“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 Jason Young, CEO at Crisp Media.
If you work in shopper marketing today, take note: Mobile will do to your business what the Web did to direct response.
To see what I mean, consider the history of direct response. Back in the days before the Internet, direct response and direct marketing (DM) were pretty much the bottom of the marketing barrel. TV was where the big budgets and big brands went. Direct was where big brands spent their below-the-line marketing dollars and where second-tier brands clogged up mailboxes.
Why was DM an afterthought? A lot of it boiled down to a disconnect between content and data. On the one hand, direct mail was universally recognized as the gold standard for customer insight and ROI. If someone called your 1-800 number, it meant your marketing worked. But on an engagement level, direct TV ads, mailers and catalogs were no match for the most engaging channel of all: television. Brands were left with the hard choice between data-driven marketing and engagement-driven advertising. Brand engagement won and direct marketing lost.
The Internet changed all that. Suddenly, marketers could deliver impactful rich media ads that came with the magic pixel: the piece of code that measured the real impact of granular actions against an ad unit. Brands could now create powerful experiences akin to TV and carry engagement information across touch points in a way that was previously inconceivable without a response to a letter or a phone call.
Powerful brand experience and data-rich marketing could now go hand in hand. Marketers started putting hard numbers against their branding efforts and applying data to target consumers across multichannel campaigns. It wasn’t long before the celebrated new-found alliance between the CMO and the CFO began to form. Ad dollars followed. It wasn’t just creative and media budgets that grew, either; the power of data-driven engagement quickly turned organizations’ marketing departments into new centers of technology.
Branding and DM got a lot closer, and DM became the hot new thing. DM has become so hot today that more than half of all digital dollars are direct-response dollars, and the world's biggest brand-centric ad agencies are shifting to pay for performance payment metrics. Not a bad turnaround for the forgotten stepchild of the marketing world.
Shopper marketing is a lot like DM. Both are aimed at driving consumers to a specific action. Both serve as a bridge from product awareness to purchase. Both have incredible analytics on the back end, especially when you throw loyalty programs into the mix. And both are relatively easy to achieve on the low-tech portion of the spectrum, such as paper coupons and circulars, but extremely complicated to mimic at the level of real brand engagement like that of TV or rich media. And so, like DM, shopper marketing has done well for more than a century, but it's hardly taken its place at the forefront of the ad business.
Much like DM eight years ago, shopper marketing has quietly waited for its data and engagement moment.
The problem is that engagement and data for shopper marketing is a much harder technical proposition than for direct marketing. That’s because DM works in a very controlled environment, such as the tight framework of a letter or a computer screen. Shopper marketing, by contrast, deals with the enormously complicated world of walks down the street and browsing real-life shelves. To create anything close to what the desktop Web has achieved, shopper marketing needs to develop an immersive data and engagement framework that followers customers basically everywhere, in-store and out, and that can plot data across the entire conversion path.
The task gets a lot easier with a device that tracks data, promotes deep engagements and that people carry around a lot. This brings me to mobile devices.
Connecting the app ecosystem and the Web, mobile devices have access to consumers’ past activity. As tools that consumers carry with them everywhere, they’re able to both measure and leverage data specific to where a shopper stands, at any given moment, from using weather data to deliver weather-targeted creative to leveraging location data to target and guide potential buyers the moment they walk by a store. As Apple’s iBeacon and other in-store geotargeting technology takes hold, shopper marketing data and engagement will only become more powerful. If you want to understand how immersive an engagement experience mobile can be, I have two words for you: Angry Birds.
Mobile creates a framework for data and engagement from desk to store, and everywhere in between. That’s the groundwork for a revolution the likes of which we haven’t seen since the desktop Web made DM hot.
It’s also a formula for driving a lot of in-store sales, which is exactly what pushes shopper marketing far into the C-suite.