"Marketer's Note" is a weekly column informing marketers about the rapidly evolving, digital marketing technology ecosystem. It is written by Joanna O'Connell, Director of Research, AdExchanger Research.
For all our industry’s talk about 1:1 communication between companies and consumers, the question – “Is it worth it?” - still looms large for many marketers. This was an unexpected finding from my interviews with marketers for my ongoing customer lifecycle management research.
I had been assuming – naively, it seems, in hindsight - that everyone saw the same inevitable end state that I do, one where consumers come to expect that everything they experience, from content to advertising, is tailored specifically to them. Not as in that classic scene from Minority Report where the approach feels aggressive and overwhelming, but in a more natural (arguably helpful!) way, such as, in my case, receiving a text message from Dover Saddlery alerting me when I’m within 10 miles of a store where there’s a sale for the specific kind of stirrup leathers I like but haven’t purchased in at least 2 years; or getting an interactive in-page ad from Wayfair.com that helps me match furniture items to the rug and coat rack I purchased from them over the last couple months. These are things that matter to me, not simply because I am a part of a segment, but because I, Joanna O’Connell, have very specific needs and interests.
What I heard during my interviews is that many marketers aren’t yet convinced, or don’t believe their organizations are convinced, that this level of specificity is a necessity. In fact, I heard comments that hit on several big questions related to this topic:
Is it worth it relative to the necessary investment? “Sure, in theory it makes sense to have a master system of record for people, but the amount of time and resources [necessary to get there…] it probably isn’t worth it.”*
Do consumers want a 1:1 relationship with me? “There are companies and brands that do a better job of managing the lifecycle. But then again, not all consumers want that 1:1 relationship – there’s a balance there.”
What industry-specific rules must I abide by, and what does that leave room to do? “We’re dying to know Joanna O’Connell as a human being. It’s not that we don’t want it. [The question is] how much work and energy will it take to have that meaningful relationship given the regulatory environment in which we operate?”
All that said, here’s what I love about these questions: they can help raise the level of discussion – from one of, “is it worth it?” to one of, “what is the right approach for my particular organization?” I am not ignoring the complex questions of privacy versus relevancy (of which much still needs to be said), nor am I ruling out of hand a world where consumers decide they’d prefer to pay for all content rather than receive advertising. Rather, I am arguing that dismissing a possible end state of 1:1 communication as “not worth it”, full stop, means death in the long run. Companies must embrace the nuance and figure out the right balance given their own current and future customer-base.
(Dover Saddlery and Wayfair, I like you guys – make sure to serve me ads and other marketing communications I care about. It would make me like you even more to know you care enough to try and get it right.)
*Technology companies, it is your job to create solutions – and pricing models – that enable, rather than hinder this. I see progress here, where the talk has turned to “master ID management”, “universal profile management” and the like, but we still have a long way to go.
Thoughts, comments, send them my way!