Micro-targeting across the customer journey impacts research and analysis

Photo: RetailWire
Feb 23, 2018

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

With the shift toward people-based and away from channel-based marketing in the digital age, research and analytics teams need to plan around four underlying trends:

  • The rise of journey-based marketing: As a consumer moves through different need states along their journey — from user to shopper to buyer and back to user — their receptivity to different types of messages will change. Fueled by customer databases, unified IDs in advertising DMPs, and intender segments offered by the digital ecosystem, this is now something marketers can act on, delivering the right content and message across screens and across time to an individual consumer. But to really pull this off, we need to bridge marketing silos and bring together advertising, website content, e-mail and social, and use the consumer as our new organizing principle.
  • The blending of retail and marketing: With the data to sense if someone is active or dormant, to follow IDs persistently through time and across devices, and to establish ad networks to reach them, retailers are becoming publishers and ad networks. Using digital data and surveys for measurement of short term and brand equity effects, researchers need to understand the effectiveness of advertising on retail websites.
  • The rise of user level analytics: Marketing/media mix (MMM) regression models, marketers’ main way of determining what marketing expenditures are working, literally do not have the consumer in the equation, so ultimately they fall short. You need user level data and analytics. Using current data (not historical) and tapping many more variables, multi-touch attribution (MTA) promises a level of granularity that MMM cannot offer. MTA can reveal hidden gems, such as discovering that programmatically targeting the right consumers generates more impact than publishers who charge much higher CPMs (cost per impressions).
  • The battle between performance and brand marketing intensifies: Many brand marketers have diverted their funds to accomplish short term results, undermining efforts to boost the long term health of the brand. Yet the counter-argument is that it is possible that performance marketing can build brands as any purchase or customer acquisition leads to a series of brand experiences. Integrate tracker data, digital signals, customer data and social media into a brand KPI system.


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How does being able to target consumers at different parts of the shopper journey change the game for marketing research and analytics teams? What hurdles do you see around being able to deliver the right message at the right time?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"We are all digital marketers now so it is imperative that the analytics keep pace."
"...these groups need to align better with LOB leaders to develop, activate and measure analytics that impact the company’s CX."
"One of the biggest challenges for retailers today is the lack of personalized data across all layers of the customer journey."

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10 Comments on "Micro-targeting across the customer journey impacts research and analysis"

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Dave Bruno

I already consider targeted journey marketing to be table stakes for long-term success in retail. Personal and relevant messages are mandatory if we hope to break through all the noise and earn the attention of our target customers. I think one point not mentioned is also critical: the ability to connect the dots between digital and physical interactions. Oftentimes retailers struggle when shoppers take digital actions that lead to physical interactions, and I believe we need to close that loophole in order to achieve truly holistic journey targeting.

Dave Nixon
The benefit of being able to know your shoppers and customers at that level, at the time it is needed, is how retailers will drive more relevant, timely and appropriate personalization for the shopper. Achieving the once aspirational CX Nirvana … The hurdles? Tying the large volume of data together and being able to take action in REAL TIME and predictively while the shopper is on the journey or path to purchase. We need to stop thinking in terms of “digital data” or “marketing data” because that is our domain. We need to move past what we have and what we know and leverage the rich contextual data from across the enterprise as well as outside the enterprise. What about weather data? What about lifestyle data from your IoT devices? What about inventory data? Those data sources coupled with the marketing data provides a much richer ability to target customers and shoppers with that high-touch CX. Without that contextual data, and the underlying agile data foundation to manage it all, retailers won’t be as successful.… Read more »
Chris Petersen, PhD.

As Joel Rubinson so aptly points out, MMM does not have the customer in the equation at all. In order to be able to deliver the right message at the right time retailers need customer-centric data. Retailers’ processes and mass media were product-centric and setup for reaching the masses. Today, the individual customer is in charge of their own experience. Customers are literally their own point of sale. If you can’t see “ME” make choices anytime and everywhere, your messages may not even reach me or will have little impact. You can’t manage or change what you can’t measure. One of the biggest challenges for retailers today is the lack of personalized data across all layers of the customer journey.

Ben Ball

We are all digital marketers now so it is imperative that the analytics keep pace. The integration of all the different messaging received as consumers progress through the need states journey is tough enough. But the gold is in being able to sense when a shopper shifts modes to a buyer so the right message can be delivered at the right time. This is compounded by the fact that a “shopper” might be looking at any of a number of devices (mobile, desktop, even TV, print or radio) when they make that transition. Of course some of these lead to flexible message delivery better than others and that is what makes digital so powerful.

Ralph Jacobson

Always remember, “The consumer IS the channel.” The necessary capabilities to tangibly measure the individual shopper at virtually every step of the shopping journey exists today. Right now. And I see innovators of all sizes leveraging marketing analytics with real-time personalization and several other functionalities. I actually like the idea of applying Net Promoter Scores (NPS) more to get real feedback from individual shoppers and take actions proactively from there.

Cynthia Holcomb

Targeting individual human customers based on “Objectivity” and data science-based marketing systems is missing the point. These new system ideas miss the same element of the current systems they seek to replace.

The randomness of individual human selection [preference]. Which can not be found in clicks and taps.

In other words, research and analytic teams process and interpret data based on linear based, data science systems developed to process disparate pieces of data, none of which address the phenomenon of individual human “subjectivity” — also known as individual preference, the unconscious emotional and sensory preferences compelling an individual human to make the decision to purchase a product.

Gib Bassett
This post asks the question from the POV of research and analytics teams – people I have worked with and presented to many times in various roles. From what I have seen, these groups need to align better with LOB leaders to develop, activate and measure analytics that impact the company’s CX. There is too much separation from each group’s charter – thus you see LOB leaders examining analytics on their own, which is great from a time-to-value standpoint, but lacks connection to the broader analytic strategy the retailer should be pursuing. There’s actually a third group, IT/data management, that has to be engaged since ultimately the best insights will come from sources across and outside the company – all of which must be managed, governed and secured. In the end, retailers big and small should step back – even just briefly – and examine what they are doing with analytics, and why and how it relates to serving customers throughout their journey. Think agile and fast, pursue tests, and don’t get bogged down into… Read more »
Vahe Katros
Vahe Katros
4 years 3 months ago
I recently had an insight, thanks to Google Analytics relating to a medical information content site I run. I noticed a high degree of mobile access to a particular page. Why mobile?, I always imagined the context to be at-home. Then I hypothesized that the traffic was probably coming from the significant other of a patient, in the waiting room, trying to learn more about coping with the new situation — a process I’ve heard called “a vertical learning curve” (for you journey mappers). That was me hypothesizing context from the data. So, what’s my point? When you find an interesting pattern in the data, put down the marketing Rubik’s Cube and take a long walk (again) and when you return, stop procrastinating on RetailWire because there’s work to be done (that huge punch list relating to execution). So, what’s my point? Don’t let quant beat qual, don’t let SIGINT rule over HUMINT! Use them together. So what’s my point? I suppose it’s the need to figure out how to modify marketing decision making processes… Read more »
Dan Frechtling
4 years 2 months ago

This reminds us WHERE a shopper is trumps WHO a shopper is.

Knowing past purchases can tell us where a consumer is in the buying cycle. But such data is hard to tap if you’re not a very large retailer tracking purchases.

Following a consumer across devices is an imperative. But it is difficult as consumers find more ways to anonymize themselves.

Content can help us discern where people are on the path to purchase. When a shopper visits your website or app, are price, product details and photos specific enough? Are ratings, reviews and FAQs plentiful? Are delivery options (if pertinent) clear? Is the same information accessible from ads too?

Location along the customer journey has higher usefulness than demographics. But marketers and data providers need to innovate together to surface path to purchase data. Unless and until someone creates a universal shopper ID, targeting with content is a most effective option.

Kevin Simonson

Awesome excerpts Joel. Wanted to add my $0.02. So, targeting is perhaps the greatest advantage of digital advertising for retailers. Especially for prospecting. Retail companies can analyze a site, brand, products, and fans, then build additional targeting groups with various levels of granularity. Now, there are a few keys to doing so. First, pick targeting layers wisely. We recommend items like: competitors, similar brands, affinities, geo, interest, age, gender, device, etc. And then, you layer these variables on top of lookalikes for additional granularity. Launch ads that communicate directly with the niche being served.

"We are all digital marketers now so it is imperative that the analytics keep pace."
"...these groups need to align better with LOB leaders to develop, activate and measure analytics that impact the company’s CX."
"One of the biggest challenges for retailers today is the lack of personalized data across all layers of the customer journey."

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