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May 7, 2019 | 4 minute read

Marketing’s big shift to digital requires a 360-degree view of your customer

written by Darin Archer

We’ve finally reached the tipping point. Digital research firm eMarketer predicts for 2019 that digital advertising spend will surpass traditional for the first time, capturing more than half of all dollars spent by advertisers. Businesses are spending more on digital platforms than traditional ones like television as the number of new channels connecting brands and consumers continues to expand. This seismic shift has implications for all aspects of your marketing strategy, from the responsibilities of your CMO to your brand’s logo

It’s no mystery why this transition — one that’s been predicted for years —is finally occurring. For many products and services, digital advertising has the potential for much higher ROI than traditional tactics. Brands have more control of the ad content and audiences, with more flexibility to target the most specific demographics across more touchpoints than ever. 

With great power comes great responsibility

Brands understand they have better marketing tools and tactics to make a stronger impact on the bottom line -- and they’re holding marketers accountable for better results. But with billions of digital ad dollarswasted every year, it’s clear many are missing the mark. 

That’s why brands like Kellogg, P&Gand Taco Bellare cutting digital ad spend even as the options for increasing ROI from that specific strategy are better than ever. Some marketers are unable to justify massive digital advertising budgets that don’t move the needle, but that’s not a reason to avoid digital advertising as a tactic in your larger marketing strategy. The problem is how marketers are able to attribute their efforts to real success. 

Without proper attribution, marketers can’t make the case for the digital budgets they need

To illustrate, let’s imagine a scenario. 

You see an ad for a pair of jeans from a retail chain while browsing Facebook on your laptop. Later, a second remarketing ad for the same jeans pops up while you watch a YouTube video. You’re finally convinced to visit the website and browse the product catalog online. From there, you make a trip to the store to try on the jeans. They’ve got your size, but not the wash you wanted. No worries -- you go online and purchase the jeans from your phone.

Agorapulse_Get ElasticSource: Agorapulse

That’s a success story for the retailer. The ads worked! But without a 360-degree view of the customer, no one on the retailer’s side can accurately pinpoint which ad led to the conversion, since they weren’t directly tied to the conversion itself. For all they know, the first ad was a no-go and the second was a click-through that didn’t earn a purchase. They also have no idea the customer visited the store at all. 

With this information siloed, no one knows what actually drove the sale. On the Advertising supply side, companies such as Facebook get this challenge and are working with retailers and developers to try and track offline conversions, but even it misses this larger picture and only works with their networks ad spend. And as pressure rises to make the most of marketing budgets, the money spent on the initial ads could be seen as wasteful. 

You need a seamless, measurable path to purchase 

That’s just one common scenario that poses a problem for marketers, but it correlates to a larger customer experience issue. Your customers don’t think of your channels as separate experiences or touchpoints, and yet marketers too often think of them as such. 

With that mentality (and lack of backend support to think beyond it), marketers have a fragmented understanding of their customers. But it’s now your job as a marketer to unify these touchpoints and illuminate each individual customer journey. That way you can not only create more seamless experiences, but measure ad dollars that connect more accurately to conversion events. 

For example, imagine another customer sees an ad for your product in a video and then another on Instagram. She should be able to directly click through to purchase the product -- and you should know exactly which ads led to that purchase. You’d know exactly which ads to attribute to the conversion, and better yet, you could use that knowledge to optimize your marketing strategywith that individual customer going forward. That way, she’s not seeing the same ads over and over again for a product she already purchased -- and you’re able to use your digital ad budget more effectively. 

Drapers_Get ElasticSource: Drapers

That relies on your ability to stitch all these individual data points, like purchase and viewing history, together with category pages, product detail pages, targeted emails and more. There are many ways to go about that. Some brands centralize this data to make it accessible to all elements of a disparate marketing stack. Others make this data available to an API so these systems can access specific data in real time. Either way, integrating a 360-degree view of your customer into every one of her interactions with you requires a new approach to managing this data across existing and emerging touchpoints.

Of course, the ability to track these conversions affects more than just your ad budget. It provides an opportunity to see the entire customer journey and improve your CX more broadly. Understanding how your customers engage with your brand can ensure that you make the most of every ad dollar you spend, but also genuinely create better experiences.