Sunday, January 25, 2015

Touch Points and the Illusionary Path-to-Purchase

How do consumers end up where they do?

We try to understand the path-to-purchase by stitching together data from various touch points and appending them to an artificial identifier meant to represent a consumer.

I'm not sure if it is a love relationship or a hate relationship with technology, but marketers use a variety of data-related tools to connect with consumers and figure out how they came to buy. According to recent Winterberry research on "Marketing Data Technology" (registration required) firms use 12+ different tools on average in the course of marketing. And with that many tools attempting to measure the influence of marketing on behavior something is likely to be amiss.

At a recent conference on data and analytics John Pestana of ObservePoint illustrated the complexity of all this by listing the tags or the scripts on a single web sites that log consumer behavior.

This major media/news site had:
  • 18 applications
  • 29 tags
  • 124 variables
His question: What are the odds that something is broken? Like finding correlations in Big Data, it is pretty much guaranteed. Breaks or discontinuities in data capture mean we have to guess about what happens in between what we can observe. It is worse if different definitions are used for the same event. We've all been in meetings where the sole purpose was to agree on who had the right numbers, when we should be talking about how to help consumers choose our products and services.

The biggest issue is not the quality of the data we do collect, but rather the fact that we're missing all manner of influences and behaviors. Integrating our touch points does not come close to providing a 360-degree view of the consumer.

Maybe we should ask a different question: What if we captured the path first?

Since we're likely to sleep with smartphones no reason we can't imagine passively capturing our path and then overlay marketing on that. Sure there are challenges - permission, revolving MAC address, proximity, etc. But nothing a panel couldn't solve.

I'd rather have gaps in marketing than blind spots on the path.

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