Most marketers today recognize the value of third party data-lifestyle characteristics, purchase behaviors, psychographics, demographics, and more in optimizing their display advertising tactics. The industry has evolved to the point where online and offline data and associated analytics are an accepted practice in helping marketers reach their target audience with a personalized message online.
Just a few years ago, marketers purchased display ads based solely on context. To reach men 18-35 years old, for example, they bought inventory on sports sites even though only a fraction of those impressions may have reached their specific target audience. Today, real-time bidding and data give marketers the ability to purchase inventory regardless of context (site) and reach only 18-35 year old men.
Website optimization -- display advertising's highly valuable but often ignored cousin -- is evolving in similar ways. Today, most website optimization tactics are akin to buying display advertising based solely on context. Most website optimization solutions determine the single best experience for all visitors. To make this work, marketers employ multivariate testing because it allows them to determine which message and content resonates most across site visitors. Testing does add value and should be a continued practice but it has an inherent weakness -- it's not tapping into all of the rich data available to deliver audience-based experiences.
Your website is arguably the most important and valuable channel for your business. You likely spend millions of dollars on the content, branding, traffic building, and navigation to create a personalized experience for visitors. But, are you really delivering a truly personalized experience for the distinct audiences that visit your site? Is the data you're using to drive personalized messages via online advertising being used to optimize your website? Why not make the most of the data available to enhance your most important channel?
Much in the same way data has changed online advertising, data is the future of website optimization. The same data you use in online ad campaigns can help you deliver an optimized experience for each of type of visitor on your website. Data should be employed in conjunction with multivariate testing to get the best results possible, and deliver the best experience possible to your visitors.
So, if the future of website optimization lies in data, there are a few key things to keep in mind when evaluating potential third-party data sources:
Just like in display, scale is vital for website optimization. If a data provider can only help target messaging to less than 30 percent of your website visits, then the juice may not be worth the squeeze.
Truly valuable data sources can be used across all types of visitors to your site–from anonymous prospects to authenticated customers and all visitors in between. Most data sources help provide intelligence on prospect visitors, but the most valuable data sources also help unlock intelligence for known customers (think upsell and cross sell opportunities).
Data is useless unless it can be "actioned" upon in real-time and seamlessly integrated into your current website optimization service. Data can be the fuel that allows you to get the most out of the solution.
The best data solutions for website optimization should utilize the offline attributes -- lifestyle, demographics, psychographics, etc. -- of website visitors to create segmentation that is both channel-specific and customized to each marketer's unique business needs.
To truly be impactful any data source should have the ability to synchronize messaging with other channels including offline channels and online display advertising. Knock down the data silo!
The powerful combination of multivariate testing and online and offline data enhances your organization's ability to personalize the consumer web experience (presenting tailored offers, products, and creative), increase visitor interaction, and ultimately drive higher conversion rates.
Plus, data and the platforms that deliver them to the front lines of marketing have reached maturity. It's simply time for marketers to apply the same authoritative audience intelligence they use in display advertising to their own website.
Doug Feit is executive director of market development for TARGUSinfo.
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