ads for the very thing we purchased the day before?.

Sands answered that this is due to lag between what customers do, and feedback to the CRM, that involves a process which can extend from one to three weeks. So even though the consumer already made her purchase for the luggage she needs for a trip, she will continue to see ads for suitcases, duffels, and backpacks to the point of annoyance because the interest was registered, but failed to get suppressed once she bought. 

To solve that problem, Signal shifts the process into “a live, always on connection, almost like electricity that could be turned on and off.” Sands explained brands can use Signal’s technology to immediately suppress ads by removing the person who purchased from their targeting pool, or to change the ad to something related; perhaps a toiletry case designed to coordinate with the luggage purchased. In that way, the ads aren’t wasted, and are still working on winning a conversion, rather than alienating the customer by showing a lack of awareness of their present needs.

“Real time connectivity and addressability,” he explained,  are key to countering the problem of  irrelevant ads. These ads ares inevitable “in a traditional solution that uses an offline process, because it takes so long.” In contrast, clients who use Signal’s UI, can set up rules that will automatically remove customers from the targeted segment for a particular ad  when there is a purchase confirmation, so that it happens within “milliseconds.”

While this type of instant shift in targeting promises to be of value to both customers and brands who want to maximize their ad spend’s impact, it also presents an advantage “for privacy initiatives and good governance,” Sands insisted. That is because it “puts the controls in the brand’s hands so they can enforce a variety of rules, inclusive of things like opt-out.” 

Consequently, customers who request not to be targeted can get their request answered right away.  “Without identity resolution, without that  connectivity, good governance around the use of the data is pretty hard,” he observed..That doesn’t just apply for companies that are concerned about their customers in the EU that make them subject to GDPR but also for the new data privacy regulations going into effect in California 

I asked if Signal can also work on controlling the ads served through social media services. He said it can, though in the case of the “walled-garden,” it generally flows in one direction, as the likes of Facebook, Google, and Twitter are “not great about sharing information back out.”

As we were speaking about “walled gardens,” he made the observation that now Walmart has “become a mini-walled garden for themselves” due to having built up so much customer data. Of course, they took their cues from Amazon, which has “mastered identity-based marketing.” But it has made quite a success of it on its own, using teams of data scientists toward that end.  In fact, he noted, that Walmart is “one of the biggest tech companies in the world; people just don’t think of it that way.”

No matter what the selling platform, it all starts with data. And being able to apply it in real time is the an important differentiator between marketing that’s relevant,and marketing that misses the boat. 

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