The New Rules of Digital Experience
Consumers have more control over data. Reaching them in digital spaces requires strategic planning and effective tools.
he world of digital marketing is experiencing tremendous growth. Insider Intelligence estimates that in the U.S. alone, digital ad buyers will spend nearly $240 billion in 2022, a 13.6% increase over the previous year. In critical channels like retail (20.2%) and consumer packaged goods (17.9%), those estimates are even higher. This rise in spend, however, is happening as consumers gain greater influence over how their data is used.
“Power structures have been democratized,” says Ari Lightman, professor of digital media and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College. He points to changes in consumer data protection and transparency policies that have shifted the landscape around personal information, including impending limitations on the use of third-party cookies in programmatic advertising. “Companies have to be much more transparent to users about how they’re going to acquire user data, why they’re going to utilize it and who they’re sharing it with.”
Lightman believes these structural changes have also helped shift consumer expectations around the type of experiences they get in exchange for that data. As they exert more control, “they want things to be seamless, available through a variety of channels and platforms, and focused on their needs,” Lightman says.
Data backs his assertion. In a 2021 Adweek study sponsored by the people-based advertising software company Viant, 66% of respondents called experiences tailored to the needs of their household “good” or “very good.” Sixty-three percent said they pay more attention to ads when they are personalized to the needs of their households. And 78% said they get annoyed when they feel brands over-message.
That means marketers have to measure the pulse of their audiences. Messaging must always be relevant and contextual to the needs and wants of households and the individuals within them.
Identifying Consumers Across Channels
The incentive structures are powerful, says Tyler Pietz, global executive vice president for data at Media.Monks, a digital marketing and advertising services company. “Value is accruing to brands that can differentiate themselves not just in the products and services they’re offering, but in the relationships they’re able to foster with consumers,” he says. “Consumers are looking for value in how their data is used. More data begets more personalized experiences, which begets more data collection, and so on. For brands that have figured it out, it very quickly turns into a virtuous cycle.”
But getting there, particularly in programmatic advertising, is a challenge. The same diverse media landscape that dilutes the power of marketers increases reliance on first-party data, or information collected directly from customers and owned by the company, and empowers consumers—but also makes them harder to track.
Throughout the day, individuals might engage with companies through desktop computers, tablets, mobile phones and connected TV, or while exposed to streaming services, digital publications and social media. They also combine digital and physical shopping experiences, where activation happens in one space but might be completed in another.
Connecting those components to create unified, strategic messaging is an incredibly data-intensive endeavor, and, for programmatic marketing, is increasingly the realm of technological tools and partnerships. Those relationships shift as third-party cookies disappear and first-party data ascends.
“As a marketer, you have to ask what kind of data you should be getting from a consumer, and, in exchange, what the consumer gets to make the value exchange of relinquishing personal data worth it for them,” says Judy Tat, vice president, technical solutions at Viant. “Now more than ever, you have to understand data flow and incentivize the kind of consent you want.”
DAY IN THE LIFE: Connected TV
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o most effectively reach the right audience at the right time with scale by connecting across the devices of a household, marketers need to marry their own first-party data with broader contextual and behavioral data. Adelphic, a demand-side platform (DSP) from Viant, leverages a database of more than 250 million registered users in the U.S. across 115 million households and 1 billion digital devices.
“It’s not just about the audience, which is where your first-party data comes in, but the context too,” Tat says. “Is it raining? Are they on their way to work? From work? Is it the weekend? It all impacts frame of mind. By layering first-party data on top of that, you’re creating actionable insights that can drive a marketing strategy.”
As a marketer, you have to ask what kind of data you should be getting from a consumer, and, in exchange, what the consumer gets to make the value exchange of relinquishing personal data worth it for them.
Judy Tat, Vice President,
Technical Solutions, Viant
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DAY IN THE LIFE: The Mobile Experience
Tat also notes the importance of understanding context in how messages are delivered to consumers. "As a marketer, you need first-party data and a partner that can resolve back to those individuals so you’re not sending the same message 10, 30 or even 50 times,” she says. “How are you tying a household to an individual? How do you account for when they go to the office or visit a friend or stay at a vacation rental?”
Viant can connect those dots, she says, helping companies optimize their programmatic messaging to reach the right customers across multiple channels. A large hotel chain, for example, wanted to determine how many of the 40% of customers who walked in without a prior reservation had done so after seeing an ad for the company.
Tying its own first-party data to the Adelphic DSP allowed the company to measure the behavior of those populations after being exposed to advertising. Ninety-two percent stayed at a company property after seeing an ad, and advance bookings went up by 71% among those exposed to company messaging. With that knowledge, the company was able to more effectively direct ad spending, maximizing return while minimizing waste.
For Michael & Son Services, a midsized HVAC contractor, the goal was to find better ways to reach consumers in the market for home improvement services while increasing brand awareness, online leads and, ultimately, conversions. Critical to that was the ability to understand how people and households interact with messaging by tracking what devices, dayparts and marketing areas were most successful. Geotargeting, along with advanced reporting tools in the Adelphic platform, helped the company better measure incremental conversions and adjust strategies in-flight. The result was a 102% lift in incremental conversions.
The success of these initiatives, Tat says, reflects the ability to understand the real-world business outcomes companies want from their ad spend and work backwards from there. “You’re looking at everything through a holistic lens,” she says.
It’s also reflective of the new dynamics of customer experience in an age where touchpoints are everywhere, data is paramount and consumers have nearly infinite agency.
“Brands are going to have to be much more adept in understanding their relationships with consumers, and what that means associated with everything from product development to customer service and support,” Lightman says. “It’s focusing on that omnichannel experience and every interaction and touchpoint with the brand. It’s a more data-driven paradigm but requires brands to understand human behavior, psychology and what motivates and incentivizes people to share data.”
Technology Enables Strategy
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DAY IN THE LIFE: The Desktop Experience
Custom Content from WSJ is a unit of The Wall Street Journal Advertising Department. The Wall Street Journal news organization was not involved in the creation of this content.
Viant’s Household ID cuts through the noise to target messaging more accurately to households, presenting relevant ads that sustain interest and drive action without over-messaging.
Connected TV Targeted
Viant’s identity graph, available in its omnichannel DSP Adelphic, connects individuals accurately to their devices, meaning marketers can understand their interests and provide more engaging ads for relevant products and services.
The Mobile Experience Targeted
Viant’s data-rich, people-based technology understands not only a person’s engagement history, but can also surface ads contextually that are relevant to their purchases and interests, providing a deeper, more satisfying experience.
The Desktop Experience Targeted