Ad tech and CRM (customer relationship management) used to run in very different circles.
Think of ad tech — performance marketing channels like display and search — as the cool kid of the marketing world. Big budgets, splashy campaigns, a constant stream of glamorous new advertising products and formats, exciting metrics like “share of attention.”
Ad tech was once largely focused on reaching pools of anonymous users, identified by cookie or device IDs. True, the rise of programmatic display has given marketers more control over the types of audiences they target, driven by the ecosystem of second- and third-party data. And retargeting enables advertisers to deliver highly targeted lower-funnel calls to action. But at its heart, ad tech is a world long motivated by the need for performance and scale.
CRM, in contrast, has always been… well, more of the boy or girl next door type. The domain of CRM has traditionally been known users, particularly those who have transacted with the brand. Working with largely enterprise IT systems and limited budgets, CRM professionals have long focused more on optimizing touch points with known customers through channels like direct mail and email.
But the rise of targetable ad technology — the ability to reach individual, known users on the open web — has broken down the once-clear distinction between these two worlds.
First came Facebook Custom Audiences, a revolutionary product that brought the intimacy and personalization of the email inbox to display advertisements on Facebook. Google’s highly successful remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA), and now Customer Match, enable marketers to enable dynamic bid optimization strategies around known customer segments. And data onboarding services like LiveRamp now empower marketers to onboard sophisticated CRM segments and reach them — or audiences that look like them — across dozens of display networks and DMPs (data management platforms).
The convergence of ad tech and CRM
These worlds are colliding — and this is a good thing. The result is more relevant, higher-impact marketing across all channels.
Imagine that a customer just bought a handbag. The retailer predicts, based on dozens of data points about her, that she’s likely to be a high price-point fashionista. In addition to powering a personalized post-purchase email series focused on the brand’s couture bona fides, the retailer now has the ability to tell her stories about complementary items on Facebook, through display advertisements on relevant web properties, and to show up at the top of search results when she’s back in market for her next high-fashion purchase. So far, so good.
But there’s a gaping hole in the way that most retailers approach cross-channel orchestration in the age of the ad tech-CRM convergence. Most retailers still rely on channel-based measurement. Display tools optimize around reach and CPM. Search tools optimize around last-click ROAS. Email optimizes around open and click rate.
At one point, when CRM and ad tech efforts were still worlds apart, this represented a legitimate attempt at quantifying difficult-to-measure impact, especially of upper-funnel activities. But now that the power and relevance of CRM targeting has extended to a world that once trafficked exclusively in anonymous audiences, there’s a new path available to data-driven marketers: people-based measurement.
People-based measurement refers to the practice of measuring the incremental impact of marketing efforts in terms of customer value. In contrast to questions like “what was the view-through ROAS of my holiday display campaign?,” a people-based measurement system will attempt to answer questions like:
- How did my holiday display campaign impact my rate of conversion of one-time buyers to repeat customers?
- How much did the campaign impact the customer lifetime value (CLV) of the customers to whom it was exposed?
- How much value did this campaign add, incrementally, on top of the five other channel touch points that were part of a coordinated multi-channel campaign?
The opportunity to communicate directly with customers through more stages of the customer journey means more opportunity than ever. But it also places a premium on knowing the impact of each and every touch point.
Without a full-fledged multi-touch attribution system in place, it can be quite difficult to measure the full customer impact of upper-funnel activities like non-branded paid search and display. And even for those with attribution buttoned up — savvy retailers are realizing that optimizing for short-term gain is a race to the bottom.
Understanding marketing actions in terms of long-term impact on customer behavior and loyalty is the only way to drive sustainable long-term growth. That’s where people-based marketing comes in.
Leveraging people-based measurement
So how does a retailer just beginning to flex the joint power of ad tech and CRM take action around people-based measurement?
1. Consolidate your data: The foundation of people-based measurement is a single view of each customer, powered by aggregated data from across siloes — online and in-store purchase data, email engagement, web history and more. That data needs to be shaped around individual customers rather than aggregate channel engagement metrics, so that a clear picture of each user can begin to emerge.
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