Multichannel Marketing, 2 years later: The multi-online channel revolution (part 3/3)

In part 1 of this series I summarized the crossroads at which digital marketing has arrived in 2010. Then part 2 explored the surprising advances that turned database marketing into a digital marketing discipline.

Now it is time to look at online marketers.

Back in 2006, my colleagues and I at Unica were still joking about our web analytics competitors’ understanding of multichannel marketing. Back then it seemed much like a scene in the movie Blues Brothers where they would go into a bar to be told by the bar owner that he was interested in all kinds of music:

 “Country and Western”

Similarly web marketing back then was multichannel only in a sense similar to:

“Google and Yahoo”.

 

The old web marketing

In the growth years of Internet usage, web marketers’ focus was centered on their own website and biased towards acquiring visits to the website through advertising.

Rocket science algorithms would optimize advertising spend automatically, e.g. with automated search bid management. Rocket science testing solutions would generate and evaluate thousands of multivariate versions of the same web page to test which one is best at persuading visitors.

But any thought of focusing on the customer was deprioritized.

For example, I recently called my iPhone carrier to say that I was thinking about cancelling the service since reception at my home was unusable. Yet, when I logged into my online account afterwards the website made no attempt to retain me or win me back.

Instead, it was still busy cross-selling me stuff.

Web marketing in 2010: Focus on individual level data for targeting and accurate ROI calculations

It wasn’t due to learning from more tenured marketing colleagues that web marketers changed. After all, in 2010 the web vs. other marketing teams still remain frustratingly silo’d.

But the addition of new online channels has thrust greatness on the online marketer:

Mobile

Mobile is an inherently personal device. So, web marketers aren’t just treating it as a second website but looking into opportunities for more personalized dialog.

For example, San Francisco based GoodGuide’s iPhone application allows users to scan barcodes in the store to get information on a product’s environmental and social acceptability, as well as healthiness. But users can also set lists of favored and “avoid these” products in their GoodGuide account on the fixed Internet website. When you login to your account from the iPhone your favoreds and avoids become available to you.

It is hard to think of a more crunchy-granola (i.e. socially responsible) business than GoodGuide’s. And yet they have integrated individual level data across channels!

Not as an evil scheme, but as a service to their customers! And with opt-in, of course.

That is very promising!

Behavioral Advertising and Email

While ads and email were mass marketing channels, they are now increasingly becoming an extension of a company’s website.

  • The ads that you see when visiting e.g. a newspaper’s site can be targeted to you based on your prior behavior on the advertiser’s website. Many ad networks exist that, for example, help re-market to individuals based on products they abandoned or segments for which they were profiled.
  • The emails that you receive can show personalized content and promotional offers (e.g. coupons) that were dynamically selected for you based on your click behavior on the website. For example, one Unica client in Europe is sending more than 1 million unique email variations per month.

Advertisers

It is most unexpected, but another push to go from the aggregate to the individual level comes from advertisers.

Why?

As more marketing funds are shifting online, accountability is king. Media buyers want to take credit for influencing individuals that were exposed to ads even if they didn’t click on them. That requires integrating web and ad serving analytics at the level of individual ad viewers and website visitors.

Several analytics vendors, including Unica, make that possible now.

Social Media

Finally, social media pushed web marketers over the edge in their appreciation for multichannel integration with an eye towards individual level interactions.

  • Marketers are keen to learn which customers have interacted with their Facebook application even if there wasn’t a direct click-through to the website.
  • The Facebook API provides information on an individual’s social graph, i.e. their connection to other Facebook users.
  • Websites equipped with Facebook Connect can draw on Facebook authentication outside the Facebook.com domain. That means they can also draw on other Facebook API information in the visiting individual and include that in their analytics and behavioral targeting.
  • Advertising networks have become available that target ads to individuals based on their social graph, i.e. assuming that you are more likely to care about XYZ if your direct friend connections purchased XYZ.
  • Social CRM has become a buzzword and refers to various online interactions with individual customers. For example web marketers are keen to see that disgruntled Twitterers receive a direct response to turn them around. Meanwhile fans should get encouraged to keep spreading the word.

There is still a missing link for integrating CRM with Social CRM in terms of mapping individuals’ identities. However, vendors are already working on closing that gap.

  • Social media monitoring tools such as Radian6 list together each individual’s blog vs. Twitter vs. Facebook identities if they can detect them.
  • Vendors such as RapLeaf have begun offering social data append services for CRM databases.

Summary

  1. Bottom-line, the web marketing world is in the midst of an onsite-offsite integration era.
  2. That has required web marketers to move beyond aggregate level data and think about data at the level of individuals.
  3. With that, they now share with direct marketers an appetite for individual level click data for the purposes of analyzing and behavioral targeting.
  4. This happened at a time when technology has become increasingly integrated between analytics, email marketing, and behavioral targeting.
  5. Online-offline integration is not main-stream yet. But never before have web and direct marketers been so parallel in their multichannel goals and thinking.

I am excited for 2010.

Multichannel Marketing, 2 years later: Direct is becoming highly digital, real-time, in- and outbound (part 2/3)

In part 1 of this series I summarized the crossroads at which digital marketing has arrived in 2010. In this part we will look at the surprising advances that direct marketing has made in the past two years.

The old-new direct marketing: Outbound

What web marketers don’t realize is that the new direct marketing (since the late 90s) has been a highly digital discipline in terms of the sophisticated, predictive analytics that were employed. Just not so digital in terms of the channels through which messages were brought out.

But why do we still have so much spam and junk mail then?

Because, while direct marketers employed PhD level analytics they lacked any timely data on their customers’ current interests. So the predictions were only true on average.

It’s like having a GPS device that tells you the neighborhood in which you are currently driving but can’t tell you which street corner you need to turn at.

The new-new direct marketing: outbound and Inbound and real time

The increasing digitalization and integration of channels made inbound and real-time marketing possible. Now, while a client is still on your website, or on the phone with your call-center, in front of your ATM, or using their mobile phone application to interact with you, the new direct marketer’s sophisticated analytics can be fed with real time context. That puts them in the position to refine their offer decisioning (i.e. behavioral targeting) on the spot.

Direct marketers from many industries have taken notice and expanded their ambitions to embrace the real time in their work. Thanks for that, web analytics are now increasingly on their minds too as a rich source of very current behavioral data.

Examples of the new-new direct marketing:

  • Banks in Europe and the US have implemented interactive marketing programs that target individuals behaviorally in a consistent and analytical manner, regardless of which channel the interaction is on, i.e. the branch, the web, the phone, or outbound channels.
  • Telcos in Australia, Europe, and US are including web behavior as part of their scoring calculations for attrition risk
  • Multiple large, high-tech, B2B businesses in the US have designed demand generation marketing programs that integrate the web with other channels of interaction.
  • Cable TV operators in Europe have implemented marketing programs that deliver targeted ads through direct TV. They are able to follow up consistently through phone, email, and web to nurture their leads and measure response across.
  • With retailers, the degree to which the web team is asked to participate in a one-to-one marketing program depends on whether the team rolls up to the CMO or whether it is silo’d within an eCommerce, i.e. sales function. In the latter case, the web tean is told to focus on the website alone and it is difficult to get funding for cross-channel projects.

Overall though, we do seem to be heading towards a tipping point some time in the coming years.

Europe vs. USA, who is ahead?

From working with companies across continents, I gain the impression that more Europeans have been working on integrated marketing vs. Americans.

This is despite the fact that Europeans are much more concerned about privacy.

More European companies seem to have implemented sophisticated cross-channel programs or are issuing related projects. Until this year maybe, where noticably more American marketers are launching similar projects.

But until recently I felt as if the average American marketer was still building “Marketing Cadillacs” whereas Europeans were building “Marketing BMWs”.

Add to that the fact that Europeans (and Asians) are also ahead in their adoption of mobile devices including the willingness to interact with marketing messages.

Then you wonder what happened to the days when America was still 5 – 7 years ahead of Europe with any business innovation.

Wake up call!

In the final part of this series we will look at web marketing that has truly become multichannel in 2010.

Multichannel Marketing – 2 years later: Digital is at a crossroads now (part 1/3)

In the two years since publishing the Multichannel Metrics book, the face of marketing has changed drastically.

We are entering a critical crossroads in 2010.

By 2013, will we look back and find that this was the year when marketers from online and other marketing teams first realized how similar their goals have become and took steps towards integration across camps?

Or will we look back and find that the camps remained ignorant of each other and instead set in stone silo’d technologies making integration more difficult than ever? 

 

What do you mean, web and direct marketers’ goals are aligned now?

Marketers have had no choice.

Greatness has been thrust upon them!

Direct marketers

  1. Have seen marketing dollars beginning to shift from offline to online
  2. Finally see clearly that a large portion of interactions with their customers has moved online. For example, according to anecdotal feedback from several older European banks, 25% to 50% of their clients use online banking now. Some financial institutes acquire the majority, if not all, customers online.

Online marketers

  1. Have had to abandon their silo’d, website-centric thinking because their websites are now only one component of their total web presence. Other presences include social media, mobile sites, behaviorally targeted ads and personalized emails.
  2. They may continue to treat the offline as a step child for another couple years. Yet, they are already adopting multi-online-channel marketing practices for the purpose of integrating all these web presences.
  3. The latter has required them to move from their traditional focus on aggregate level metrics and dashboards to looking at data about individuals across website, mobile, social, and advertising. This experience with individual level data will also make it easier for them to integrate their customers’ offline interactions down the road.

As a result, both online and direct marketers are now pursuing multi-channel data integration at the level of individual prospects and customers. Both camps do this for the purposes of

  1. behavioral targeting,
  2. better understanding of marketing ROI.

 

The technology gap is closing

While all vendors talked the talk for 360 degree views, the reality was different. Web analytics data was far removed from a direct marketers’ access.

  • After all, the data are owned by the web team who couldn’t care less about individual level data at that time.
  • The data are also hosted remotely at SaaS based web analytics vendors that prioritized reporting and good looking charts over granular data. As a result, data feeds (while available) would come with no SLAs. A feed might or might not arrive at the agreed time of night. That made it too unreliable for driving interactive (let alone real time) marketing programs.

Meanwhile, web marketers could integrate analytics based targeting into email marketing only by bridging the gap between several vendors and paying for integration services.

These technology gaps are now increasingly closing.

  • Omniture is positioning its online marketing suite along with integrations with ESP partners through its Genesis program.
  • Unica is positioning both
    • Its eMessage and Interact products for email and web personalization integrated with Unica’s web analytics and campaign management products for enterprise clients
    • Its recently launched Interactive Marketing OnDemand product where SaaS based customers use web analytics, email, and web personalization within a single application and UI.

 

The crossroads

This alignment of methods, goals, and technology represents our arrival at a crossroads.

(note added on March 12th): Maybe the word alignment is too much said.  But methods, goals, and technology are now more parallel and similar than ever.

But will we leave these crossroads into an integrated future or will we set in stone two silo’d multichannel worlds between online and direct marketing teams?

That is the big question.

In part 2 we will look at direct marketers vs. digital. Then in part 3 we will review where multichannel web marketing stands in 2010.

Stop acting like a loner, ‘cause web marketing optimization is a team sport!

I have to say, I am growing increasingly annoyed with the silo’d nature of the discussion that seems to still be dominating our web analytics industry.

We have been so silo’d that, for example, even something as adjacent to web analytics as audience measurement and its vendors (i.e. the comScore, Hitwise, Compete of the world) seem to appear more like second class citizens in our discussions. Meanwhile, 90% of the chatter among web analytics vendors, consultants, and bloggers seems to focus only on core web analytics topics and vendors.

A symptom that should give us pause is that most of our guru authors and bloggers – who are such rock stars to us web analytics people – are utterly unknown outside our little niche. Forget offline marketers, not even other online marketers know them!

Surely that isn’t because “the others” are all stupid and don’t understand performance optimization.

Honestly, I don’t know exactly why we seem to be such a silo’d breed. It is probably just a function of specialization in the workplace. Web analysts handle web analytics tools, multivariate testing, voice of customer, and maybe participate in behavioral targeting. But

  • Who owns audience measurement / competitive intelligence? Probably a shared function with marketing/PR?
  • Who owns social media monitoring? More often the “social media manager” or PR rather than the web analyst?
  • Who owns search optimization tools? SEO and PPC teams, of course. (And they too can be separated from each other in larger organizations)
  • Who owns email marketing? The direct or customer marketing functions.
  • Who owns ad servers and behavioral targeting networks? The online marketing or media team
  • Who owns site performance? IT
  • Who owns the replay stuff? Web developers?

If there is any way out of this strange situation it is probably to be found in embracing the different aspects of web marketing in a more balanced fashion instead of losing ourselves in increasingly nuanced web analytics details that seem esoteric and boring to people outside our niche.

Might we find bigger gains in 2010 by looking more for a breadth-first approach vs. continuing our deep dive?

Take search marketing as an example

The diagram below shows the search marketing funnel starting from potential visitors, i.e. users of the search engines (or their content networks). The search marketer aims to acquire them on site and then lure them deeper into the funnel to engage, persuade, and convert.

semfunnel1

The diagram then lists the different categories of marketing tactics and technologies that are involved in moving prospects through the funnel. Let’s take a deeper look at each category.

1. Audience measurement and influence

This category includes more items than one might think at first glance, namely the following.

Tool Example of how it helps with search marketing
Keyword research tools Which keywords are being used in general?
Audience measurement or competitive intelligence tools Which keywords work for your competitors and what is your share of those keywords
Social media monitoring tools Which keywords are being used by your audience? If your search clicks are up/down is that because there is a spike of positive/negative buzz about you?
Advertising, online and offline With improved awareness and perception of your brand, your audience is more likely to click on your search listings

 

2. Search marketing

This category includes the most obvious items associated with search marketing optimization:

Tool Example of how it helps with search marketing
Search bid management tools or agencies Reduce manual efforts and increase returns from your paid search budget
SEO tools or agencies Help monitor your success vs. competition for ranking better on critical keywords

 

3. Landing page management, and 4. site management

These categories include similar items that I shall list together here. But it makes sense to keep them as two categories because the vendors/tools for landing page management are sometimes not the same ones as those used for managing content on the rest of the site.

Tool Example of how it helps with search marketing
(Landing) page design and deployment To make split testing of landing pages for reducing bounce rates feasible it needs to be easy to create and deploy alternative test candidates
Multivariate testing Multivariate testing can evaluate even more permutations of test elements on a single page.
Voice of customer The numbers don’t tell the whole story of why visitors searching for XYZ do or don’t buy. So you need to ask them.
Personalization or behavioral targeting Going beyond testing, dynamic content that is targeted to individuals based on their past and ral time behavior has the promise of increasing conversion rates further
Lead management For businesses where the sales cycle continues offline it helps for improving offline conversion rates to tap into the prospects web behavior. For example the salesforce automation system can be updated with past and ongoing web searches that the prospect does.

 

Not to even mention product recommendations, product reviews, etc.

Is that all?

No, there is much more that is critical. Search visitors will often not convert on their first visit. So re-marketing is essential.

semfunnel2

More importantly, maybe, the customer life cycle doesn’t end with the first purchase. That is in fact when the work of the customer marketer only begins and the life cycle continues with on-boarding, growing lifetime value, attrition risk detection, and win back. Some additional tactics and technologies that are involved on the online channels include the following:

5. Interactive Marketing

Tool Example of how it helps with search marketing
Email marketing The lead is nurtured with content that keeps their interest alive and brings them back to the site until they convert (again).
Re-marketing ad networks The lead is reached on other (publishers’) sites with ad banners that are relevant to their past searches
Interactive Marketing (or next-generation campaign management or event-triggered marketing) By building all interactions on each individuals’ past and current behavior on the web channel (and beyond), the marketer aims to keep their messages (both timing and content) aligned with the individuals’ interests.

 

Do we really need all of that … stuff … to optimize search marketing?

If your goal is merely to improve search marketing, e.g. PPC, you need nothing more than a Google AdWords account while paying attention to the built-in couple of metrics. But if you are after optimization, then the above are truly all part of the funnel or chain. Each of these pieces are truly needed and will pay for themselves.

And we are supposed to integrate that with web analytics?

As a supporting function and nerve center, web analytics has the potential to glue most of these elements together. When done right this could make your web analytics people some of the best known employees across all of these teams.

But you would be forgiven if you are thinking that integrating all of these functions with web analytics could be too big of an effort and cost. That is precisely why vendors such as Omniture and Unica are building out online marketing suites.

Today, not all of the above are available (and integrated) within one vendor’s suite. But that day will come because there is a real need by marketers.

Announcing: Free Optimization Wizard for Organic Search (SEO)

“The best things in life are free”, they say, and organic search traffic might seem free at first glance.

But in truth, as you will know, organic search isn’t free at all. It requires hard SEO work upfront before you can rank well for highly coveted keywords.

This wizard is for any marketer looking to get more business results (traffic + outcomes) from organic search (and who doesn’t?).

It walks the analyst through a series of steps for increasing results, e.g. by identifying the keywords to prioritize for SEO, doing the on-site and off-site SEO, and optimizing your web marketing for organic search visitors.

Web Analytics Question Support System for SEO

Click here to start the SEO wizard


Bird's eye view of this SEO wizard
Click here for a bird’s eye view, i.e. summary flow chart

This wizard is the third example of an expert system that I got a chance to work on now. The wizards aim to help web analysts (and in this case also search engine marketers) with their complex work. Earlier releases were the wizards for PPC optimization and troubleshooting a drop in website conversions.

Couple comments and observations:

  • As always I would like to point out that these wizards can neither replace the need for experienced SEMs nor web analysts. The goal of the wizards is just to make their work more systematic.
  • A good example of why this is true may be the following. Namely, for any specific website, an experienced SEO can probably point out the 20% of the steps in this wizard that will help achieve 80% of the results. In contrast, in the wizard all recommendations seem to be of equal priority / importance. That is a bit of a flaw with this SEO and also the PPC wizard, I have to concede.

As I am not an SEM myself (neither SEO nor PPC), this wizard will only become truly exciting with the help of user comments that can be added to any step of the wizard.

Look forward to hearing what people think and hope that this proves helpful.

This Thursday: Web Analytics for Driving Your Entire Business (not just your Website)

This Thursday, Angie Brown from Elsevier is presenting live in a webinar within the Web Analytics Association’s webcast series. She is going to share some very clever examples of her web analytics work at the publishing giant.

I had the chance to listen to Angie’s presentation live at Unica’s annual customer conference earlier this year in Paris. Her anecdotes about using web analytics to inform offline and other strategies showcase that the insights go much further than just to improve the website or advertising.

As the webcast is sponsored by Unica, I will get to follow Angie’s featured presentation with a few words on Unica’s view of next-generation use of analytics.

Register here to attend live on Thursday at noon US ET or to receive the recording link after the live event.

Social Media Metrics to Fit Your (Secret) Business Goals

Social media are challenging and humbling. The discussion of how marketers should use them is often clouded by vague recommendations, niche anecdotes, and buzzword mania.

The confusion has also impacted marketing analysts. More than ever they are facing questions of what can be measured and how. But very often there is neither a clear business goal nor action plan behind the question.

In order to select meaningful analytics for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs and videos, the key (as always) is to start with the business goals that your company is pursuing with each social media marketing effort.

But, as Jim Novo pointed out months ago, your team must come clean on what these business goals really are.

  • For example, just because you are blasting out messages on Twitter doesn’t mean that you are really doing viral or social marketing. You are just running a reach and direct response campaign much like any other form of spam or PR.
  • In that case you should also measure success with very similar metrics to those used for spam and PR, as Jim pointed out.

While there are wonderful lists of available metrics for social media overall, I didn’t come across a list yet that is grouped by the various business goals companies may be pursuing with their social media campaigns.

So, therefore, here is the grouped list that I would like to encourage.

Business Goal Description Typical Key Metrics
Brand advertising Even though the biggest opportunity with social media is thought to be in facilitating conversations, it is obvious that many marketers are still approaching social media in a way that is more similar to traditional advertising or PR. Companies doing this should then look at typical advertising metrics to measure and improve success

  • Reach and frequency, e.g. unique users and views of your Facebook application or Twitter followers
  • Engagement, e.g. number of comments or links on a post.
  • Share of voice
  • Quality of the audience that you are reaching, e.g. demographic fit
Direct response advertising Still with traditional marketing methods in mind, marketers often post tweets or blog articles with the goal of triggering a direct response, e.g. a registration to an event or an alert to a current promotion

  • Click-throughs
  • View-throughs
  • Outcomes, e.g. conversions, revenues, ROI.

Viral marketing The opportunity to increase the reach and effectiveness of your marketing messages through viral distribution represents both the most exciting and also the most challenging aspect of social media. The networked nature of social media makes them ideally suited for viral multiplication effects. Companies that know how to facilitate conversations and how to build their brands through the voices of their customers stand to build the best brands.

  • “Virality”, e.g. re-tweets on Twitter, application invitations on Facebook, or pick-up of your marketing messages across the blogosphere
  • Social graph of visitors reached by your effort, e.g. the number of their friend connections
  • Sentiment
  • Context of the conversations

Focus group It is often said that: “On traditional media you can shout but you cannot listen. On social media you cannot shout but you can listen.” Marketers that take this idea to heart may think of social media as a giant focus group that provides a window into the hearts of the market place and customers.

  • Volume of chatter on various topics, marketing messages, ad campaigns, or competitors that relate to the company’s business
  • Sentiment
  • Context of the conversations

Customer service Some social media channels, especially Twitter or blogs, provide the opportunity to respond or comment directly to the individuals that posted an article. This opens up the opportunity to encourage and thank fans while reaching out to help customers that are in need of help or feel disgruntled.

  • Customer cases handled
  • Improvement in customer satisfaction or net promoter score

Social CRM The opportunity to make social marketing personal extends beyond manual customer services. Namely, there is an opportunity for interactive marketing. Social media are part of the interactions and experiences that individuals have with your brand. It is commonly accepted that marketers should listen to their clients so that they can be relevant in their communications instead of interrupting with untargeted messages. As such, individuals’ interactions with your brand on social media represent another great channel for listening to individual customers and taking their interests into account.

  • Topical keywords that relate to an identified individual’s posts on Twitter, blogs, etc.
  • Topical keywords that relate to the posts with hyperlinks to your website from which an individual has clicked through to your site
  • RFR (Recency, Frequency, Reach, i.e. social graph.)

The overview reveals that social media measurement require combining data from multiple sources:

  1. Typical web analytics metrics such as unique visitors or views, click-throughs, and outcomes such as conversions, revenues, profits.
  2. Data about social media participants such as their demographic profile or number of friend/follower connections. This information would typically be available from the APIs of social media platforms or from social media monitoring solutions
  3. Social media monitoring trends such as the volume of chatter around specified topical keywords as well as sentiment

If you are a Unica customer, ask your account manager for our technical paper on how to measure metrics such as the above using Unica NetInsight and social media monitoring solutions.

Announcing: Free Optimization Wizard for Paid Search (PPC)

This wizard is for any marketer looking to get more results from their search engine pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns (and who doesn’t?).

It walks the analyst through a series of steps for increasing results, e.g. by eliminating wasted spending, identifying missed opportunities, improving the persuasion process, or optimizing budget allocation.

Web Analytics Question Support System

Click here to start the wizard


Bird's eye view of this wizard
Click here for a bird’s eye view summary flow chart

The wizard is the second example of an expert system that aims to help web analysts with their complex work. Just at the beginning of this month I had released the first wizard, namely for troubleshooting a drop in conversions on a website.

Couple comments and observations:

  • Just like a clinical decision support system isn’t meant to replace doctors, this wizard has no way of replacing the need for experienced web analysts, search marketers, or helpful consultants.
    • Doing the optimization still requires significant time and attention.
    • The wizard is just like a good adviser that has helpful hints but won’t do any of the work for you.
  • While releasing the troubleshooting wizard I had been wondering whether the idea of an expert system would lend itself to problems that aren’t “troubleshooting” in nature but more of general “optimization” nature.
    • It turns out the idea makes total sense for optimization as well.
    • But you can easily see a big difference if you compare the bird’s eye view of the PPC wizard vs. troubleshooting wizard. Namely, the latter is a decision tree whereas this new one is more an exploration of various optimization areas.
  • I still highly recommend the use of automated paid search management solutions such as SearchForce or Marin software. But if you review the wizard you will see that many areas for optimizing paid search involve tasks that cannot be automated.

I am not an SEM myself. So, this wizard will only become truly exciting with the help of user comments that can be added to any step of the wizard.

Look forward to hearing what people think and hope that this proves helpful.

Online-Offline Integration for Retention Marketing

(This post is part of a series on the state of multichannel metrics today, one year after the book came out.)

In a subscription based business model, e.g. mobile phone service, you have two ways to make a customer:

  1. gain a new one
  2. renew an existing one, i.e. retain them

When Unica’s clients from the mobile phone carrier industry report about their work they invariably start by describing how vital #2 is to their industry.

The market for mobile phone services is so saturated that the only way to gain a new client is to take them away from a competitor.

Sounds like a place for marketing innovation.

A few innovative Telcos have hit on ways to combine online and offline worlds in order to improve their success rate with retention marketing.

As I learned from one of my colleagues last year, here is how one company went about it.

Online-offline integrated analytics for detecting attrition signals

At a large US mobile phone carrier, traditional retention marketers were working on predicting which customers were about to leave for the competition. These clients would be included in retention marketing efforts.

Originally, the statisticians had been going after this job the old fashioned way, i.e. trying everything from a customer’s contract details to transactions (i.e. usage) and demographics details to find something that would predict attrition.

But the only variables that showed any influence were the age of the subscriber’s phone device and the amount that they paid on the last bill.

Not exactly enough to catch someone in the hot act when they are about to walk out through the door.

Yet, it was going OK.

To put it in numbers, the marketers were able to reach 70% of customers at risk of leaving by contacting 40% of the possible audience. So their predictive models were giving them some amount of lift.

But wait a minute … If someone is thinking about switching would they not likely be coming to the web site and doing something on there that deviates from their usual click behavior?

Might they not be checking available promotions or upgrades or ways to strike a deal?

The idea seemed so promising that the statisticians gave it a go.

They took a chunk of historical web data for registered clients. They paired that up with the same customers’ historical churn data in order to train a predictive model (along w/ the offline data).

And what they found was impressive

Indeed there were predictive click behaviors on their web site but it wasn’t intuitive.

  • Clients on a low subscription contract would have one kind of online signal that revealed their intention, e.g. address change.
  • Clients on a higher rate plan however turned out to send a different signal with their clicks.

The numbers rewarded them.

Now, when contacting 40% of the potential list they were able to reach an extra 15% responses for a total of 85% of potential responses.

That doesn’t just means lots of stamps and mailers saved.

It means foremost saving the cost of special discounts that they would have extended unnecessarily to clients who weren’t thinking about leaving anyway.

Highly worthwhile.

Real time?

Most of the online-offline integration case studies that you may have read about in this series were of interactive nature, i.e. online click behavior would prompt action within a short period of time.

Here we have an example of how a company first took a historical chunk of data to train their model. No real time needed here.

But now that the model has been trained, fresh web analytics data would be fed to it regularly in order to keep predicting current customers at risk.

The morale

This is yet another strong business case for integrating online and offline analytics.

No wonder the case is strong. After all

  • The case for competing on analytics is strong.
  • The case for using behavioral data is strong
  • Click data is a rich lather of behavioral data

It is time for the lollygaggers to stop acting surprised and jump on board!

Privacy, Schmivacy!

Other than “How about cookie deletion?” the second biggest question that I have received in the past year when discussing the topic of online-offline integration is the question about privacy.

  • Will it be OK with privacy regulations if I integrate click data from web analytics with customer data in order to improve the relevance of my marketing communications?
  • More importantly, will it be OK with web site visitors’ expectations?

The regulations side is usually a short answer for me. Mind you, the regulations seem rather cumbersome to read. But the bottom-line boils down to:

  • Have a clear privacy policy on the site
  • Make it as easy to opt-out as possible, ideally a single click
  • Extra credit, if in addition to opt-out you allow the individual to set their own preferences of how they’d like to be contacted and on what topics
  • In countries where it is required, work with opt-in

To me, the bigger question seems about site visitors’ expectations.

It may seem we are wearier of being tracked than ever. There is always a big outcry when Facebook et al announce a move towards ad targeting.

But in reality, we are much more public with our lives than ever. especially in our social networks. See this article for instance.

So what is it about this privacy thing that we really want?

The following examples help me.

Privacy in a store

We hate walking into a small store if the sales person is too much in our face and doesn’t let us browse the items on our own. Maybe we fear getting pressured into buying something before we are ready. Heck, we may well be browsing for entertainment and not thinking of buying anything at the moment. And the shop keeper that is in our face makes us feel bad about ourselves.

But we also hate being in a big box retail store and not being able to find someone to answer our questions when we are ready to ask them.

Really, we want the person to be right there — magically — just when we need their help but not before. And we love it if they understand us so well that they can recommend just what we will benefit from buying.

Privacy in a restaurant

We hate when the waiter is too much in our face, especially after we are done with the meal. Maybe we fear pressured in vacating the table for the next guests.

Just as much we hate it when the waiter is nowhere to be found when we need the check or want to order something (else).

The waiter should just — magically — refill the glasses as soon as they are empty. They need to be right there with the desert menu and our check just when we want it.

Magic???

How does it work in those stores and restaurants that do this well? Is it magic?

No magic.

The perfect shop keeper and waiter are super observant. They put a web analytics tool to shame when it comes to tracking our behavior.

But they aren’t in our face about it.

And they don’t pressure us into buying something or ordering an appetizer along with the expensive main course.

They are at our service.

And yet they still do bring us the best cross-sales offer at the best time.

Marketing so relevant that it feels like a service

I still cringe when I hear that marketing should be so relevant that it feels like a service. At first glance it seems a cheesy thing to say. It seems a utopian dream of techies like me.

But wait.

How about all those educational webinars on the web that I love to attend and learn from?

Guess what! The people doing them (e.g. me, myself) aren’t altruistic at all. Their purpose is purely marketing. They cost a ton of money, by the way. Yet, it is a service and doesn’t feel like marketing at all unless the speaker is too salesy.

There are other examples too:

  • How about book recommendations on Amazon
  • Movie recommendations on Netflix?

They tend to be quite relevant and not at all in your face. Ignore them easily if you want.

In fact, haven’t you come to expect and demand that any product page on a retailer’s web site will contain information on accessories that go with the item?

So, it can be done

These examples prove that marketing, in the ideal cases, can:

  1. feel like a service
  2. be not in your face and not pushy

My take away is that the combination of click and customer data, if used the right way, can absolutely enable service oriented marketing. But if you abuse it for span, you will cause all of us marketers to look bad and to lose out.
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(This post is part of a series on the state of multichannel metrics today, one year after the book came out.)