“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 Greg Herbst, vice president of programmatic data solutions at Bombora.
Despite the growth of data-driven marketing, it’s actually becoming more challenging and costly for advertisers to identify, track and accurately target a single user throughout their customer journey. Cross-device targeting and attribution is often mentioned as the problem, but there is an even bigger issue – the lack of a universal ID.
Across all the disparate websites and advertising platforms currently powering the online advertising industry - from data management platforms, supply-side platforms and trading desks to the walled gardens of Google and Facebook – none use the same IDs to build audience profiles. While the notion has been discussed before, concrete efforts to develop a universal ID that bridges these gaps could help bring in a wave of new programmatic spending.
This is of particular interest to B2B marketers, whose sales processes rely on heavily orchestrated campaigns across the enterprise, rather than to individual consumers.
A legacy of proprietary code and outdated measurements tactics is preventing any traction for a universal ID at the moment. At the same time, the giants of the programmatic industry are racing to own universal IDs, as opposed to collaborating to make it happen. Every data player with noteworthy scale has their own way of identifying audiences, and most are hesitant to sync their data with others, out of a desire to maintain a competitive edge. This creates a world of fenced-in IDs with little interoperability and lots of competition.
There’s a convenient analogy here. If I asked you to picture a shipping container, everyone will likely imagine the same 20- or 40-foot long metal box, whether they see it stacked high on a ship, on the back of a truck or on a train. The reason everyone pictures the same thing is because shipping containers are standardized and designed to work the exact same way across all forms of transportation, in every country. A universal ID is essentially the same thing: a standardized identifier that marketers can use across all forms of media, with reassurance that it will work.
It seems most advertising is still measured across both B2C and B2B campaigns by old KPIs, like the cost-per-click model (CPC). CPCs continue to create a battlefield mentality in direct-response campaigns where the data-partner who received the last click claims all of the credit. When a universal ID comes into play on branding and engagement campaigns, all of the players who influenced a decision put their digital fingerprints on that trophy and share the credit. There’s less glory for individual partners, but it’s unequivocally better for the advertiser.
This is where B2B marketers come into play. Most consumer purchases come down to a household or a single person. But B2B is about reaching an organization, which creates a far more complex marketing and sales cycle. In software sales, for example, the C-level IT decision maker may not get involved in until the final 23% of a sale, according to Forrester’s Business Technographics Global Priorities And Journey Survey. Before reaching that decision maker, the B2B brand must reach and influence a “committee” of between 5 and 17 people that includes procurement, marketing and the end users of its products, which may even include interns.
It’s not a single individual buyer who is in-market, but an entire organization. Behavioral data can suggest which audiences might work in certain sectors, but B2B marketers need to know that they are not only reaching a relevant audience, but in which departments those audience members work. Once that connection is made, a universal ID would make it possible to reach that same user across different media channels. Sophisticated marketers can then use those data signals to leverage personalization to tailor the ad message, depending on the user’s department affiliation.
There’s also an immediate impact on the B2C market because research has shown that business decision makers are also very likely to purchase or research goods and services online. This makes B2B users highly coveted consumer marketing targets as well. After all, they’re not only making business purchases, but also buying consumer goods and services on their business machines.
There’s a lot to execute there, in identifying ad viewers by their profession, devices and behaviors and then matching them across devices with a universal ID for enhanced personalization and attribution. The drawn-out B2B sales process almost necessitates this movement toward universal IDs. If B2B marketers can collectively pool their data, similar to the race of the B2C market, then they can help the charge for universal IDs and create a situation in which everybody wins.