Oh if only I could keep track of my clients from their digital to their physical interaction with my brand… And if only I could adapt messages from one screen to another to avoid repeating the same thing twice to the same person…
What once could be considered a marketing director’s fantasy is actually becoming real as the giants of adtech have understood that realising such a dream could open up major advertising budgets.
Hugo Loriot, Media Technologies Director at fifty-five has accepted to detail for Viuz the possibilities offered by new personalisation and measuring methods that rely on the use of unique user identification between screens and sales channels. According to Hugo, this is an enormous opportunity that companies will need to take as it rapidly transforms into a necessity.
In what ways is using unique user identification an opportunity for marketing directors?
The first opportunity is to finally appreciate the importance of mobile use in order to invest to its proper value (14% of the digital mix in France for 30% in the US). 95% of advertisers still allocate their budgets by using measurement methods that have been rendered obsolete by the boom of mobile use. The conversion rate on a smartphone is approximately 50% lower than the conversion rate on a desktop. These numbers push marketing directors to prioritise desktop-related investments, which is suicidal on the medium term.
On the other hand, if an advertiser were to successfully follow a user’s journey, from their initial mobile exposure to the brand up to a final conversion on desktop, that advertiser would be able to recalculate a consolidated ROI and allocate important budgets to future game-changers such as Facebook (composed of 75% mobile activity).
The second opportunity consists in personalising the brand experience between screens. Knowing that a desktop visitor browsed for information beforehand on mobile by consulting such and such product page allows us to better meet his expectations and, ultimately, improve the conversion rate.
The last (but certainly not least) opportunity is linked to the analysis of online-to-offline purchasing behaviours. A marketing director for a multichannel brand that set up systems based on the use of unique user identification could, for example, measure the impact of his/her digital investments on physical sales.
What are the different possibilities opened up by platforms today and what are their compared benefits?
Even if alternative actors such as Drawbridge offer statistical approaches based on wide-scale prediction, the starting point of all measurement, cross-device and online-offline personalisation providers is a sustainable, 100% reliable and unique identification database across screens and distribution channels.
Beyond this common base, three approaches co-exist:
The first approach consists in giving the advertiser the possibility to recognise once and for all a user between screens and channels (typically via a customer area or the creation of an account) and then consolidating all the past and future mobile and desktop browsing data according to that user’s identification. Google Analytics, Eulerian and Adobe are excellent examples of this approach that, as seducing as it may seem, is still based on the assumption that a large proportion of visitors will identify themselves on the website at least once. This may be true in certain industries (dating, private sales) but remains a challenge most of the time.
The second approach consists in creating a cooperation between brands in which they agree on sharing amongst themselves the user information they have available. This way, brand B can follow a user from his mobile to his desktop without the user having ever logged in on B, but because the user logged in on brand A’s site or app. Criteo and Adobe are two good examples of this trend, whose only limit resides in the capacity to convince a large panel of advertisers to share sensitive data, albeit all confidentiality and encryption guarantees are provided.
The third approach consists in relying on a third party to hand over all the data needed to provide user identification between screens and channels. DoubleClick (Google) and Atlas (Facebook) are the forerunners of this option, which is by far the most massive and the most rapid, as it allows advertisers to access the 1.5 billion Facebook users and connect their mobile exposure to their desktop visits as well as their in-store purchases. Criticised for the dependence it creates towards walled gardens, this approach is not itself free from any legal questioning. Recently bought by Verizon, AOL is under fire in the US for its project converging digital data with the operator’s extremely rich and personal information. Of course, Google, Facebook and AOL do not release any personally identifiable data (PII) to the brands that use their service:measurement and activation are done anonymously and to a certain degree of consolidation.
Today, this method is the most advanced and versatile one that can be used to measure the impact of digital on physical purchases, to value the contribution of mobile use and retarget a user from one screen to another.
What good practices can marketing directors implement?
I recommend an evaluation of these three systems according to their industry and the data they have access to. This leads, in particular, to establishing up to what point it is necessary to rely on a third party.
They must determine beforehand what they actually want to achieve: is it personalising user experience or measuring performance? Focusing on mobile to lead to online purchases or focusing on digital to lead to physical purchases? Indeed, all of these approaches and all providers within each approach don’t offer the same possibilities, and a marketing director who thinks that a cross-device report in his standard web analytics tool will allow him to globally reevaluate the ROI of his investments in mobile will quickly be disappointed.
What new possibilities will be offered by these systems in the future?
Imagine, for example, the perspective offered by connected cars for car manufacturers, or the one offered by smart wearables for a textile brand. All of the Internet of things will depend, one way or another, on user IDs linked to physical devices, and this will need to be set in a global path, without being able to rely on a cookie.
Tomorrow, manufacturers selling connected cars that produce useful data for client knowledge will have to use a monitoring/measuring system that relies on unique user identification between devices. The only question is to find out if the brand will be strong enough to leverage its own connected users database within its assets or if it will have to rely on an Adtech giant like Facebook to link a user’s email to a digital path.
Remaining independent from the Adtech giants and promoting an open versus a closed ecosystem aren’t brand-new questions but it is more than likely that we are only at the very beginning of this debate.
This interview was originally published on November 3rd 2015 on Viuz, and translated from the original French by Chloé Blaustein.