Doubling Down On Audience-Centric Marketing

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After a banner year for audience marketing, it’s a great time to revisit the concepts I touched on earlier this year and explore some thoughts on what’s further driving audience marketing trends as we move into 2015.

There are some major, exciting changes happening in the digital marketing space: the increasing importance of tracking and targeting users across devices; the dovetailing practices for managing, bidding, and optimizing campaigns across search, social, and display; the seemingly never-ending birth and rebirth of new and confusing ad tech related jargon.

You’ve probably felt as though things aren’t getting any easier. If so, you’re not alone: In a recent survey of over 300 digital marketers, 75% said that their job has become more complicated over the past year.

But with change comes opportunity, and marketers in our survey also reported that their #1 priority for the coming year was “creating campaigns based on deeper understanding of audiences.”

The Promise Of Audience Marketing

Audience marketing enables you to take information, such as intent and demographic data, to better understand your customer’s characteristics and how to best customize your targeting approach to reach them.

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The idea itself isn’t new, but the difference today is that you have thousands of data points about your customers across hundreds of different interactions.

The power of audience marketing comes not from the insight you gain from a single point, but from combining insights across different channels and devices. This allows you to get a clearer picture of your customer, and subsequently, provide a better, more holistic experience to them.

What’s Pushing The Audience Marketing Envelope?

There are four trends to watch in audience marketing involving:

  1. Multi-channel, multi-device usage
  2. Customer data accessibility
  3. Programmatic buying opportunities
  4. Dynamic, scalable creative

Trend #1: Advanced Multi-Channel, Multi-Device Usage

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Within the past several months, a number of different studies on mobile behavior were released. Three of the more compelling findings were:

  1. Mobile Vs. Desktop. People spend 30% more time on their mobile devices than they do with their desktop or laptop devices [1]. Yet interestingly enough, mobile ad spend continues to lag behind desktop ad spend. Even if ROI isn’t fully there yet,, mobile is a key catalyst for driving conversions and it’s time to think mobile first when considering the whole customer experience.
  2. Email Check-Ins. The average person checks their phone over 1,500 times a week [2]. Mobile is captivating in a unique and remarkable way. Whether it’s checking email, opening Facebook, or playing a game, mobile users engage in an extraordinarily high frequency of unique actions and sessions throughout the day. And although not every interaction leads to marketing opportunities, each opportunity has high-value potential because of mobile advertising’s tendency to take over the screen one ad at a time.
  3. Multiple Device Use. 60% of smartphone/tablet users use their mobile devices while using another device simultaneously [3]. It’s probably time to stop thinking about the customer buying process so linearly. Let’s go a little further here.

A couple years ago, Google released a study on the customer purchase funnel, showing how each marketing channel plays a different role in leading the customer from awareness to purchase. It’s a fantastic, easy to understand visualization.

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The problem with thinking of the customer buying journey as linear is that it isn’t. Customers are going to bounce back and forth between different stages of the buying process on every channel and device.

As the IDG survey reported, it’s not just that people are using mobile devices more frequently; it’s that they’re using them in a tangled and complex way.

Multi-device usage is non-linear. Consequently, it’s more important now than ever to be able to work with a marketing platform that can tie together customer interactions and data from as many different sources as possible, so the final user experience is both seamless and simple.

Trend #2: Customer Data Is More Accessible & Easier To Put Into Action

In Marin-speak, we call this idea “analytics-to-action.” There are a few factors driving this trend. To start, the ability to capture first-party data and tie different pieces together using marketing platforms has become much more mature.

Marin itself has nearly 70 different certified integrations with data partners, enabling marketers to tie together their cost, revenue, attribution, and audience data to glean insights.

Third-party data has also become more economical and accessible than ever before. Whether it’s using third-party data to do modeled prospecting, or uploading CRM data into Facebook to get an understanding of customer characteristics and create lookalikes, it’s never been easier expanding your audience pools.

Finally, the ability to take all those different signals and then create and target those audiences has become more developed and straightforward.

Trend #3: More Programmatic Buying Opportunities

The increase in programmatic buying channels has created more opportunities for advertisers to leverage audience data in their media buys.

The Winterberry Group report found that nearly 60% of US companies are “aggressively pursuing” data-driven, programmatic approaches to audience development. And programmatic now represents almost 50% of total display ad spending.

However, there are still three key areas of programmatic buying where significant growth is expected over the next 1-3 years: Programmatic direct, digital video, and mobile. This is a big deal.

Programmatic direct represents the other, previously non-automated half of the display advertising pie, so a lot of the custom deals will now have access to similar audience data, while digital video and mobile represent key channels for reaching users across devices, and thus require the need to tie in audience data.

Trend #4: Dynamic, Scalable Creative

Finally, with better audience targeting abilities comes the need for better creative executions – ones that are dynamic and scalable enough to meet the specific needs of millions of individual customers.

Google’s Product Listing Ad (PLA) was the first mainstream programmatic ad format. By taking a common ad format and tying together dynamic elements like the product feed, the user’s search queries, and external information like product reviews, Google was able to scale a dynamic ad solution for retailers across every product in their offering. Suddenly, the effort that advertisers put into creating a single ad could be repurposed across a million ads.

Dynamic retargeting has been another one of the simpler, but effective programmatic creative methods for web advertising, taking a lot of the same elements present in PLAs and packaging them in a fluid format that is tailored to a customer’s prior behavior.

As you expand your audience marketing efforts, you’ll find that creative needs and expectations are paramount. So even if you pinpoint the perfect audience, you’ll never make a sale if your creative execution is poor. Programmatic creative offers a solution for marketers trying to meet the needs of each individual customer in this way.

Final Thoughts

Taken as a whole, these four trends signal that a channel-centric approach is too limiting. The only way to deliver a consistent, seamless experience across channels and devices is to take an audience-centric approach.

Identify your audience find the best ways to reach them, and ensure you can provide an immersive creative experience that takes into account their prior interactions with your brand.

1 eMarketer, Sep 2014

2 Tecmark, Oct 2014

3 IDG Global Solutions, “Global Mobile Survey 2014: Mobile Evolution,” June 2014

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