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Digital marketing articles and blogs

» Key to email deliverability is ensuring data integrity, relevance and reputation
» Seven predictions for retail in 2012
» Five top tips for effective email marketing
» Showdown! Online Marketing versus Direct Mail
» Are you targeting your high value customers?
» Three reasons to face the future of digital advertising
» 5 recommendations for using segmentation online
» Should Facebook be worried?
» Google and Zagat: who knew and what now?
» Is Waterstones onto a winner?
» Are you missing a trick in your PPC optimisation strategy?
» Five questions to ask before implementing multi touch attribution
» The Future of Online Shopping
» The evolving role of digital data
» Using segmentation to drive online acquisition strategies   

Key to email deliverability is ensuring data integrity, relevance and reputation

Our latest “The Proactive Marketer” report highlights the need for marketers to understand the connection between data integrity, relevance and reputation and why these three factors can make or break a campaign.

Data integrity should always play a pivotal role in any successful email campaign and remains the number one priority for email marketers. Experian’s recent Single Customer View research highlighted that more than 90 per cent of UK companies suspect that up to 25 per cent of their data is inaccurate  really underlining how potential returns can be lost even before an email marketing campaign begins.

Another important consideration is relevance. Customers have grown increasingly accustomed to getting the information they want, at the time they want and in a format that they can scan for relevance before investing time in exploring the detail. Our Experian Hitwise data shows that email users open an average of just five emails per inbox visit, but yet there are more than 500 million email-driven website visits each month. Understanding how to attract the reader’s attention and being one of the emails that gets opened is of vital importance to a campaign’s success.

Marketers have a number of opportunities to build a good understanding of who their customers are and what interests each of them. Our Experian CheetahMail research  shows that the initial phase of engagement is a critical time to set the tone for all future contacts, with welcome emails – compared to other email messages - achieving open rates that are 63 per cent higher and unique click through rates that are105 per cent higher. The report recommends that building content that starts and continues a dialogue with customers, creating the chance to learn from them at every opportunity, will build trust and significantly reduce the likelihood of disengagement.

With ISPs determining deliverability based on the sender’s reputation for complaint rates, unknown user rates and spam trap hits, it is vital for marketers to maintain their reputation by processing complaints from every ISP or email provider offering abuse complaint feedback loops.

Here are seven top tips for marketers to increase email deliverability levels:

  1. Data Integrity: Capture the data that drives your marketing goals and ensure that it’s constantly validated and always up-to-date 
  2. Data Integrity: Use your contact databases to store more than just addresses, incorporate information on permissions, propensities and preferences 
  3. Relevance: Start a real dialogue with customers to learn from them at every opportunity, building trust and reducing the likelihood of disengagement 
  4. Relevance: Move with your customers, with communications that are always targeted at their changing needs, and meets their expectations in terms of frequency, timing and channel 
  5. Relevance: Create content that encourages dialogue in the short, medium and long term
  6. Reputation: Keep abreast of technology changes such as graymail that may affect your ability to deliver emails 
  7. Reputation: Work closely with ISPs to ensure that you are a responsible marketer and your emails don’t end up in the spam filter.

1. Research into the importance of a Single Customer View conducted by Experian in 2012
2. Research conducted by Experian CheetahMail in November 2011

Stephen Ford, Email Deliverability Specialist at Experian Marketing Services

Seven predictions for retail in 2012

I have recently been thinking about how the high street and online can work together, and so here are my seven predictions for 2012:

  1. More choice in how you receive goods online
    For those retailers with both physical stores and an on line presence, 2012 will see a rise in the number offering a click and collect service, similar to those successfully launched by the likes of John Lewis and Sainsbury’s last year.
    As well as providing customers with a convenient way of collecting their purchases, it gives the retailer valuable insight into how their digital channels are supporting their physical stores. Not to mention, it’s another great way of collecting email and mobile data from customers.
    The big difference this year will be pure-play online retailers allowing you to collect goods at non-competitor stores or through companies like Collect Plus, which deliver to your local supermarket.
  2. Consumers will be encouraged to give more data in store
    My second prediction is the other side of the same coin. In order to understand the impact that physical stores have on websites, retailers will start trying to collect more data in store. This could be a simple survey or, more likely, incentivised by a competition, the use of promotional codes or QR codes in store. The data shared can then be linked to any subsequent online order giving retailers a more joined up understanding of their customers’ behaviour, both on and offline.
  3. Loyalty will be more important than ever
    We’re also going to see an increase in reward and loyalty schemes throughout 2012. Despite often being expensive and difficult to set up, they are of big appeal to customers in these times of austerity and again provide retailers with a view on how their customers are engaging with them across multiple channels.
  4. Consumers will be able to order online whilst in store
    With smartphone penetration still on the rise, and a steady increase in the popularity of tablets such as the iPad, ordering from a mobile device has never been easier or more convenient. The smart multi-channel retailers recognise this, and as a result you will see them provide Wi-Fi for customers to use whilst in-store. Others will install kiosks enabling customers to purchase online as well as view more detailed information on products and even customer reviews.
  5. QR codes will finally start to make an impact
    QR codes have been around for a while now but more and more consumers now understand what they are and how to use them. As mentioned before, smartphone penetration is increasing meaning that there are more devices out there with the ability to read QR codes. Both of these factors will push retailers to use them more than we saw in 2011. 
    A key benefit is that QR codes give a retailer much more data on how and where their customers are engaging with them. When used in store, they can help retailers further understand the link between online and offline. We could even see more virtual stores from pure-play online retailers, using QR codes rather than physical products!
  6. Facebook will provide even more opportunity to engage consumers
    In 2011 Facebook launched ‘Featured Stories’, an advertising format whereby users are encouraged to ‘like’ a brand through a link stating that one of their friends has already done so. The launch of custom verbs at last year’s F8 opens up even more potential, as featured adverts no longer need to be focussed just on ‘liking’, but can also include any number of verbs that make the interaction more relevant to the product itself, such as ‘wearing’, ‘reading’ or ‘listening’.
    Similarly, the Open Graph feature will give consumers the opportunity to share specific actions about the products they are engaging with at that particular point in time. Brands can then use those customer endorsements to drive organic traffic towards their sites and apps.
    The travel sector, for example could be a key beneficiary as users can share updates on all stages of the holiday process; from researching options, creating a short list and making a choice, to booking the tickets, taking the trip and sharing highlights of their experience.
    Companies can then tailor their advertising to the different stages of the consumer journey. Open Graph has been adopted with great success by the likes of The Guardian and Spotify thus far, but we predict a greater uptake by retailers in 2012. The key winners will be those that thrive on simple, personal interactions that can be delivered in a timely manner.
  7. Online video content becomes more crucial for brands
    Video is one of the fastest growing media online and data from Experian Hitwise has shown that visits to online video sites grow by 36% in the last year. There are 785 million visits to online video websites every month and, if the growth trajectory continues throughout 2012, then we expect to see a new milestone of 1 billion visits to video sites every month.
    With customers consuming more and more video, brands should increasingly be looking to use video as a core part of their digital strategy. Video can play a crucial role in customer retention and acquisition by driving website traffic, boosting brand awareness, demonstrating products and services or acting as a customer service channel. Importantly, online video can also be cost effective, so we expect to see 2012 as a year that brands really capitalise on video.

Marie Myles is Director of Consulting for Experian's Marketing Services division. She can adapt and apply her extensive skills in any sector where customer data management and the application of analytics and research is key to added value.

Five top tips for effective email marketing

With 107 trillion emails sent worldwide last year, the fight to stand out and grab attention gets harder and harder. Added to this moves by some ISPs to penalise senders who have lower engagement metrics with their subscribers has added more woe to the story.

So what actions can marketers take to make emails more engaging and relevant? This article looks at the ISP changes (particularly Graymail) and five best practices to enhance the performance of email campaigns – customer centricity, content, timing/frequency, subject lines and engagement scoring.

What is Graymail?
Following the trends started by other ISPs, including Google’s ‘Priority Inbox’, Graymail was publicly announced by Hotmail in October 2011 as a way of enabling end users to prioritise the emails they see in their inboxes. In Hotmail’s terms, Graymail is a phrase used to categorise emails based on user engagement: legitimate emails that people have subscribed to, but may no longer have an interest in.

Microsoft’s SmartScreen technology forms the backbone of this. It has the ability to label emails according to content – newsletters, social updates, groups – and categorise them accordingly.  This in turn brings more ‘relevant’ emails to the top of the inbox ensuring that the content users see is something they engage with regularly. To tackle Graymail, Hotmail has introduced five new tools including ‘schedule clean up’ that allows users to decide how long they want emails to remain in their inboxes before they get deleted. Graymail ensures that end users have access to a more relevant and topical inbox; so how can marketers ensure that their emails form part of that inbox?

What does Graymail mean for your email marketing campaigns?
The implications of Graymail may pose a challenge to marketers, but in reality it’s a positive opportunity to refresh the approach of your email marketing techniques without changing the tried and tested methods of good marketing. Marketers need to take this opportunity to re-evaluate the content and relevance of their emails, making them more specific to their customers and avoiding the spam folder. We’ve worked with our counterparts at Experian CheetahMail to develop these key tips to refresh your email marketing campaigns:

  1. Treat inboxes as individuals, not machines...
    Successful email marketing campaigns are the ones that address customers as individuals; so make sure you look at your customer preferences, and fine tune your emails accordingly. To encourage continued engagement, recipients need to be treated in a personal manner and not just as a member of a mailing list. If a customer has recently purchased a television from your site they are unlikely to open emails about future TV deals, but are more likely to open related offers to blu-ray players; sound systems or cable packages, for example.
    Making sure your emails are personalised to the recipient will help ensure continued engagement with your campaigns. Emails that don’t address individual needs are likely to remain unopened and become susceptible to Graymail’s filtering.
  2. Ensure content is sticky
    Sticky content within a marketing campaign can help ensure continued engagement with your target customers. Not only does the email need to contain information that is relevant or tailored to the interest of the customer, it needs to provide an incentive for the customer to continue to revisit the site and open future emails.
    Look at how you can extend your email campaigns beyond the inbox and open up a continued dialogue with your target audience.  Without sticky content, you run the risk of the customer losing interest and ignoring your emails in future, which could eventually lead to your emails hitting the spam folder.
  3. Test different frequencies and timings
    Frequency plays a key role in successful engagement with your emails. If a brand is sending a large volume of emails on a very frequent basis, there is the likelihood that a number of these emails will remain unread. New inbox functions introduced as part of Graymail can also mean that multiple emails are filtered from the inbox.  Don’t overfill your customer’s inbox and address the frequency of your email - you will have more success sending one interesting,
    relevant email a week rather than bombarding customers with multiple emails about the same topic. The time that an email reaches a customer’s inbox is also important. Marketers should test different deployment times to optimise the results of their campaigns.
  4. Test and refine subject lines based on insight
    A subject line provides the recipient with a taste of what the email holds so it needs to be punchy, engaging and relevant. Careful analysis of your selected keywords, based on both seasonal and individual data, can be the crucial factor between a click-through and an action that will potentially spur future delivery to the spam folder. Marketing departments need to ensure they have access to such levels of analysis from their previous campaigns and implement the learnings from this.
  5. Use engagement scores in your targeting mix
    Use your email event level data to create a history of behaviours at an individual email address level. Create engagement segments that reflect the nature of your business based on factors such as time since last click and time since last open. This will help you to identify how engaged customers are with your emails – and your brand.
    So if you are considering reducing the frequency of your emails, target this reduction at those who rarely open them and direct efforts at reactivation for those who have not opened for over say, three months. As you track trends, look out for those showing signs of disengaging and initiate specific messages to try and pull them back before you lose them By thoroughly planning email campaigns, based on data insights as well as creative content, and implementing these best practices you will be better positioned to maintain the effectiveness of your email programmes and ensure greater success.

Marie Myles is Director of Consulting for Experian's Marketing Services division. She can adapt and apply her extensive skills in any sector where customer data management and the application of analytics and research is key to added value.

Showdown! Online Marketing versus Direct Mail

The cost savings of online marketing over direct mail may not be as big as you think.

Acquisition budgets have been migrating online for a number of years now. Double digit year on year growth, relatively cheap media and real time optimisation have made the transition somewhat inevitable. Certainly I was one of those quick to prophesise the demise of offline channels like direct mail.

However I’ve now revised my opinion. Why? For a start new online customer acquisition costs are starting to creep up and the cost savings over direct mail are not so obvious now. For example it’s difficult to target keywords at new customers only. Existing customers clicking through on these keywords will mean increased acquisition costs and often dissatisfied customers if they think the acquisition offer wasn’t available for them. More importantly though is the need to target the right new customer. Targeting the wrong new customer can cost money and here I think is where I can still see a role for direct mail.

For a start, with direct mail you can de-dupe existing customers in a way that is only really replicated online through email acquisition. Secondly you can hit your desired customer through targeting models and post codes that have been profiled to match your ‘bulls-eye’ new customer. And lastly, direct mail creative gives you more opportunity to convey your offer or promotion. Inevitably though, in this new world of multi-channel engagement marketing and the single customer view it’s all about contacting the right customer through the right channel for the right reason. This applies as equally to new as it does to existing customers – so direct mail isn’t dead as it can, and should be, an important part of any acquisition marketer’s armoury.

Direct mail is dead. Long live direct mail.....
As part of a joined up multichannel acquisition strategy!

Clive Gosling is Head of Consulting with Experian's Marketing Services division and brings both the real world practicalities of day to day business and the in depth customer intelligence Experian can provide to a seamless business solution that is both achievable and profitable.

Are you targeting your high value customers?

You have the right account structure, bid management tool and you’re working to a CPA, but is that CPA driving the right type of business or engaging with a high value customer? 

Far too often campaigns are optimised without a link from the bid management tool into the customer database. So how do you know what true Lifetime Value it is driving? Why isn’t this joined up thinking happening? Probably for historic or technical reasons, and maybe silo channel reasons as well. The campaigns have been optimised in real time through the bid management tool and it’s not always been possible to have a connection into the database.

Technology has moved on and for some time now API capabilities can enable these connections to be made. However, search marketers have been slow on the uptake – or dare I say they don’t realise what insights they could achieve and have limited awareness of the power of a customer database? Or maybe there are silo and structural challenges in your business.

There may not be the internal link between the digital team and the CRM team. Do they sit in different parts of the business, with different managers and separate KPIs and targets?

Whatever the reason it’s time to make that link. Your customer database is undoubtedly the crown jewels in your business, and it’s time search marketers optimised their keywords to their most profitable segments. So make sure you’re optimising to the right CPA by making the link into the customer database.

Marie Myles is Director of Consulting for Experian's Marketing Services division. She can adapt and apply her extensive skills in any sector where customer data management and the application of analytics and research is key to added value.

Three reasons to face the future of digital advertising

I recently read an article on the BBC about how a charity called Plan UK were running an outdoor advert that could recognise the gender of the viewer. The ad was to be placed on a bus stop outside Selfridges in London. Technology scans the face of the viewer, determines if the viewer is male or female and then shows a different ad for each gender. The claim is that the technology will pick the right gender over 90% of the time!

The possibilities of facial recognition really excite me and I can see a number of great uses for this type of technology within digital advertising.

Firstly it’s not a huge leap to think that it will be possible, as long as the relevant consents are in place, to recognise an individual by their unique facial characteristics. After all many computers and mobiles already come with camera technology that can be used for face to face conversations. Once you have this then you could start to track customers across all channels.

Let’s consider some of the things this could unlock; it’s still really difficult to tie footfall through stores back to internet or mobile purchases, but facial recognition technology could provide that link. You could even have cameras above shop entrances that recognise customers! Perhaps this is too Big Brother-like, but then again we might be surprised at how many customers would agree to this in return for some kind of reward or privilege.

Secondly, if you are serving ads through facial recognition technology then for the first time you can serve ads to individuals who use computers that are shared with others. What might this do to retargeting results?!

Thirdly, if you can recognise someone’s facial characteristics then you can identify other features such as types of clothes or accessories or maybe the type of location they are in (home, office or pub). If you can do this then you can start to put people in segments other than simply differentiating by gender.

So as well as location-based targeting of ads, the world of targeted advertising may just be about to face up to some interesting opportunities, so let’s watch this space!

Clive Gosling is Head of Consulting with Experian's Marketing Services division and brings both the real world practicalities of day to day business and the in depth customer. intelligence Experian can provide to a seamless business solution that is both achievable and profitable.

5 recommendations for using segmentation online

This article will discuss how brands can leverage existing segmentation as part of their online acquisition strategies providing 5 key recommendations for putting segmentation at the heart of online acquisition. First though it’s worth explaining why existing segmentation isn’t used in online acquisition strategies.

For years now brands have bought into the idea of segmenting their customers so that they can personalise offers and increase profitability. This then informs the acquisition strategy which is then developed around acquiring those most profitable segments. Seems obvious enough but in a significant number of instances brands are not using this segmentation as part of their online acquisition strategies.

There are two main reasons the first being that in the majority of cases segmentation sits at the heart of the brand in the customer database. As online marketing has matured many of the tools used to implement and optimise online acquisition campaigns have not had links into the customer database and as a result there has been no easy way of using the existing segmentation in online acquisition campaigns.

Secondly there are often internal barriers for brands to overcome. This is often down to how internal team structures have involved. It’s common practice to see a brand’s offline marketing team and insight and analytics teams working side by side but often the online marketing team does not have the same level of interaction. Possibly this lack of interaction is down to the fact that as already discussed there is often no link between the tools used to implement and optimise online acquisition activities and the customer database.

The good news for brands though is that now a simple API can link the database with online acquisition tools. Data can now be imported into the customer database much more easily and as a result my five recommendations should be relatively straight forward to implement. In putting these recommendations together I’ve linked four of them to the four main online acquisition channels, search, affiliates, email and display. The other recommendation sets out to address one of the main reasons existing segmentation isn’t being used online.

Here are my five recommendations to leverage existing segmentation online: 

  1. Review team structures and make sure the online, offline and analytics teams are working more closely together. This should ensure campaigns are ‘joined’ up and that existing segmentation is used across both online and offline.
  2. Build existing segmentation into keyword optimisation strategies. If you use a bid management tool ensure an API links it with the customer database. Keywords should be optimised depending on which segments they are driving.
  3. Display activity should be deployed on sites with a profile that matches your most profitable segments. Online intelligence tools can be used to profile the demographics of proposed sites for advertising and this can be matched to the brands existing segments.
  4. Affiliates should be rewarded with commission that reflects the customer segment that the brand is acquiring from them. A higher commission for a customer in a profitable segment and a lower commission for a customer in a less profitable segment.
  5. Acquisition email addresses should be profiled against your most profitable segments This should improve campaign ROI.

Of my 5 recommendations, recommendation 1 is the one that will deliver long term success and ensure that the brand is set up better to understand multichannel and cross channel challenges and opportunities and gain competitive advantage.

Mark Hales is a digital consultant with Experian’s Marketing Services Division, specialising in digital acquisition, with a keen interest in new technology. 

Should Facebook be worried?

As I am writing this Google plus has just opened its doors to the masses. Everyone seems to be up in arms against the latest Facebook update. Many of the people I follow on Twitter are tweeting about abandoning Facebook for good. A quick search for Facebook in the news brings back articles about ‘Facebook Fatigue’. Active users in some countries are falling. Facebook must be worried, right?

Maybe a little concerned but they have a hell of a lot more to be positive about. Apparently in the last year revenues have doubled and the user base continues to grow. Sure Google plus will bring challenges but because of this it should drive innovation within Facebook. Not that Facebook has sat still in terms of innovation with according to PC Mag having lunched 14 official new features since the end of June.

Many of the brands I work with would love to have Facebooks problems. A user base growing in size, revenues doubling and international expansion. While Facebook fatigue may be real it may equally be the result of the hype dying down and users simply changing their Facebook behaviour. So in short I think Mark Zuckerberg can still sleep soundly at night!

Mark Hales is a digital consultant with Experian’s Marketing Services Division, specialising in digital acquisition, with a keen interest in new technology.

Google and Zagat: who knew and what now?

Marketing bloggers and web watchers have been tying themselves in knots in the last few days, trying to decipher the meaning of Google’s surprising acquisition of Zagat, the restaurant rating and review service.

Reactions have varied from one extreme to another; the Wall Street Journal sees it as an inspired move that will ‘crush Opentable’ (Opentable owns Toptable in the UK but is dominant in the US as a restaurant reviews and booking service’), which is not immediately evident to experts in this space.

Others have been calling it ‘Google’s best acquisition deal ever’, which also seems a little premature, given that as yet we don’t know what they are going to do with the 32-year old business.  Meanwhile, e-Consultancy has major reservations about the conflict of interests this creates for Google as it is now a content creator and promoter. However one thing Melissa Mayer, Google Executive, makes clear in her blog is that Google sees the acquisition as crucial to the development of its local advertising services.

This means a number of different possibilities:

  1. Google is now a publisher. Having relied on algorithms to aggregate review content from third parties, and bruised from wrangling with TripAdvisor and Yelp (who it tried to buy several years ago for $500m), it now wants complete control over the process. It is now taking on an offline publishing business, unless it plans to absorb the brand and make it purely online, which seems unlikely as the printed guides are the brand. That opens up a whole new can of worms and it will be interesting to see where they take it.
  2. Google has made a long term commitment to localised advertising services and realises that the integrity of the reviews and ratings will be crucial to long term credibility. This seems like a smart move but also indicates that they realise there are no cheap, shortcuts to building credible user-generated content. Like everything else it takes work, rigour and consistency, all of which Zagat can deliver.
  3. There is also, in this acquisition a tacit acknowledgement that location-based services such as discount site Groupon have hit a nerve with consumers. The cliché ‘Think global, act local’ has never been so apt. Google’s global presence coupled with its ability to use technology for local targeting, gives it a huge opportunity to do more than link people with the right content.
  4. Finally, it will be intriguing to see how the Zagat content is used in conjunction with things like customer/user data and location data. Clearly Google will build an ever more detailed understanding of its users at a local level which they will surely go on to use as part of the sales process to local advertisers. But the question remains whether they will look to monetise the vast quantities of data they hold on users by rolling it up with other types of local data and selling it on. They will be very aware of the privacy and compliance challenges in this area as well as the danger of being perceived as ‘Big Brother’. But it may be too good to resist.

At only $125m, the purchase of Zagat is nowhere near Google’s biggest acquisition but it is significant and sets down a marker for the future direction of the business – a global provider of local content, information and services. That’s quite a way from its beginnings as a search engine.

Mark Hales is a digital consultant with Experian’s Marketing Services Division, specialising in digital acquisition, with a keen interest in new technology.

Are you missing a trick in your PPC optimisation strategy?

You have the right account structure, the right bid management tool and you are working to a CPA. Is this the CPA for the right customer though? Is that apparently good CPA driving the right type of business or engaging with a high value customer? Far too often campaigns are optimised without a link from the bid management tool into the customer database. So how do you know what true LTV it is driving? Why isn’t this joined up thinking happening? Probably for historic or technical reasons; and maybe silo channel reasons as well. The campaigns have been optimised in real time through the bid management tool and it’s not always been possible to have a connection into the database.

But technology has moved on and for some time now API capabilities can enable these connections to be made. However, search marketers have been slow on the uptake or dare I say they don’t realise what insights they could achieve and have limited awareness of the power of a customer database? Or maybe there are silo and structural challenges in your business. There may not be the internal link between the digital team and the CRM team. Do they sit in different parts of the business, with different managers and separate KPIs and targets? Whatever the reason it’s time to make that link.

The customer database is undoubtedly the crown jewel of any business and it’s time search marketers optimised their keywords to their most profitable segments. Make sure you’re optimising to the right CPA by making the link into the customer database.

Mark Hales is a digital consultant with Experian’s Marketing Services Division, specialising in digital acquisition, with a keen interest in new technology.

Five questions to ask before implementing multi touch attribution

For the last three or four years digital marketers have been discussing attribution in forums and conferences but now at last it seems everyone is rolling up their sleeves and implementing attribution to varying degrees of sophistication. Indeed the buzz now seems to be around phrases like ‘beyond attribution’. This article will look at the 5 key questions any digital marketer should ask before embarking on setting up an attribution model and then ask what next? First though a brief overview of what is meant by attribution and how it has evolved over the last ten or so years.

In the beginning there was traffic or visits and the big questions were:

  1. How many visits do I have to my website?
  2. How many sales have I made?

Then web analytics emerged and the digital marketer no longer had to rely on the ‘Webmaster’ supplying web logs for translation. It was now possible to measure unique visits and conversion and examine customer journeys. The analytics tools also provided a view of where the traffic was coming from. The digital marketer could start to measure the effectiveness of his advertising. However as web analytics tools were designed to measure the effectiveness of websites and the behaviour of customers on those websites the journey the customer took to arrive at the website was not measured. Hence the emergence of the first attribution model the ‘last click wins’. This is still the most common form of attribution. The problem with last click is that it favours search brand terms and, depending on the vertical, affiliates. Other media such as display advertising, email and social are down weighted. In effect if you optimise to last click you run the risk of optimising your campaign to such an extent that although ROI improves you lose volume and future sales and/or leads. You still need to generate demand or interest and for that you need channels such as display and none branded search. These channels all have their own measurement tools and for many marketers the first forays into ‘multi touch’ attribution will have been through their search bid management tool.

So what is ‘multi touch’ attribution and what are the key questions a marketer should ask before setting up an attribution model? ‘Multi touch’ attribution is measuring the effectiveness of your media spend by modelling data and desired outcome in terms of sales or response and then optimising the channels accordingly to deliver improved performance and feeds into the customer engagement strategy. So what are the five questions you should ask when implementing ‘multi touch’ attribution?

  1. Do I need a ‘multi touch’ attribution model?
  2. What channels are you measuring and should this include offline?
  3. Do you have the tracking in place to measure all touch points?
  4. Do you need real time attribution or can modelling retrospectively suffice?
  5. Are the skills available for analysis of the data and implementation of the model?

So looking at these in turn ....

  1. The first thing to consider is do you actually need a ‘multi touch’ attribution model? Reasons you may not might be a lack of advertising. You may only advertise through a small number of keywords on Google and last click may suffice. Another reason could be your sales cycle. If your sales cycle is relatively short, hours perhaps a day, then again last click will probably suffice. However if you have any of the following - a significant advertising budget, multiple ad sources, sales cycles are longer than a day or you have different sales cycles depending on the product - then ‘multi- touch’ attribution is a more obvious choice.
  2. Once you have decided on a more advanced attribution than last click you most consider which channels you are going to measure and can this include offline. Ideally you should be measuring all your digital activity and offline wherever possible. Typically offline can be tracked through unique URL’s, unique product codes or unique phone numbers. One reason you may exclude a channel from your model may be tracking.
  3. Tracking is key to a successful ‘multi touch’ attribution model. Ideally you want all activity tracked through the same source usually a container tag solution. If this is out of scope then tracking will be through existing web analytics tools and third party tools such as ad serving technology and bid management tools. If this is the route taken then the model will not be real time but applied retrospectively.
  4. Real time attribution has a number of advantages not least the fact the data is not out of date. There is also the added advantage with the container tag solutions that you can de- dupe in real time. Based on your model you can decide not to fire tag requests for examples if a cashback affiliate is the last click (goal hanging) you can choose not to fire the affiliate tag. Another advantage is that if the tracking is set up correctly and you have a sizeable paid search campaign you have a real time % of how your none branded ad groups are supporting your brand terms.
  5. Finally and most importantly it is one thing having all the data for the attribution model but the right skills will be needed to build the attribution model and put a rigorous testing plan in place. These skills will usually sit within the insight department of the larger companies or within external agencies or consultants.

Once you have your attribution model in place you can start to look ‘beyond attribution’. If it’s generally acknowledged that we have now moved from last click to a ‘multi touch’ attribution modelling then the opportunity most surely be to push data back from the customer database into the model. The next logical step is to optimise not to a sale or lead but optimise to customer behaviour or life time value.

Mark Hales is a digital consultant with Experian’s Marketing Services Division, specialising in digital acquisition, with a keen interest in new technology.

The Future of Online Shopping

‘England is a nation of shopkeepers’ was used by Napoleon but is most widely attributed to Adam Smith when he used the phrase in ‘The Wealth of Nations’. Now there is strong evidence to suggest that the UK has become ‘a nation of online shopkeepers’; on eBay alone in the UK, 7.4 million people have sold 1 billion items in the last 10 years. While not everyone will agree with the notion of ‘a nation of online shopkeepers’ few can disagree with the fact that more and more people are selling items online. This paper will look at what this means for retailers and how the growth of social may herald the way for an explosion of ‘online shopkeepers’.

The launch of the online auction site eBay in 1995 provided the first platform for individuals, sole traders; and small businesses to sell online. Until then this group did not have the techniques and tools nor the budgets to build ecommerce sites. Within ten years eBay generated annual revenues of over $9 million dollars. Over the next decade a cottage industry grew up in books on how to buy and sell on eBay.

EBay in effect changed the traditional online relationship with the customer. The relationship between buyer and seller became more intimate. The buyer could ask questions of the seller and leave feedback on the seller’s profile. Sellers quickly cottoned on that a poor feedback rating would impact on their sales. Buyers enjoyed the power of public redress for a faulty product or bad service and the ability to leave a recommendation for a future buyer. Sellers realised that writing a detailed product description or using keywords within the description could improve conversion as would good photography. Sellers started using basic analytics like number of bids, number of views, etc. 

Has this impacted a retailer with an online presence? Few can argue that it has helped drive customer service improvements. The perception and often reality of remote online retailers with only frequently asked questions or help pages and no phone number has been replaced with web chats and multi channel contact points. Retailers have been quick to add customer reviews after seeing the positive impacts on conversion but most have been slow to pick up on some of the basics learnt from an eBay seller. The use of product page descriptions to sell is still poor with many retailers managing less than a few words despite the known positive impact on SEO.  Photography is still not up to the standard of some eBay sellers and often only one picture provided by the manufacturer is used. If you are a buyer or seller on eBay your expectation will be higher and as more and more online shopkeepers are created through marketplaces these expectations will grow even higher.

Both eBay and Amazon have been quick to innovate not just in the functionality they provide their sellers but with their sites in general. Amazon in particular has driven innovation particularly around personalisation. Amazon understands the power of its data and analytics and is already an early adopter of social data. But again, in general, retailers have been slow to implement such changes and developments despite the now wide spread use of web analytics tools. Even a mature channel like email still often lacks the personalisation a customer now expects.

The challenges and threats from the online marketplace have now gone full circle with retailers building their own niche marketplaces. While these provide revenue opportunities within their own right they also keep the customer close and provide yet more customer data that can be leveraged to improve personalisation and targeting. In what is likely to be a challenging economic outlook it may also be a growth area as customers sell old products before buying new. As already discussed it is likely that  these marketplaces will create yet more ‘shopkeepers’ and this will in turn raise the expectations of the retailer’s main site.

The latest digital developments are in social media and retailers are one of the many sectors that are  looking at ways to make it work for them. Fan pages are now becoming channels in their own right with apps providing the means for commercial transactions. This is challenging for retailers many of whom are still struggling to render their sites for mobile but there is little doubt that where Amazon and ASOS have led, others will follow.

The rewards are high if done right. Not only are retailers letting customers choose their own channel to shop with them but the data provided back through social can be used for even more personalisation and targeting.

The question is will social, aka Facebook, become the next mass marketplace and create even more online shopkeepers? With retailers leading the way with their commerce apps they are driving the technology which will enable individuals and small businesses to sell and complete payment transactions through their own Facebook pages. Unlike the eBay or Amazon marketplaces the Facebook platform lets developers build their own bespoke apps which will in turn further drive volume and value to the Facebook marketplace. Sellers will be able to use their own network of friends and groups to drive demand. They will also be able to buy advertising inventory and drive their own traffic / footfall and use basic web analytics to drive conversion. Retailers may also look to use customers as affiliates selling through their Facebook profile pages.

So the outlook is for more developments in customer engagement and interaction all of which will again raise the bar for the more traditional retailers. This will force them to innovate further and integrate new channels with their existing ones as their customers, many of them online shopkeepers, continue to expect more.

Mark Hales is a digital consultant with Experian’s Marketing Services Division, specialising in digital acquisition, with a keen interest in new technology.

The evolving role of digital data

Time travel back ten years and it’s likely the online marketing department of most brands would be preoccupied with the creative execution of banner campaigns and moving away from a brochure ware website to either ecommerce or at least more customer engagement and interaction. Web Analytics and search were in their infancy and the major KPI for Marketing Directors were volume based metrics such as total visits and dwell times.  e-CRM consisted of mass broadcast email campaigns and in many cases the only source of data from the website (then web logs) sat within the IT department.

Time travel back just two years and the same online marketing department will have been transformed. Whilst someone will still be reviewing creative for a banner campaign (now called Display Advertising), there will have been a major evolution in the sources of data available to the team. The Online Marketing Manager will now have  access to data from his search bid management tools,  email behaviours  and affiliate tracking. Website analytics will be tracking browsing behaviour and possibly powering decision engines for cross and up-sells. The Marketing Director will be tracking a whole suite of KPI’s from unique visits, %repeat visitors, dwell time, no downloads, sales revenue, conversion rates, delivery rates, CTRs, registrations, unsubscribes – the list goes on.

One of the challenges is that all of these new sources of data have pretty much stood alone and provided more than one version of the truth! They have also been reporting at and been optimised at a campaign level – ie taking a short term tactical approach.  The skills needed to interoperate the data have spawned new occupations like search professionals and web analytics professionals. Most things digital move and evolve at such a pace that brands are it difficult to keep up to date nad are finding it difficult to source talent with the right skills. However with the exception of the jargon and little bit about the technology, are these skills really that much different from those of the traditional direct marketer?

Fast forward to the present day and the same marketing department is starting to see the convergence of all the data sources and direct links being made into the customer database. The desire for a true multichannel experience and one view of the customer, along with the advancement in technology, is the driving force. In just ten years the online marketing department has gone full circle from limited data to data overload. The opportunities are massive but there are a number of challenges to be faced.  Perhaps the most daunting is what to do with all the data. Where do you start?

It’s highly likely that the database already has some sort of segmentation, perhaps put in place from offline activity or from some of the online data that did find its way into the customer database eg email data. A good starting point would be to identify which online channels are driving the high value segments and focus your data management in this area. Investment in data and analytics could then be diverted into these channels and away from channels driving less desired segments. Once this is in place you can start to get more granular with both the level of data and analytics that you undertake. For example in paid search which keywords are driving your high value segments and in the affiliate channel which of these arrangements drives the higher value customer and not just pure sales volume? Once you know this you can optimise your keywords to your segments up-weighting and down weighting bids accordingly or in the affiliate channel putting in place commission by affiliate type or even rewarding individual affiliates that drive the desired segments.

It really is imperative that brands put in place segmentation strategies for their online data either using their in-house skills or working with partners. Doing so will not only deliver improved ROI and competitor advantage but will place them in a pole position for dealing with the next wave of data whether that be social data or attribution data.  One thing seems certain; as innovation continues so does the complexity of the data.

Fast forward five years and there are no online and offline marketing departments just one team that encapsulates all channels and platforms. As the technology and the data converge so does the marketing structure. The customer database is at the heart of the brand driving ever increasing customer personalisation and the winners will be those brands that gather, interrogate and act upon the data and insights derived from it.

Mark Hales is a digital consultant with Experian’s Marketing Services Division, specialising in digital acquisition, with a keen interest in new technology.

Using segmentation to drive online acquisition strategies

If you have attended any of the numerous digital conferences and exhibitions this year you will have noticed that attribution is the hot topic, as was the case with web analytics, SEO and PPC in previous years. But one area that is often overlooked is how a good segmentation strategy can be used in your online acquisition and optimisation strategies.

In the vast majority of companies with a customer database there will be some sort of segmentation in place. Offline acquisition strategies will be driven by targeting the desired segment and costs of campaigns will be calculated around the value of those segments. So why isn’t the offline model replicated online? There are three reasons why:

  1. Digital marketers have not had to be concerned with targeting because the migration of the population online has meant low acquisition costs and easily achieved volumes but this can create a new set of problems around product offering and customer communications.
  2. Targeting is more difficult. In a piece of direct mail you can target a postcode that matches your segment and remove existing customers. Online, prospects and existing customers will both see your campaign.
  3. The link to the customer database is not always in place. For example, a search bid management tool will optimise to a sale or a lead but will not know if that was from the targeted segment. Indeed it’s likely that the bid management tool will not recognise prospect from customer.

So why should the digital marketer use segmentation to inform their acquisition strategy? Firstly, year on year growth is now slowing down online. The low hanging fruit has well and truly been picked! Secondly recruiting the right customer segment will increase profitability and enable a multi-channel strategy approach if the online and offline channels adopt the same acquisition strategy.

So how does the digital marketer implement segmentation into their acquisition strategy?  Here are our 10 steps for using segmentation for online acquisition:

  1. Build the link from your online acquisition channels into your customer database. Ideally this will be through an API so campaigns can be managed and optimised real time
  2. Ensure the acquisition source is flagged in the database so you know which segments are being driven by the channel
  3. Use an online intelligence tool to identify which sites and keywords your targeted segments are using and put these in your campaign
  4. Make sure all creative including keyword copy is aimed at the desired segments
  5. Use targeted display advertising which can now be linked to postcode to drive the desired customer segment
  6. Ensure a true multi-channel campaign by linking and measuring the online and offline campaigns together
  7. Drive your desired segments through the affiliate channel by rewarding affiliates based on your segmentation
  8. Segment the affiliates themselves so you can have different communication strategies with them and again concentrate on the ones driving your desired segments
  9. Use website personalisation to appeal to your different segments and improve conversion
  10. Always ensure you use a robust test and learn methodology

Optimising your online channels using segmentation from your customer database will drive profit and gain competitor advantage as this rather obvious strategy is still not the norm online. As more of the digital technology, web analytics and attribution data get exported in to the customer database, segmentation will be necessary to make sense of all the data and drive the personalisation customers now expect from their online customer journey.

Mark Hales is a digital consultant with Experian’s Marketing Services Division, specialising in digital acquisition, with a keen interest in new technology.

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