Digital Experience Monitoring
I trust that we can all agree that there is no shortage of data in today’s marketing world. Have you taken a minute to think about why that is? The customer journey, and the amount of touch-points a customer may have with your business, has grown exponentially over the last 5-8 years. If the journey was simple, you wouldn’t feel burdened with technology and the data created by it. You also wouldn’t have to put considerable effort into determining how to best approach your customers if it wasn’t for the fragmented reality we all live in today. Multiple devices, a digital channel that is constantly evolving, and a constant scrutiny on budgets have put marketers under a considerable amount of pressure. Not to mention the transparency, walled gardens, and fraud issues that are currently attacking digital investments.
Given this complexity, there is obviously a constant struggle to understand what’s working and what isn’t as customers interact with your business. Making the right decision by presenting the right message/content and moving people further down the path towards conversion all depends on what you know, when you know it, and what you can do about it. This is the whole reason data is collected in the first place, and why data has become a currency in our industry today. Naturally, whenever there is a common challenge facing all organizations someone must put a name on it: Digital Experience Monitoring (DEM).
How many ways can a user get to one of your “value events” on your digital channel? Think about the number of different paths, and the investments you are making to either catch the attention of people at the top of the funnel or the investments you are making to develop and enhance those funnels in each year.
With so many complex interactions, most likely set across multiple devices and channels, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to optimize the path to conversion and value. As a result, there needs to be more focus on making the best, possible decision when you do have customers interacting with one of your critical paths.
I doubt you’ll be shocked to hear that there are a million different options when it comes to executing a strong DEM strategy. Some categories to think about would be:
The goal is not to create some overly-complex system here. Rather, build some specific uses cases with the technology you already have to enhance the data and ultimately make better decisions based upon the newly enhanced dataset you’ve created.
The whole idea behind an effective DEM strategy is to ensure that you are making the most informed decision you can about the customer or persona that is currently interacting with one of your owned channels. You also want to be able to identify when you aren’t making an informed decision, such as when someone is still anonymous to you. However, anonymity can still be leveraged if you simply capture the referring information and perhaps some attributes from any 3rd party campaign pixels you might have in play.
The point is quite simple: use the environment and information at your fingertips to bring the right data together to build as much of a profile as you can about your customers. The trick here is to determine what data is valuable, where to get it from, and how to ensure you keep it up to date. That last point is a key one to remember, which closes the loop on this entire process and frankly is left on the cutting room floor too much these days. Sure, you might segment someone into a persona based on an action he/she takes that day…. but how do you determine if/when that person has moved on into a new segment or no longer qualifies for the original box you put them in?
The easiest way to build a profile in real-time across your owned channel is with a strategic data layer. Having a data object embedded on your site that captures the information and attributes that you deem to be important is the easiest way to centralize and ensure you own the information going forward. The data layer can build a “handshake” between your other applications and tags, and ultimately make this data available to any technology that you might want to use (e.g. an optimization tool, CRM, etc.). When implemented correctly, this object is completely vendor neutral and ultimately ends up being your proprietary way of managing the attributes you need. To make it even more clear: don’t build a data layer for one technology, as that will limit you down the road, regardless of what any of your technology vendors may tell you.
Enhancing the data with this approach will help you on your quest and will solve one big challenge with DEM: the needle in the haystack problem. As I mentioned before, the amount of data and how many critical paths you most likely are trying to monitor is increasing by the day. Without additional context and data enhancement, you will be searching for low-hanging fruit to no avail in an ocean of data. You need to work towards telling a better story with your data, because behind that story will be a shorter runway to value via the insights you uncover.
Practical use cases
The conversation for DEM typically starts with clients who are trying to connect the dots for a customer who is interacting across multiple devices in any given critical path. When someone started by doing research at work, then browsed on their phone, and ultimately finished the journey at home on the family PC, a very difficult challenge is created. Your marketing team is pulling their hair out trying to determine who this person is, where he/she came from, and, whether he/she completed a value event, and how to get that person to come back and finish what they started.
A key point of consideration for this is acknowledging how personal a mobile device has become to all of us. It is the keeper of all our information, it has all the apps that we consider vital to our daily life, and ultimately we would all be lost without it. It’s amazing to think about how quickly this has become the societal norm. This is exactly why the mobile interactions are so important to track and you need to ensure you have the same level of data capture in this channel as you do in all your other channels. Chances are, you don’t, and that’s why this is typically a major focus for our customers at the onset of DEM.
If your business has a mobile app, then you have some interesting opportunities to enhance the data you are collecting. For example, just on the phone itself you could capture location information when someone is using your app provided you have asked permission. You could also ask for access to other app information, should you customer see value in it. For example, if you sell running shoes, wouldn’t you love to have access to the running apps that the person uses to track their mileage and ultimately use that to make offers when relevant?
Alternatively, you have a variety of 3rd party data that you can convert to 1st party and ultimately own. For anonymous users, you could use one of these pixels to provide you with some further information about the people you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting just yet. Demographic information is usually the key focal point here, since that will at least give you a trajectory for your content and messaging. The key here is to ensure that you convert and store this information via your data layer to ensure you can keep a historical profile of your anonymous visitors. Keeping that historical information based upon cookies ultimately allows you to link to a known consumer once that person has provided you with the info along the way.
If some of the integrations and use cases feel a bit daunting for where you are as a business right now, the easiest implementation to focus on would be to ensure you are capturing all the valuable information across your owned channels. You’d be surprised how much might be missing right now, due to domain tracking issues or perhaps antiquated implementations. The reality is that you can capture a wealth of information just by ensuring you are tracking your campaigns as they go out the door and then integrating that with all interactions across device and channel within your own business. It’s not an easy feat to succeed at, but it’s the one you can control the most.
Finally, one more use case would be to leverage your email marketing database and history. One of the highest-value, quick wins we perform for our clients involves this side of the house. There is a lot of information about your marketing lists, provided you can get access to them to dig in a bit. What content do they interact with, which emails do they open the most, and what messages might be best for a customer all lie within this database. It’s the least intrusive, but perhaps the most valuable for your business right now. Candidly, simply experimenting with your email content and then matching that content on the resulting landing pages on your owned channels is a very logical place to start.
I mentioned earlier that data is the new currency for advertisers; whoever owns the data holds the power. If you look around at the giants in the industry (e.g. Google, Facebook, Adobe, Agency Holding Companies, etc.), they are all making data plays based on providing you with an incredible amount of information in exchange for the ownership of your data, albeit in an anonymous way. These firms are leveraging all the data they have about the general public and hoping to offer the value of this dataset to their clients in exchange for the continued contribution of data to this pool. The risks that come with this must be weighed against the positives, especially since many of these situations would result in the highest level of vendor lock-in and reliance.
For years, this has gone unchecked in the industry by advertisers. These technologies and partnerships are creating data for you, or on your behalf, and it is imperative that you take back control of that data. Focusing on this now will save you a lot of headaches later.
What should you do today?
So, I’ve said a lot here and when I do that I prefer to end the newsletters with a list of things you should do to get started to help set some clear action items and make sense of everything I’ve said above. So, here’s what you should focus on:
After you’ve walked through the above, the rest is purely cultural and organizational change, which can typically be the most frustrating part of the whole thing. Depending on the size of the ship, you could be dealing with a lot of bureaucracy and politics. However, education is your friend and the ability to show what can be done with what you already have, while also enlisting a 3rd party independent viewpoint as needed, will help you get to the light at the end of the tunnel.
DEM is just a fancy expression for improving the customer experience with the data you have available. Making informed decisions is the name of the game, and there is incredible value for your business if you start down this path today. We are happy to help, so don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions at all.
Bill Bruno is the CEO - North America, Ebiquity.