Increasingly complex and comprised of multiple touchpoints, the consumer journey is no longer straightforward, which calls into question whether it even follows the stages of the traditional marketing funnel any more. Instead of engaging along a linear route leading to a purchase, marketers are now confronted with the challenge of reaching consumers in situations their predecessors a generation ago wouldn't have foreseen.
As a result, marketers must leverage new technologies to reach consumers and convert them into customers. These technologies can open up new opportunities for measurement and connecting with target audiences wherever they might be on their path.
Where should marketers look for their target audiences?
Today's busy, multi-channel environment requires brands to make numerous attempts to communicate with consumers as they seamlessly move from device to device and from online destinations to brick-and-mortar locations. That said, the customer journey begins long before a person arrives in a store or visits a brand's website.
It should come as no surprise that consumers interact -- often unconsciously -- with a brand on a long and winding path. The journey starts far earlier than a marketer might suspect, and it's imperative to meet consumers at convenient and natural points along their paths. Tactics can range from online incentives that encourage in-store purchases to in-store online catalogs that encourage the discovery and purchase of additional products. There's now a synergistic relationship between offline and online interactions, paving the way for a far more seamless experience -- regardless of the place, channel, or device that serves as the consumer's starting line.
How do you measure which channels influenced the sale?
With so many avenues available for reaching consumers, figuring out which ones were responsible for a sale emerges as necessary challenge for marketers who want to assess and optimize ongoing and future campaigns. Given the complexity, it's imperative to consider programmatic buying and attribution as a means of understanding what moved consumers along their journeys.
Done right, programmatic buying can integrate digital channels with offline data to create a more holistic view and enable marketers to apply and optimize targeted brand strategies at all consumer touchpoints -- a feat that is beyond manual capabilities. By layering a marketer's first-party data with third-party data and adding analytics, marketers can more easily identify the ideal channel for transforming consumers into customers. Further analysis of conversions to find "look-alike" customers within data sets is also possible, which enables the identification of potential future customers in a privacy-respectful manner.
Where will this technology lead?
Multi-channel marketing activity powered by programmatic buying can locate consumers across channels and devices, which is becoming increasingly necessary for the deployment of a seamless brand presence across all marketing touchpoints. While many still talk about cookies as the go-to method of identification, such technology is becoming outdated, and no single approach has been agreed upon to replace it. With this in mind, we can expect that future cross-device targeting will need to incorporate targeting, attribution, analytics, and more, while ensuring that results can be reported in a way that enables real-time decision-making.
Now, for the good news. There are dynamic solutions available that incorporate cookie-less tracking capabilities as well as cross-device targeting. Google, Apple, and Microsoft have provided their own solutions, as have publishers, supply-side platforms, and exchanges, along with third-party providers such as LiveRamp and Acxiom. In other words, the industry is now working on piecing together cookies, as well as a plethora of alternatives. Once these bridging technologies are in place, we will see truly effective mapping across these client or partner IDs and devices, which will enable the targeting of audiences with proper attribution across channels and devices.
Consumers are expected to increase their multi-channel media consumption unabatedly. Only marketers who embrace new opportunities and technologies will be able to deliver a seamless brand experience across channels while driving measurable results and improved ROI.
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Jennifer Vlahavas is VP of account strategy at MediaMath, the sponsor of this article.