While it isn’t yet quite the online-offline integration that is my pet peeve, a new era of web marketing and web analytics seems to have begun. I think this will be a very exciting precursor to online-offline integration. This era deserves its own name, so I would like to propose “On-site – off-site integrated marketing”.
On-Site Off-Site integrated marketing
The ability to nit your web site, email marketing, SEM, display advertising, etc. so closely together that they work together as one intelligent organism rather than silo’d, uncoordinated online channels.
The signs that this new era is upon us are everywhere:
Behavior triggered, personalized email marketing
For the longest time email marketing has been a matter of newsletters and email blasts. If at all, emails may have been personalized based on links that a reader clicked in previous emails (by capturing the click-through with a redirect). But if the reader hated the destination page and dropped off she would still be getting more of that same content next time. (arghhh!)
Yet, innovative marketers, supported by innovative technology, are turning the old practices on their head. Examples of this can be seen with multiple web analytics vendors. For example, in the case of Unica, the web analytics user interface now allows web marketers at a travel web site to drag and drop the group of visitors who browsed Turkey vacations into a selection box. Ad hoc and lights-out email offers about relevant promotions can be sent to the individuals that fall into this group.
Not just in retail, we are hearing more and more about abandoned shop cart campaigns and behaviorally triggered emails.
Behavioral Ad Targeting
The news on behavioral ad targeting after the OMMA conference a few weeks ago will not have escaped your attention.
Behavioral targeting is now considered a standard component in almost all online display advertisers’ portfolio. And no longer is it a – hush hush – secret backdoor method to help advertisers lure visitors back on-site after they dropped off without completing a purchase. But rather, the industry says that it enables advertisers to build a relationship with their audience to refine the relevancy of ads over time. If you viewed convertible cars on my auto web site then I should be showing you ad creative with convertible cars rather than SUVs, no?
And if that wasn’t enough, who is now running the world’s biggest behavioral ad targeting network now? Yes, Google! I’d say on this news that now is a good time to buy some Google stocks if (like me) you don’t own any.
Ad server – Web Analytics integrations
Traditional online display advertising is also getting integrated more tightly with visitors’ activity on the advertiser’s web site. For the longest time, metrics from ad servers such as view-throughs were completely silo’d from web analytics metrics. But in the past months several web analytics vendors have announced initiatives in this regard. These do or will enable a sort-of reverse path analysis of visitors to report what ads they have been exposed to before arriving on the web site one day. (For instance, in the case of Unica this is possible in cooperation with certain ad servers).
In addition, first party cookie ad serving technologies are available from companies such as trueffect. This enables advertisers to carry forward the lessons from on-site activity into off-site advertising.
Search – integration
Unlike the previous three channels, Search advertising is not targeted to individuals. But even here there are signs that on-site off-site integration is happening. All web analytics vendors offer some ways of combining web analytics with bid management and search metrics. For instance, Unica’s solutions imports paid search costs, impressions, average ranks, etc. into the web analytics reports.
Even more exciting however is when search bids are adjusted automatically not just based on bid management strategies but based on an advertiser’s changing inventory of goods. For example, if Turkey vacations are on sale then the bid management function that is integrated into the business will increase bids until the available inventory has been sold. Numerous advertisers have been doing this for years already. Though, so far the only cases that I have heard of (e.g. Overstock or Sidestep) were homegrown implementations.
In the past the location of your web business was your web site. But with on-site – off-site integration that is blurring.
Take Amazon as an example.
Whatever the innovation, Amazon is already doing it.
Amazon has been programmatically setting PPC ads for available book inventory for years already (as far as I know). If you browse books and then leave the site to go to a blog that features an Amazon widget you may find that this widget recognizes you and re-markets those books to you. Emails that you receive from Amazon are also based on your past behavior (though more purchase behavior today than search behavior, I believe).
As Anil Batra pointed out during a recent presentation, nobody minds Amazon doing all this because they are doing it extremely well. It comes over as a service, not an intrusion.
That sets the bar for the on-site – off-site integration era.
You must know how to be relevant, if you are going to make the move from traditional, inbound web marketing to outbound, off-site integration.
And that is why I think the web analyst sits at the heart of the on-site – off-site integration era. Just like customer analytics are central to online-offline integration.