Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Two Perspectives of the Purchase Pretzel

Just what is a 360-degree view of the consumer?

The shopping journey is now best described as a "Purchase Pretzel" a term used by Jessica Angell, head of marketing for PayPal's Media Network at the recent DMA conference. In the smart phone era there is no reason to believe in an orderly or linear progression from awareness to advocacy.  It all kind of happens simultaneously, or at least in a circle, especially in retail.  And since my interactions are likely different than yours the result for marketers is a bag of pretzels. 

So, how to make sense of it?

We often talk about the desire to have a 360-degree view of the customer. Most often this is relationship to the interactions with a brand or retailer along the path to purchase. There is also the broader view of 360-degrees that looks at the consumer, rather than customer, in terms of shopper marketing - across the space top to bottom trying to understand how she comes to a decision.   Consider one view 'horizontal' and one 'vertical'.

The retail shopping experience is often depicted as a timeline, or horizontal activity.   And in this case we want to remove the impediments to purchase, i.e. reduce transactional friction.   To achieve that we tend to focus on the identification of the individual in order to serve the appropriate content to satisfy the needs as we see them.  This is the genesis of 1:1, CRM and other personally addressable programs. 

Yet, if we look at the world from the consumer's needs, there are a multitude of options that she could choose, including doing nothing.  So a publisher or media company might take an informational approach and ensure interesting content, of all types, is available where she might turn. In this world, we don't know the consumer, and probably won't since they tend to prefer anonymity until a relationship is established.  In fact the vagaries of digital technology means we're dealing with what can only be described as guessable media.  Thus, we need to recognize segments of behavior - a staple of behavioral targeting and ecommerce optimization.

The new marketing opportunities come from connecting the two views.  To do so we need to marry identification with recognition and develop the means to traverse two different sets of operating guidelines.  

For identification purposes, the email address is the leading candidate to work with. It satisfies not only the identification issue but also fits well with campaign objectives because the consumer has opted in for something.  However, we need to think not only in terms of communication, but also what can be linked to the email.   From social influence to web visits to ad impressions the digital landscape is full of potentially valuable information for use in 'relationship targeting' (a term Responsys focused on in their view of New School Marketing.)

For segmentation purposes, each visitor, visit or session needs to be classified according to a set of common dimensions that can be deployed across various properties and networks.   Those dimensions are apt to focus on the likelihood of the visitor trying to achieve some task, e.g. research, browse, buy, etc.  Once we have a handle on their intent we can think about what to serve.   Mapping segments to offers is old hat for the CRM crowd, the difference here is that they are aligned based solely on propensity rather than identify. 

By combining the two disciplines we can at least attempt to follow the logic of the pretzel as we link offline sales with online activity.

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