"Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is written by Pete Kluge, group manager, product marketing, at Adobe Advertising Cloud.
Digital marketers live in a bubble. All too often, we fixate on the newest shiny toy or fall down the rabbit hole of optimizing the customer journey across channels, screens and devices. In the process, we forget that a whole world of marketing existed long before electricity became our lifeblood and computers became our nervous system.
As media consumption fragments and the resulting data proliferates at an explosive rate, digital disruption has commoditized consumer attention. But when marketers talk about adopting a “cross-channel solution,” too often they mean “cross-digital-channel solution.”
This digital tunnel vision means that many industries, such as the estimated $23 trillion global retail market, are caught in a precarious position: Despite the massive (and growing) volume of ecommerce transactions, an estimated 92% of retail sales still occur offline. Of course, a significant chunk of advertising also still occurs offline.
We don’t need research to know that consumers want personalization. How, then, can marketers apply the plethora of offline and digital data they have accumulated to provide consumers with the personalized experiences they crave, regardless of whether they are online or offline – a true cross-channel experience?
Offline Channel Data
Let’s start with exactly what those offline channels are: direct mail, including circulars, retail catalogs and print ads; telephone engagements via call centers; experiential marketing, including events and sponsorships; out-of-home options like billboards, bulletins and posters at bus stops; and even linear television delivered via traditional broadcast technologies.
All play a role in driving the consumer down the path to purchase. And despite the fact that none are plugged into the internet, they all provide marketers with data that can be used to inform online targeting and decisioning.
How? The marketing files from each of these channels can be leveraged as a “data feed,” which can then be activated across multiple online channels. This data feed typically takes the form of a text or XML file with data that can be used for online personalization, such as ZIP codes and DMAs, product SKUs, descriptions, models, image links, ratings, promotions, CRM and email files.
Many retail advertisers already use a standardized data feed in their Google Merchant Center account for search advertising. They can simply take this same existing feed and apply it to display and social advertising for ad personalization across channels. Data feeds can also be delivered to a file-sharing FTP site where they are then ingested directly into an advertising software platform for ad personalization.
Let’s take a look at three data feeds and how they can be used to personalize the online ad experience:
Product catalog file: The most common example of a data feed in action. A product catalog can power personalized content across digital channels, such as display dynamic creative ads served across ad exchanges and premium direct buys; search shopping campaigns delivered on Google and Bing; or within Dynamic Product Ads on social channels.
CRM/email file: Marketers can digitally align customer email files to optimize search bids using Google Customer Match and inform targeting via Facebook Custom Audiences.
Circular/mail file: Marketers can deliver location- and ZIP-code-based offers and messages online to be consistent with offline marketing channels. For example, local offers or promotions may be delivered in mailers or circulars using a ZIP code file to deliver the same experience in digital environments.
Using Data Feeds For Omnichannel Experiences
Targeting direct mail recipients with addressable TV ads in a privacy-safe manner via companies such as LiveRamp is already common practice. Marketers can even provide consumers consistent experiences across kiosks in shopping malls, bus stops and digital billboards by using ZIP code- and neighborhood-specific media plans to inform specific messaging in online search and display advertisements.
Taking it one step further, marketers can also use DMA-level media plans from a local linear TV buy to deliver the same messaging – either via direct mail or digital channels – to households within that region.
Each of these touch points along the customer journey can be personalized by the data feed. And beyond the common direct-response use case of product retargeting, the data feed can be used for other lower-funnel tactics, such as delivering upsell and loyalty offers, and upper-funnel tactics, such as building awareness and prospecting new customers.
Today’s consumers demand relevant personalized experiences. Advertising technology companies and online advertisers often focus on the digital ad experience, but the consumer journey encompasses all channels offline and online. Data feeds can bridge the gap between traditional and digital, and serve as a constant reminder that digital natives need to look beyond their bubble for the best results.