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Over the past 10 years, marketer interest in the consumer journey has skyrocketed.

  1. Why? What does “marketing to the journey” actually mean in terms of doing things differently?
  2. Why does it take unified IDs to do this right?
  3. How must marketing productivity modeling and insights change?

What does Marketing to the journey actually mean?

At its simplest, the consumer journey breaks down like this: someone is either dormant (no real interest in buying at this time), active (currently engaging in research and/or ready to transact), or already a customer experiencing your brand. It certainly makes sense that a marketer should spend at a higher rate against those who are actively shopping than those who are not (and I have proof that this doubles return on ad spend).

The recent rise in interest in journey based marketing is because now we can do something with it.  Online consumers tell us when they become serious about buying via searches, websites they visit, content they share, etc.

Hypothetically, let’s consider automobiles.  At any point in time, maybe 90% of consumers are dormant and only 10% are actively shopping. Do you want your advertising to fall proportionately into these two segments?  That’s what happens mostly with mass media.  Marketing to the journey is different. With digital, you can classify users into journey segments and direct different communications to each group across screens.  You can also re-weight the mix so for example, you might want 50% of your ad budget to go to the 10% who are active.  You may want to shift the budget to mobile when models predict someone is within 7 days of making a decision. Furthermore, you might customize creative deployment. A priori, it seems right that brand building TV commercials are better suited for dormant consumers while promotional offers are more effective at driving sales when someone is ready to buy or lease.

Now in a digital age, marketing to the journey has become hot… however, there is a must have…you need a DMP that is based on unified IDs.

Unified IDs are a must-have to market to the journey

What do I mean by Unified IDs? I don’t mean cookies. Cookies are browser specific and they expire fast.  If I use Chrome for some activities and Firefox for others, cookies don’t know how to put that together.  Cookies also cannot bring together mobile and desktop activities.  Furthermore, cookies expire so what I did last month is not linked to what I do this month, so the marketer has to start over in what they know about me.

For products and services like autos, financial services, vacation travel, real estate, household appliances, the life of a cookie is too short to encompass the journey. The cookie will have expired and my pattern of ad exposures is probably lost before the conversion occurs.

Lack of connectivity across screens and cookie expiration impede multi-touch attribution (MTA) methods from knowing what marketing activities truly deserve credit for causing a transaction.  Mobile will always get undervalued in cookie based data.

Unified IDs are different. They link together devices and even offline customer transactions.  And they last because log in credentials don’t change that often. Google, Facebook and Viant are examples of publishers/networks who have unified IDs and link their IDs with offline sales data.  There really is no reason for a marketer to have a DMP that is cookie based although some of my marketer clients still have them. Over the next couple of years, this has to change.

Unified ID platforms are the next big martech battleground. Leading digital companies have been on a buying spree, most recently SalesForce buying Krux and before that Oracle buying Blue Kai and Datalogix and Acxiom buying LiveRamp…just to name a few who compete in this space.

How marketing insights must change

Marketing productivity. What do we know about the ROI improvement if marketing activities are finetuned by using journey-based targeting? Very little. It really is mostly a compelling idea, yet to be proven out.  But this has to be high on the industry learning agenda.

Marketers will not be able to address this via marketing mix modeling, they will need to use user-level multi-touch attribution (MTA) fed by unified data. In addition to funnel metrics like awareness, consideration, intent, etc. we need journey metrics.  For example, I designed a metric for brand trackers called “winnable journeys” that measures the number of journeys that are active at a point in time for which your brand is in the consideration set.  (Consideration among dormant consumers is less important, but that’s not a distinction made by brand trackers today that are funnel metrics focused.)

New insights. When the DMP is based on Unified IDs, we can extract a quantitative version of journey mapping at scale, right from the DMP.  I have always been interested in the question, “What does it take over time to cause a transaction?” With unified IDs this can be answered because all marketing activities and conversions across time can be stored at a user level. That is a new and important type of analysis.

Journeys, unified IDs, multi-touch attribution analysis are central interconnected parts to our marketing future.

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