by Akin Arikan

A Small Step for Marketers – A Big Step for Marketing

“So … how many banks are actually doing that?” I was questioned by an Internet marketer in Sydney . We were discussing the idea of measuring customers’ behavior on the web site in order to refine the targeting of marketing communications to these individuals.

Using web analytics to improve the web site and improve online advertising is a mainstream activity with Internet marketers. Equally mainstream among direct marketers is to measure offline behavior to refine the targeting of future marketing communications.

But, what about the crossover? What about refining communications using online behavior? That notion sounded far out to my discussion partner from the online marketing side.

The truth of the matter is the following. Leading direct marketers are proudly proclaiming today that they are already integrating some 15 marketing channels, including offline and online outlets. These include not just store purchases, direct mail, call center, website, email, and so fourth, but even SMS and MMS, if you are talking to a Telco!

So online – offline integrated marketing is a done deal for direct marketers? Standard and boring like eggs for breakfast? It’s just that the online guys need to catch up?

Not so fast!

More often than not today, what these direct marketers are talking about is the fact that they have been including transactions closed over any channel into their customer data warehouse. Whether their customers purchase online or offline, the transactions are funneled into the CRM or marketing database. The data are very much used for measuring ROI of direct marketing activities. The information is also used for updating customer lifetime value calculations and targeting future direct marketing activities.

So pretty darn good already, I must say. Anything still missing here?

Yes, indeed. Namely, what if the deal is not inked? What if the customer browses but does not buy? Wouldn’t it be awesome to know if prospects have been considering a direct marketing offer even if they didn’t pull the trigger yet? What better time to re-market when they are just mulling over their purchase decision?

Direct marketers have grown up in the offline world where they are not spoiled with behavioral data about their customers. It may be for that matter that most of them have ignored the fact to date that such – awesome – behavioral data is readily available to them, namely online. All it takes is to make one more connection, namely to connect the web analytics solution into the data warehouse. Direct marketers already have some 15 connections, and all it takes is just one more. Not a big deal.

But … how many are doing that?

Mind you, there are a good number doing it already even if they are far from being a majority:

  • For example, at least one bank has implemented an automated re-marketing program to prospects who begin an account application but either don’t complete it or never put any money in their accounts. The program achieved great response rates and increased account openings + funding.
  • Basic re-marketing programs for abandoned shopping carts are fairly well understood by online retailers today.
  • It is common in email marketing to target future email content based on click throughs from previous emails. (The targeting often does not yet include web analytics data though to figure out what happened after the click-through. What if it was a bounce and the reader hated it, but now you are just going to send more of the same because you think she liked it?)
  • Catalog retailers will target future direct mailings based on data that includes online purchases. But one cataloger for example is also sending along with the catalog a cover letter that highlights areas of interest to the recipient based on their online behavior! I love it!

“But what about accuracy”, I hear online marketers say? What about cookie deletion and kiosks and anonymous visitors and yada yada?

Oh, accuracy, schmaccuracy!

Do you really think offline data is anywhere near being accurate? If offline marketers were as obsessed with accuracy as their online colleagues not a single marketing offer would ever arrive in our mail boxes.

It is understood that you can’t match up 100% of your transactions and data. So what! If you can target the top 20% of your customers and increase your business with them — wouldn’t that be worthwhile enough? You betcha!

Connecting the 16th channel (i.e. web analytics) to direct marketing is technically a rather small step for marketers today. But it will be a big step for marketing. And the momentum for it is building because – marketing without targeting – how much longer is that going to be affordable?

Akin Arikan is author of the “How To” book, Multichannel Marketing: Metrics and Methods for On and Offline Success, published in April 2008. He is also Senior Segment Manager for Internet Marketing at Unica. He is responsible for ensuring customer satisfaction with Unica’s web analytics and internet marketing solutions. Check out Akin’s blogs at multichannelmetrics.com.