The digital clickstream is at the heart of how digital marketing works. For example, 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% 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.
Marketers are on the verge of letting an understanding slip through their hands of how to move into digital. We must synch up behaviors and marketing actions across platforms. Houston, we have a problem.
Google said at the 2013 MMA Forum, “marketers need to figure out how to attribute mobile value beyond mcommerce orders on their mobile site and identify additional ways their customers may be converting…. mobile does not have a conversion problem – it has a measurement problem”.
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. Even worse, we miss that consumers are developing multi-screen media habits that we no longer have the data infrastructure to even understand.
Bonin Bough, head of digital for Mondelez, said, “…being able to understand a consumer’s entire shopping journey will give brands a disruptive competitive advantage in mobile.”
For media companies, the problem is even more acute. Artie Bulgrin, head of research at ESPN said at the ARF annual conference (slightly paraphrased), “I bet all of you have consumed media on multiple devices this morning and we still have no way of measuring what you did, why you did it, or what the cumulative effect of all that is…the media planning models are simply broken today because of cross-platform use.”
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 some examples of what I mean by this.
Create log-in brand communities across screens. Retailers are a great example. They can induce shoppers to sign up for a loyalty and rewards program that requires 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. If oauth permissioning is granted, you can also bring in tremendous insights from that customer’s Facebook and/or Twitter profiles. The retailer can even synch up TV viewing if that person has certain service providers or is a Tivo household. Many brand marketers can do this as well. Coca-Cola has Mycoke rewards, and I expect to see much more of this. It is even possible that the knowledge and data dividend of building such brand communities is a bigger win than the marketing promotions sent out to these communities. 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. This is being done by recruited panels 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 move from that sinking feeling to that synching feeling. They need to find ways to measure, integrate, and synch all digital behaviors across the screens people choose to use to establish customer understanding. This will require marketing, media, research, and digital analytics leaders working together in the same organization as each stakeholder team contributes something to the solution.
Oh, and please no “lip-synching”—telling everyone how important mobile is without actually putting a plan in place to measure it.