Thursday, December 13, 2012

3 Levels of Identification: Consumer, Segment, Context

How do we move along the touch points of a consumer's journey?

Media fragmentation and interactive touch points results in media plans that probably look more like a 3D chess board than Candy Land.  So, how do we plan our next move?

Recognition is the key to the personalization and customization of consumer experiences.  But, there are clear issues revolving around privacy, governance, and permitted use that may prevent us from doing as much as we would like or even can.  Zappos has had to find the right balance between privacy and targeted ads because too much of a good thing is a bad thing.

There are several ways in which we can approach the need to help people choose.
  • Consumer: the ideal scenario in most cases is the the explicit permission to market with an identified individual.  This typically relies on a preexisting relationship where opt-in has already occurred thus naturally focuses on retention.  Cookies, because of their ephemeral nature, are a substitute (sometimes good, sometimes poor) of actually knowing a person and bridge to acquisition programs.
  • Segment: in lieu of identifying the individual, it is common to identify and track behaviors and classify them into segments.   Sessions of ecommerce sites might have 'researchers', 'tire kickers', and 'category buyers' for which different combinations of content and offers are presented.
  • Context: there are cases where even anonymous tracking should be avoided, e.g. medical, pharmaceutical and health information.  In these scenarios it is the behavior of the content that drives segmentation, and thus the business rules. 
Given the need to cover a wide spectrum of the consumer journey, the challenge and thus opportunity becomes the design of scheme that simultaneously leverages all three levels of recognition.  To do that it seems we need three things:
  1. Identification Linkages - a means to link individuals, identified or not, as deep into the journey as possible.  For example using a match service to link email and cookies, or even cookies to Prizm clusters.
  2. Portable Segments - a structure to behavioral segmentation that can be applied across touch points in order to deploy common business rules.
  3. Content Archetypes - a classification scheme (meta tags) that allows us to look at how similar content works across multiple scenarios.
  And to become a grand master we'll have to experiment and test a lot. 

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