BrainTrust Query: Are Marketers and Media Getting That Synching Feeling?

Discussion
May 20, 2013

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is an excerpt of an article from the Joel Rubinson on Marketing Research blog.

The digital clickstream is at the heart of how digital marketing works. When a digital ad impression is served, it places a cookie on the browser that can then be matched to a conversion pixel if that same user buys the advertised brand online. This worked fine when 90 percent or more of internet activity was on the computer. But now, people use multiple screens. As behaviors occur on one screen and transactions on another, it will falsely appear that computer, tablet and smartphone marketing have little effect at driving sales.

The fact is consumers are developing multi-screen media habits that we no longer have the data infrastructure to even understand.

Consider a hypothetical example. Someone uses their computer to search Google for "weekend in Paris," then visits a specialty travel recommendations site, then Googles American airlines and, finally, books the trip on aa.com. However, the user also clicked a display ad link for Trip Advisor on their tablet, searched for flights on the Kayak app on their business smartphone, and Shazammed a commercial that took them to expedia.com on their personal smartphone. Analyzing the computer clickstream would falsely give computer-based search most of the credit. If we look at tablet or smartphone activity, we miss the purchase altogether.

Certain marketing initiatives will become much more important because they help to solve this problem. They not only produce marketing results, they yield data dividends that re-establish knowledge of how brands can efficiently and effectively connect with people in a multi-screen era. Here are two examples of what I mean by this:

Create log-in brand communities across screens. Retailers can induce shoppers to sign up for a loyalty and rewards program that requires a log-in from each screen and use of a card or mobile ID when shopping. This will synch computer, tablet, smartphone (including branded app), frequent shopper data, and a whole bunch of third party databases via e-mail or physical address match. With permission granted, insights can be gained from that customer’s Facebook and/or Twitter profiles. TV viewing can even be synched if that person has certain service providers or is a Tivo household. Coca-Cola’s MyCoke rewards program shows how brands can do this. The research possibilities that come from profiling, surveying, and analyzing clickstream behaviors of such branded communities are mind-boggling.

Research companies begin creating multi-screen tracking. Recruited panels are doing this where people give their permission to have their media behaviors monitored or by anonymized matching of data across big, exhaustive customer files. Both approaches are emerging.

Marketing organizations need to find ways to measure, integrate, and synch all digital behaviors across the screens people choose to use to establish customer understanding. Oh, and please no "lip-synching" — telling everyone how important mobile is without actually putting a plan in place to measure it.

Does online commerce have a serious measurement problem? What solutions do you see for how online shoppers’ paths to purchase can be collected across multiple screens?

Join the Discussion!

16 Comments on "BrainTrust Query: Are Marketers and Media Getting That Synching Feeling?"

Notify of

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Love your last line about lip-syncing. While some feel showrooming can’t be proved and therefore isn’t that much a factor, I think the breathless awe of all things mobile will be less likely to be proved due to your points above. And multiple logins from multiple devices doesn’t sound consumer friendly—just trying to prove why your department exists. Indeed, no Milly-Vanilly please.

Peter Fader
BrainTrust

It’s too premature to call this a problem—it’s still very much in the realm of opportunity….

The two big steps noted above (i.e., obtaining the data from consumers, then figuring our how to draw insights from it) are entirely sensible, but the technologies behind each of them are nascent. There will be lots of trial and error, and competing approaches will butt heads before any standards emerge. And that’s perfectly okay—let a thousand flowers bloom.

So let’s keep working on this opportunity, and give it a couple of years before we start thinking about it as a problem.

Roger Saunders
BrainTrust

Online commerce started with the premise of, “let’s try to monetize eyeballs.” That’s all well and good. However, they then took the path of using measurement systems similar to 50+ year old models of measuring TV, radio, magazines, newspapers.

Nothing happens “until a sale is made.” The consumer is at the center of that equation in making the sale. New media/digital media, as well as traditional media have take the time to listen to the consumer as to how media influences their purchase. The purchasing cycle is different for various retail channels, as well as for different customer segments.

With over 32 different media forms that are making an impact on customers, retailers and service providers have to be willing to listen to the consumer first, not merely employ a model of were you listening, viewing, or reading.

By asking what media influence purchase of a select category, marketers are better positioned to develop and integrated media strategy to match their integrated marketing plans.

Max Goldberg
BrainTrust

As much as brands would like to track every consumer behavior leading to a purchase, at this time it can’t be done without appearing overtly creepy to consumers or requiring them to jump through numerous hoops to complete a purchase. I don’t think consumers would be willing to sign in on each screen or use a loyalty card unless heavily incented. Multi-screen tracking will have to be invisible and seamless, otherwise it will feel too much like Big Brother.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

There is a tracking problem when scenarios as described in this article occur. However, I don’t believe that log-in brand communities that span screens will be a viable answer. For fans of any given brand, it will work, but to have to join something every time a consumer expresses interest in a product or service isn’t going to fly. The best solution is to find clever indicators across devices that can give a decent indication of the path taken, although such a solution will always have unknowns.

Debbie Hauss
BrainTrust

This is a growing concern, especially as more retailers implement a variety of purchase and shipping options such as buy online, pickup in store. Retailers are struggling with how to assign credit for sales that are finalized in-store but are not initiated there.

I expect to see more new solutions introduced like the one Famous Footwear is using. Monetate developed a custom variable HTML code that helps Famous Footwear build coupons that can be tracked to their online source. These coupons can help merchants determine the number of in-store customers who entered the store following exposure to an online campaign.

Joan Treistman
BrainTrust
I have great respect for Joel Rubinson. So what I’m about to write probably uncovers my inability to understand the lesson from this article. Joel said, “The fact is, consumers are developing multi-screen media habits that we no longer have the data infrastructure to even understand.” I took this as the context of the hypotheses in his article. When I read that sentence I was immediately reminded of the many studies, for example, that chart the course of automobile purchase behavior. Even before digital media, people in the market for cars were interacting with many marketing resources…advertising on TV, in the newspaper, on the radio as well as billboards on the road. They listened to their friends (influencers?) and went to several dealer showrooms. So many touch points over a long period of time created the need among automobile marketers to develop a better understanding of the purchase decision process if marketers were to influence the final buying decision. What I take out of Joel’s article is a view of a shorter decision process (limited to some kind of quasi-impulse purchase) that may take place over a few days, or hours, perhaps minutes. Therefore his recommendation for monitoring the decision… Read more »
Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
4 years 3 months ago

Everything is possible so everyone is seeking solutions to evolving problems and opportunities. It seems to me that the reference to a measurement problem might be premature. At this still early moment, the focus should be on development of the opportunity rather than a possible problem.

Bill Bittner
Guest
Bill Bittner
4 years 3 months ago

Unfortunately I forget their name, but a company which appeared recently on CNBC’s disrupter series is addressing this very point. They monitor the traffic across a single IP address to associate all the devices that share a WiFi router so they can target ads across channels. All the devices on a local WiFi network share the same external internet address. This company monitors the traffic from PCs, tablets, and cell phones attached to the same network and allows advertisers to create promotions that cross platforms. If someone is researching new cars on their PC, they will start to receive new car ads on their tablet.

It kind of makes you think.

John Boccuzzi, Jr.
Guest
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
4 years 3 months ago
It’s an interesting dilemma, or should I say opportunity. Let’s go back in time to 1990 and use the same consumer looking for a trip to Paris. In the morning she drives by a billboard on the highway for American Airlines promoting special rates to Europe. She then goes home and sees a great ad in Travel & Leisure for the Top 10 things to see while in Paris. Finally, she is watching ABC news and during the program a commercial comes on promoting Paris on a Budget and to contact Collette tours for more details. Sounds like the same issue only more advanced ways to influence consumers today than in 1990. Brand loyalty programs like described in the article (Coca-Cola) although interesting are going to be very tough to pull off. Consumers already carry on average 10+ loyalty cards. Is it realistic for consumers to have a loyalty card or # for each brand? The second option of improving the ways we collect and analyze data is interesting. Can the AOLs, Microsofts and Googles of the world create solutions that allow for multi-screen data tracking? I recently read an interesting article where AOL and IRI are working together to… Read more »
Lee Kent
BrainTrust

Right now, knowing how consumers use a retailer’s site is what the retailer needs most, so meeting the consumer’s expectations can be accomplished and a sale closed. Not so much knowing every step they took to get there.

Not saying that it wouldn’t be nice to know how the consumer found their way around the maze, however, I am not of the opinion that that will actually help the retailers sell more and let’s face it, that’s a bit too creepy.

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
4 years 3 months ago

To tack onto John Boccuzzi’s excellent points, increasingly I think that so many marketing people focused on the side business of synching and tracking and cookies do not understand how they are testing consumers’ last nerve with all of this intrusion and snooping—for absolutely no apparent benefit to the consumer.

My husband recently went to the library to do initial online research on an upcoming vacation because he could not bear the thought of wading trough all the ads, “helpful related articles” and “suggestions” we knew would pop up on our personal computer/device following the searches. A group of women at lunch recently actually sat there discussing their annoyance, and if others had experienced any differences depending on which search engine one used, i.e. did choosing Google, Bing or Yahoo, etc., comparatively result in either more or fewer cookies and ads.

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
4 years 3 months ago
Why can’t measurement work as it always has? If your advertising is effective, product will sell! Oh, I know everyone wants 99% efficiency out of an advertisement, but it ain’t going to happen. If this effort was redirected toward more efficient pricing and/or delivery, all would be better off. The smartest man I ever knew stated that he knew that 50% of the money he spend on advertising was wasted, but he didn’t know which 50% was waste. This obsession on data collection without promise is a waste. Advertising is like a gunshot, you can’t get it back! So measuring the effect of a gunshot can only be judged on what was killed. If you don’t kill anything, your advertising didn’t work that shot, but that doesn’t mean the next shot won’t produce a kill. The woods and the quarry change every second and anyone who thinks that you can gain efficiency without baiting the field needs to be in another line of work. Advertising should be like fishing with a net—the best of us catch hell trying to shoot fish in a barrel. The problem here isn’t a measurement problem, it’s a horrible management decision to waste time trying… Read more »
Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

I’m not sure this is a problem. It may make the situation a little more complicated, but I actually think this is an opportunity to connect with more people (customers/shoppers) the way they like to connect.

Smart retailers will recognize the channels certain segments of customers use, and take advantage of mining the data from those channels. If anything, there is more opportunity to gather more data than ever before.

Now the big question, and concern if there is one, is this: Which data is most relevant and will help me (my company and team) make the right decisions.

Verlin Youd
BrainTrust

The simple answer is yes, however this is not a new measurement problem at all. This problem has existed ever since the beginnings of e-commerce as it has been very difficult—impossible in some cases—to follow shoppers between online and in-store activities as well as follow shoppers between multiple e-commerce sites. The advent of multiple screens magnifies the problem and its complexity.

In terms of solutions, this presents a real opportunity that has not been solved yet. Log-in brand communities are a start, but don’t address the challenge of shoppers who will often use resources outside the community in their shopping experience. Classic research approaches can provide part of the answer, but will miss cases where one person asks another, friend or family, to participate in their shopping experience by using their screen(s) too.

Kurt Seemar
Guest
Kurt Seemar
4 years 3 months ago

There is undeniably a measurement problem in the online space. However, there is a trend. As online tracking data becomes cleaner and more available, we find that online advertising is less valuable and plays a less important role in purchases than previously believed. This is not surprising as most online advertising right now is untargeted spam and consumers have learned to ignore it very effectively. The good news is that there is a lot of online data that is relatively untapped and just waiting to be used effectively.

wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

What’s the likelihood that increasing cross-platform usage will make online shopper data increasingly murky over the next three to five years?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...