Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Segments are the Lingua Franca

How can digital and direct marketers see the same 360 degree view?

The tracing of a consumer's journey across the shopping journey is as much a guessing game as it is a sure bet.   The idea of creating a 360 degree view actually requires making a lot of guesstimates.  To help think thru the idea I look at several different layers of the problem.
  • Anonymous - the bottom of stack where we know something happened, but have few (if any) signals that can help us link things together.  Online this could be visitors with cookies blocked; offline it is store browsers.
  • Recognized - there are enough signals present in an interaction to begin thinking about profiling, segmenting or linking them.  Web visitors, device IDs, shopping baskets, etc. form the basis of recognition. 
  • Credentialed - a semi-persistent identifier exists that increases the odds of knowing it is the same person.  Account information such as email, log-ins and tokenized credit cards fit this model.
  • Identified - the persistent identifiers, e.g. name, are known and usable. 
Thinking and working in all four layers helps with creating the desired view.  So far, there is no silver bullet or a right order of approaching things.  Sometimes we start at both ends and work toward the middle; other times we work on one area in particular.   Campaigns may be designed simply to help make some linkages, e.g. newsletters or white papers to trade value for value in order to improve Credentialed. 

Digital marketers tend to understand this stack quicker than the traditional database marketing crowd. The common ground between these two worlds is the use of segments.  While done for very different reasons (eliminate PII vs. allocate scarce resources) the marketing thinking is very similar - find a homogenous group that responds similarly to marketing messages.

In fact, shipping segments will get you to an integrated view faster than trying to work at the lowest level where natural constraints about what you can and can not do throw up roadblocks.

An interesting exercise would be to think about mapping and modeling consumer vs. customer segmentation schemes.  (More on that in a bit.)

Customers are Simply Consumers with History

Is she or isn't she a customer?

Very often we think in term of consumer marketing versus customer marketing; one focused on acquisition and the other focused on retention.  We even allocate budgets as above and below the line further separating one idea from the other.  However, in the age of showrooming, the distinction between being a consumer and a customer is more often down to a fleeting moment in time and a choice.

Will she buy?

Similar to Schrodinger's Cat of quantum physics that is both alive and dead until we open the box and look in an individual exists in both states until she actually buys.  Since it is just one individual, we might want to consider 'customer' as only an attribute or descriptor rather than a separate and distinct class.  Clearly campaigns can select an audience based on that knowledge, but in the world of 'omni-channel brand experiences' the messaging and marketing needs to be integrated.   One of the worst things a brand can do is create cognitive dissonance thru conflicting programs - like offering discounts to new customers while not rewarding or recognizing loyal ones. 

There are only consumers, some of them just happen to have a history of transactions that we can see in the rear view mirror.