Beyond the cookie: What’s next for attribution?

Identity resolution and more holistic approaches to measurement are the way forward, according to 11 experts.

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Now that third party cookies are on death watch, there are many questions arising about post-cookiepocalpyse marketing. Among them, what happens to attribution and what current or future methodologies will take their place?

To better understand the challenge of attribution going forward, we asked a range of marketing and martech executives to comment on replacement solutions and alternatives. Their reactions and responses cluster around three big themes: the importance of first-party data and customer engagement, identity resolution as a successor to cookies and developing a more sophisticated, holistic approach to measurement.

Nancy Smith, President and CEO, Analytic Partners

Considering the impending changes from Google, we believe it’s crucial for all brands to choose an approach to measurement that will allow them to gain the most accurate results when dealing with data loss. It’s vital to continuously experiment with, test and validate measurement strategies while incorporating an adaptive methodology. This is at the core of Mix Modeling and, when combined with continuous assessment of data quality, is key to ensuring robust results.

First-party data is going to continue to grow in importance and what is currently known as multi-touch attribution will morph into blended or more siloed solutions, used in a more limited way to better understand touchpoints. Analytic Partners has already been adapting and leveraging touchpoint analytics to glean tactical user-level insights.

Kristina Podnar, Digital Policy Consultant & Author

In the short term, we will see marketers grasping at the basic and mostly ineffective practice of last-click attribution, and an uptick in federated login systems (already in play in the EU). Longer term, marketers will have to look to mapping audience segments on the open marketplace (an industry standard and buy-in will be prerequisites), contextual targeting and federated learning. In the absence of conversion tracking, marketers can and should look to a unified ID solution, which opens up new opportunities beyond digital and addresses user touchpoints across all channels.

Jane Ostler, Global Head of Media, Insights Division, Kantar

Although cookies have started to crumble, they will not disappear completely for some time. In this new “mixed economy,” marketers will need to find new and creative ways to assess the impact of digital campaigns in a privacy-compliant way. As 2020 progresses, we may see some publishers using alternative measurement solutions based around deterministic IDs and panels, and we predict more direct integrations between publishers and measurement partners to enable the transfer of anonymized data. Other advertisers, publishers and agencies will turn to lab-based approaches to understand the effectiveness of digital media.

What is certain is that campaign measurement will become ever more complex. Marketers will need to future-proof their measurement frameworks and reduce their reliance on cookies for tracking. And many will turn to third-party data and analytics, which is the most trusted in the industry, to maintain accurate campaign measurement in the evolving media landscape.

Scott McDonald, CEO, Advertising Research Foundation

Even before cookies were slated for extinction, attribution always had its limitations. For the most part, it was mostly about digital – so it left out many important parts of the marketing mix. Over time, this encouraged marketers to over-value (easy to measure) short-term activation at the expense of (harder to measure) long-term brand building. A lot of evidence shows this was short-sighted and led many brands to lose market share, differentiation and pricing power. And even within the realm of activation, it proved hard to assign credit properly in complex environments without at least some experimental design component.

The loss of cookies is likely to make it harder still to sustain credible systems for linking ad exposures to ad outcomes across the media landscape – at least outside of the walled gardens. In the immediate future, I would expect marketers to pursue attribution analytics increasingly within walled gardens rather than across them. I would expect increasing numbers of media companies to attempt to build their own walled gardens by encouraging or requiring unified sign-in (policies that are very congenial to subscription services and to dual revenue-stream business models). And though I also expect that a number of players will attempt to resurrect cookies through other types of IDs linking websites, devices, and platforms, these will continue to run against the headwinds of public and policy pressures for data privacy.

Ian Trider, Director RTB Platform Operations, Centro

Despite removing third-party cookies, none of the major web browsers are trying to take away a website’s ability to track its own users. Marketers can expect continued click-through conversion to some extent indefinitely. However, they may have to rely more on their own website analytics for data instead of third parties.

Beyond that, marketers can apply the same measurement techniques used in the offline world to the measurement of their online campaigns. Marketers can use geo-based or time-based testing to determine the broader impacts of their campaigns beyond what can be measured directly. These approaches to measurement can also help estimate causal impact, as opposed to measuring only correlation, which is typical for online advertising measurement today.

Mike Herrick, SVP of Technology, Airship

The impact of data privacy regulations have consolidated power into the hands of platforms, who, to attain compliance, have nixed third-party data and measurement, instituting end-to-end reliance for marketers. Now cookies are crumbling, but the milk has already been spilled. To move forward, advertisers and marketers must shed a campaign-centric mentality and find ways to invite consumers into direct relationships, where resulting data is their own. Expect to see more ads prompting consumers to install and share mobile wallet coupons, opt in to SMS shortcodes, or engage in meaningful ways on brand-owned properties. Necessity may herald a renaissance, where brand marketers shift focus from interruptive tactics ported to the mobile era, to more authentic, contextual interactions that allow them to be there in consumers’ moments in helpful and handy ways.

Brian Czarny, CMO, Factual

Over time, we expect to see more brands look to mobile device IDs as a means to craft a more complete picture of their customers and measure the results of digital campaigns. Brands are already using location data-driven products to better understand their audiences, personalize the messages delivered to them based on their interests, and measure in-store visitation results, and we expect to see more marketers turn to location as part of a holistic strategy.

Kyle Henderick, Senior Director of Client Services, Yes Marketing 

Major browsers are building, or have already built, anonymized ways for digital ad attribution to be captured via APIs. Building out a robust architecture to interact with each browser’s unique requirements will be a significant undertaking for marketers. Ultimately, all of this still points to a greater need [for] investment [in] identity resolution and building a better direct relationship with the customer to take advantage of first-party data and reporting.

The best way forward for marketers is to stop relying on the easy wins in digital. Marketers must create their own future by building relationships with customers so they are more willing to share their data and by investing in identifying customers across devices. 

Todd Parsons, Chief Product Officer, OpenX

With user privacy now top of mind and the clock winding down on the third-party cookies, attribution is going to become both more complicated and more expensive for marketers to measure. To reach the same levels of accuracy in attribution that we see today, without relying on third-party cookies, marketers will need the ability to stitch identity together across addressable channels using first-party data. On top of that, any new solutions will need to comply with standards for collecting and resolving first-part data in our emerging opt-in (not opt-out) consumer marketing economy.

This problem isn’t new, however. Our ability to assign precise value to marketing channels that address the same person or household — everything from direct mail to cookie-targeted display — has always been difficult. And, it’s been harder in places where addressability is nearly nonexistent, like CPG products being sold to customers of Walgreens, for instance. Now that cookies can no longer serve as a reliable identifier for marketers, our industry is finally being forced to create new, privacy-first ways of leveraging first-party data to plan, track and measure the performance of campaigns across channels.

Michael Schoen, SVP of Marketing Solutions, Neustar

Identity resolution – and, specifically, a provider’s approach to it – will determine the relative impact marketers will face in a world beyond the cookie. Leveraging offline identity (PII), which is rooted in more stable identifiers like name, address, and phone number — as well as direct integrations with platforms and publishers, inclusive of walled gardens — gives marketers a clear path forward to doing attribution in a post-cookie world. Effective and reliable attribution measurement has always required looking beyond the cookie to capture the whole customer journey. This is the only way to accurately quantify marketing’s incremental impact to power both tactical and strategic planning, and investment decisions.

Erik Archer Smith, VP of Marketing, Scale Venture Partners  

Third-party cookies are an “easy button” for retargeting across popular networks like Facebook, but they don’t provide insight across platforms (Facebook vs. Amazon, for example) or granular data on behavior (who, what, when, where, and why). Without that important context, a third-party cookie can only really tell you that a “visitor” came back, and, even then, usually can’t tell you who came back unless that person converts by filling out a form, making a purchase, etc. So the cookie changes might affect some marketing vanity metrics (e.g., retargeting CTR) and make certain multi-touch attribution models less accurate, but I don’t see it having an impact on the most important metric: sales conversions.

At a high level, focus on creating great experiences and people will still trade their data. People will still opt in for valuable tools or resources. Which is great news for everyone since the quality of marketing goes up across the board. From a technical standpoint, consider taking control of your own data and embrace first-party cookies; there are several data platforms today that let you do this. This allows you to do your own retargeting through DSPs and provide personalized audiences into platforms like Facebook that are based on your own actual product or website activity. Even better, these technologies can let you resolve identity across different media “walled gardens” so you can better understand the “who, what, when, where” and maybe even “why: of user behavior, which is where real attribution comes in.

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B2B buyers consume an average of 13 content pieces before deciding on a vendor

A mix of first and third party content is required to seal the deal.

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The average B2B buyer’s journey involves consumption of 13 pieces of content. That’s the principal finding of a new survey from market research firm FocusVision. The company polled marketing executives at companies with at least 500 employees and $50 million in annual revenue who had purchased a martech solution in the past year.

A mix of 1st and 3rd party content. The 13 content pieces breaks down into an average of eight vendor-created pieces and five from third parties. This content ranges from video to blog posts, white papers and customer testimonials to software reviews and analyst reports.

According to the report, the B2B buying process takes on average two to six weeks and involves 3 – 4 internal decision makers. The top source of content was the vendor’s website, followed by search and social media. Asked “how did you find content,” these survey respondents said:

  • Directly through vendor website — 70%
  • Internet search — 67%
  • Social media  — 53%
  • Sent to me via email — 41%
  • Word of mouth — 33%

FocusVision identified four buying stages (and the content reviewed at each stage in the process): 1) understanding the problem, 2) looking for vendors, 3) short-listing and 4) final decision.

Content reviewed at each stage of the B2B buyer’s journey

Source: FocusVision (2020)

Websites and peer reviews. The consumption of content is not entirely liner. Vendor websites, for example, are visited throughout the buyer’s journey. Peer reviews were consulted at the top and bottom of the funnel as well.

The most useful types of content to aid purchase decision-making were those that addressed: product specifications and functionality (67%), product comparisons (65%), product success stories (60%), content to specifically show value to internal stakeholders (54%), product tutorials (49%) and guidance on my problem/how to solve it (48%).

Larger companies, with revenues above $250 and $500 million, displayed some differences from the average according to FocusVision. Larger companies tended to rely more heavily on third party sources — third party websites, analyst reports and third party articles — probably because of their perceived independence.

Why we care. We know that content is incredibly important for ranking in search. It’s also critical for sales support. But this report makes clear there are a broad range of first and third party content types that are highly influential to B2B buyers. It also shows how critical the vendor website is in the buying process. Indeed, the report basically outlines a content strategy for the entire B2B buyer’s journey.

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The state of tracking and data privacy in 2020

Here’s where search marketers find themselves in the current entanglement of data and privacy and where we can expect it to go from here.

The post The state of tracking and data privacy in 2020 appeared first on Marketing Land.

January 2020 felt like a turning point. CCPA went into effect, Google Chrome became the latest browser to commit to a cookie-less future and, after months of analytics folks sounding the alarm, digital marketers sobered to a vision of the future that looks quite different than today.

This article is not a complete history of consumer privacy nor a technical thesis on web tracking, although I link to a few good ones in the following paragraphs.

Instead, this is the state of affairs in our industry, an assessment of where search marketers find themselves in the current entanglement of data and privacy and where we can expect it to go from here.

This is also a call to action. It’s far from hyperbole to suggest that the future of digital and search marketing will be greatly defined by the actions and inactions of this current calendar year.

Why is 2020 so important? Let’s assume with some confidence that your company or clients find the following elements valuable, and review how they could be affected as the associated trends unfold this year.

  1. Channel attribution will stumble as tracking limitations break measurability and show artificial performance fluctuations.
  1. Campaign efficiency will lose clarity as retargeting efficacy diminishes and audience alignment blurs.
  1. Customer experience will falter as marketers lose control of frequency capping and creative sequencing. 

Despite the setbacks, it is not my intention to imply that improved regulation is a misstep for the consumers or companies we serve. Marketing is at its best when all of its stakeholders benefit and at its worst when an imbalance erodes mutual value and trust. But the inevitable path ahead, regardless of the destination, promises to be long and uncomfortable unless marketers are educated and contribute to the conversation.

That means the first step is understanding the basics.

A brief technical history of web tracking (for the generalist)

Search marketers know more than most about web tracking. We know enough to set people straight at dinner parties — “No, your Wear OS watch is not spying on you” — and follow along at conferences like SMX when a speaker references the potentially morbid future of data management platforms. Yet most of us would not feel confident in front of a whiteboard explaining how cookies store data or advising our board of directors on CCPA compliance. 

That’s okay. We’ve got other superpowers, nice shiny ones that have their own merit. Yet the events unfolding in 2020 will define our role as marketers and our value to consumers. We find ourselves in the middle of a privacy debate, and we should feel equipped to participate in it with a grasp of the key concepts. 

What is the cookie? 

A cookie stores information that is passed between browser and server to provide consistency as users navigate pages and sites. Consistency is an operative word. For example, that consistency can benefit consumers, like the common shopping cart example. 

Online shoppers add a product to the cart and, as they navigate the site, the product stays in the shopping cart. They can even jump to a competitor site to price compare and, when they return, the product is still in the shopping cart. That consistency makes it easier for them to shop, navigate an authenticated portion of a site, and exist a modern multi-browser, multi-device digital world.

Consistency can also benefit marketers. Can you imagine what would happen to conversion rates if users had to authenticate several times per visit? The pace of online shopping would grind to a crawl, Amazon would self combust, and Blockbuster video would rise like a phoenix.

But that consistency can violate trust. 

Some cookies are removed when you close your browser. Others can accrue data over months or years, aggregating information across many sites, sessions, purchases and content consumption. The differences between cookie types can be subtle while the implications are substantial.

Comparing first- and third-party cookies

It is important for marketers to understand that first- and third-party cookies are written, read and stored in the same way. Simo Ahava does a superb job expanding on this concept in his open-source project that is absolutely recommended reading. Here’s a snippet.

It’s common in the parlance of the web to talk about first-party cookies and third-party cookies. This is a bit of a misnomer. Cookies are pieces of information that are stored on the user’s computer. There is no distinction between first-party and third-party in how these cookies are classified and stored on the computer. What matters is the context of the access.

The difference is the top-level domain that the cookie references. A first-party cookie references and interacts with the one domain and its subdomains. 

  • searchengineland.com
  • searchengineland.com/staff
  • events.searchengineland.com

A third-party cookie references and interacts with multiple domains. 

  • searchengineland.com
  • events.marketingland.com
  • garberson.org/images

Marketing Land has a helpful explainer, aptly called WTF is a cookie, anyway? If you’re more of a visual learner, here is a super simplistic explanation of cookies from The Guardian. Both are from 2014 so not current but the basics are still the basics.

Other important web tracking concepts

Persistent cookies and session cookies refer to duration. Session cookies expire at the end of the session when the browser closes. Persistent cookies do not. Data duration will prove to be an important concept in the regulation sections. 

Cookies are not the only way to track consumers online. Fingerprinting, which uses the dozens of browser and device settings as unique identifiers, has gotten a lot of attention from platform providers, including a foreshadowed assault in Google’s Privacy Sandbox announcement.

Privacy Sandbox is Google’s attempt at setting a new standard for targeted advertising with an emphasis on user privacy. In other words, Google’s ad products and Chrome browser hope to maintain agreeable levels of privacy without the aggressive first-party cookie limitations displayed by other leading browsers like Safari and Firefox.

Storage is a broad concept. Often it applies to cookie storage, and how browsers can restrict the storage of cookies, but there are other ways to store information. LocalStorage uses Javascript to store information in browsers. It appeared that alternate storage approaches offered hope for web analysts and marketers affected by cookie loss until recent browser updates made those tactics instantly antiquated.   

Drivers: How we got here

It would be convenient if we could start this story with one event, like a first domino to fall, that changed the course of modern data privacy and contributed to the world we see in 2020. For example, if you ask a historian about WWI, many would point to a day in Sarajevo. One minute Ol’ Archduke Ferdinand was enjoying some sun in his convertible, the next minute his day took a turn for the worse. It is hard to find that with tracking and data privacy. 

Facebook’s path to monetization certainly played a part. In the face of market skepticism about the social media business model, Facebook found a path to payday by opening the data floodgates.

While unfair to give Facebook all the credit or blame, the company certainly supported the narrative that data became the new oil. An iconic Economist article drew several parallels to oil, including the consolidated, oligopolistic tendencies of former oil giants.

“The giants’ surveillance systems span the entire economy: Google can see what people search for, Facebook what they share, Amazon what they buy,” the Economist wrote. “They own app stores and operating systems, and rent out computing power…”

That consolidation of data contributed to an increase in the frequency and impact of data leaks and breaches. Like fish in a bucket, nefarious actors knew where to look to reap the biggest rewards on their hacking efforts.

It was a matter of time until corporate entities attempted to walk the blurring line of legality, introducing a new weaponization of data that occurred outside of the deepest, darkest bowels of the internet.

Enter Cambridge Analytica. Two words that changed the way every web analyst introduced themselves to strangers. “I do analytics but, you know, not in, like, a creepy way.”

Cambridge Analytica, the defunct data-mining firm entwined in political scandal, shed a frightening light on the granularity and unchecked accessibility of platform data. Investigative reporting revealed to citizens around the world that their information could not only be used by advertising campaigns to sell widgets, but also by political campaigns to sell elections. For the first time in many homes, the effects of modern data privacy became tangible and personal.  

Outcomes: Where we are today

The state of data privacy in 2020 can perhaps best be understood by framing it in terms of drivers and destinations. Consumer drivers, like those mentioned in the previous section, created reactions from stakeholders. Some micro-level outcomes, like actions taken by individual consumers, were predictable. 

For example, the #deletefacebook hashtag first trended after the Cambridge Analytica story broke and surveys found that three-quarters of Americans tightened their Facebook privacy settings or deleted the app on their phone. 

The largest outcomes are arguably happening at macro levels, where one (re-)action affects millions or hundreds of millions of people. We have seen some of that from consumers with the adoption of ad blockers. For publishers and companies that live and die with the ad impression, losing a quarter of your ad inventory due to ad blockers was, and still is, devastating. 

Political Outcomes

Only weeks after Cambridge Analytica found its infamy in the headlines, the European Union adopted GDPR to enhance and defend privacy standards for its citizens, forcing digital privacy discussions into both living rooms and board rooms around the world.  

Let’s use the following Google Trends chart for “data privacy” in the United States to dive deeper into five key outcomes.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has handed out more than 114 million in fines to companies doing business in the EU since becoming enforceable in May 2018. It’s been called “Protection + Teeth” in that the law provides a variety of data protection and privacy rights to EU citizens while allowing fine enforcement of up to €20 million or 4 percent of revenue, whichever hurts violators the most.

Months later, the United States welcomed the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which went into effect in January 2020 — becoming enforceable in July. Similar to GDPR, a central theme is transparency, in that Californians have the right to understand which data is collected and how that data is shared or sold to third parties.

CCPA is interesting for a few reasons. California is material. The state represents a double-digit share of both the US population and gross domestic product. It is also not the first time that California’s novel digital privacy legislation influenced a nation-wide model. The state introduced the first data breach notification laws in 2003, and other states quickly followed.

California is not alone with CCPA, either. Two dozen US state governments have introduced bills around digital tracking and data privacy, with at least a dozen pending legislation. That includes Nevada’s SB220 which became enacted and enforceable within a matter of months in 2019.

Corporate Outcomes

Corporate responses have come in many forms, from ad blockers I mentioned to platform privacy updates to the dissolution of ad-tech providers. I will address some of these stories and trends in the following section, but, for now, let’s focus on the actions of one technology that promises to trigger exponential effects on search marketing: web browsers.

The Safari browser introduced Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) in 2017 to algorithmically limit cross-site tracking. Let’s pause to dissect the last few words in that sentence.

  • Algorithmically = automated decisions that prioritize scale over discernment
  • Limit = block immediately or after a short duration
  • Cross-site tracking = first- and third-party cookies

ITP 1.0 was only the beginning. From there, the following iterations tightened cookie duration, storage, and the role of first-party cookies for web analytics. Abigail Matchett explains the implications for users of Google Analytics.

“All client-side cookies (including first-party trusted cookies such as Google Analytics) were capped to seven days of storage. This may seem like a brief window as many users do not visit a website each week. However, with ITP 2.2 and ITP 2.3… all client-side cookies are now capped to 24-hours of storage for Safari users… This means that if a user visits your site on Monday, and returns on Wednesday, they will be granted a new _ga cookie by default.”

You are beginning to see why this is a big deal. Whether intended or not, these actions reinforce the use of quantitative metrics rather than quality measures by obstructing attribution. There is far more than can be said on ITP so if you are ready for a weekend read, I recommend this thorough technical assessment of the ITP 2.1 effects on analytics.

If ITP got marketer’s attention, Google reinforced it by announcing that Chrome would stop supporting third-party cookies in two years, codifying for marketers that cookie loss was not a can to be kicked down the road. 

“Cookies have always been unreliable,” Simo Ahava told me. “To be blind-sided by the recent changes in web browsers means you haven’t been looking at data critically before. We are entering a post-cookie world of web analytics.”

Where it goes from here

The state of tracking and data privacy can take several paths from here. I outline a few of the most plausible then ask others in the analytics and digital space to offer their insights and recommendations. 

2020 Path A: Lack of clarity leads to little change from search marketers

This outcome seemed like a real possibility in the first week of January as California enacted CCPA while enforcement deadlines got delayed. It was not yet clear what enforcement would look like later in the year and it appeared, despite big promises, that tomorrow would look a lot like today. 

This path looked less likely after the second week of January. That leads us to the next section.

2020 Path B: Compounding tracking limitations keep marketers on their heels

Already in 2020 we have seen CCPA take effect, Chrome put cookies on notice, stocks for companies that rely on third-party cookies tumble, and the sacrifice of data providers that threatened consumer trust.

And that’s just January.

2020 Path C: Correction as consumer fear eases in response to industry action

The backlash to tracking and privacy is a reaction to imbalance. Consumers are protecting their data, politicians are protecting their constituents, and platforms are protecting their profits. As difficult as it is to see from our vantage point today, it’s most likely that these imbalances will normalize as stakeholders feel safe. The question is how long it will take and how many counter adjustments are required in the wake of over or under correcting.

As digital marketers, who in some ways represent both the consumers with whom we identify and the platforms with whom we depend, are in a unique position to expedite the correction and return to balance.

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Putting Identity at The Center of Your Customer Strategy

Identity is the foundation for personalization and is the core differentiator you’ll need to deliver the total customer experience. Without knowing who your customers are at every interaction, it becomes virtually impossible to treat them as individual…

Identity is the foundation for personalization and is the core differentiator you'll need to deliver the total customer experience. Without knowing who your customers are at every interaction, it becomes virtually impossible to treat them as individuals with unique interests and preferences.  Establishing a comprehensive identity strategy to support personalization is complex. When done right, a comprehensive strategy will drive better experiences while improving marketing effectiveness.

Feb 2020 Round-up: Test/Optimize/Repeat, Perfectionism at the cost of growth, Praising innovation regardless of outcome, and more!

Widerfunnel Experimentation News Round-Up for February is here! I’ve compiled a list of top news/blog headlines from the last month…Read blog postabout:Feb 2020 Round-up: Test/Optimize/Repeat, Perfectionism at the cost of growth, Praising innov…

Widerfunnel Experimentation News Round-Up for February is here! I’ve compiled a list of top news/blog headlines from the last month...Read blog postabout:Feb 2020 Round-up: Test/Optimize/Repeat, Perfectionism at the cost of growth, Praising innovation regardless of outcome, and more!

The post Feb 2020 Round-up: Test/Optimize/Repeat, Perfectionism at the cost of growth, Praising innovation regardless of outcome, and more! appeared first on WiderFunnel Conversion Optimization.

Building a business case for a customer data platform

Netflix, Facebook, Amazon, and Uber, for example, have always put the single view of the customer at the center of everything they do – and it’s paid off.

The post Building a business case for a customer data platform appeared first on Marketing Land.

While a data strategy will help you align goals and use cases across an organization, technology is what enables you to execute. But legacy technologies have proven to be insufficient as they’ve led to disparate data scattered across a complex technology stack that inhibits real-time access to a single customer view for marketing. That’s why a customer data platform (CDP) is designed to finally liberate your first-party data so you can activate your most valuable marketing asset.

Marketers realize the potential of a CDP, but they don’t know how to get buy-in from senior business leaders who are skeptical of adopting “yet another three-letter acronym.” So BlueConic talked to leading industry analysts and marketers who successfully got buy-in to write this ebook on how to build a business case for a CDP.

Visit Digital Marketing Depot to download “Building a Business Case for a Customer Data Platform,” from BlueConic.

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I Am Merkle, Vol. 1

I Am Merkle is a series of interviews that showcases the individuals who make Merkle a diverse and unique place to work. Join us throughout the year as we celebrate our diverse culture through the lens of your peers.

In this pilot interview, we chat w…

I Am Merkle is a series of interviews that showcases the individuals who make Merkle a diverse and unique place to work. Join us throughout the year as we celebrate our diverse culture through the lens of your peers.

In this pilot interview, we chat with Kelly O’Hara, Vice President at Merkle and Delivery Lead for the Marketing Technology Services organization. Kelly shares with us some experiences that helped shape who she is in and outside of Merkle.

1. Tell us about yourself and your role

Currently, I work for Merkle as a Delivery Lead within our Marketing Technology Services group. I manage a team of thirty people who support retail clients, including Sherwin-Williams, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Goodyear Tire. One of the things I really like about the role and type of work is that it allows me to connect the dots and solve problems. I also get to work directly with clients externally as well as mentor and develop our resources internally. Before Merkle, I worked for a company that was acquired by Merkle, so I have had the experience of growing with a company and then through an acquisition to a large company that was also growing globally.

I was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. It was a blessing to grow up in Hawaii, not only because it is paradise, but also because of the tremendous diversity that is woven into day to day life. I, like many in Hawaii, am mixed race; half Chinese and half Caucasian. At age 18, I left paradise to attend Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. I had never been to Minnesota before, but I knew I would feel at home in the Midwest as I had spent a lot of time in Ohio (where my mother is from) as a child. Despite the harsh winters, I grew to love Minnesota and have been here ever since. I now have a husband and two children (8 and 11 years).

I love being active and enjoy the outdoors in the summer. Most of the time I am driving my kids to various sports practices and games, which is really something I am passionate about. I love watching them compete and watching the lessons learned through those experiences. I also spend as much time as possible on my yoga mat. I have found that yoga and meditation has really helped me focus on what’s important, both professionally and personally. Additionally, I volunteer for a non-profit called Girls on the Run where, each spring and fall, I coach a group of twenty 3rd - 5th grade girls. Our mission is to create a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.

2. What drew you to your current career?

I wouldn’t say I was drawn to it so much as circumstances gradually landed me here. While I started my career as a marketing analyst, I also worked part-time as an assistant coach for track & field at a local college. When the Women’s head coaching job opened up, I was offered the job and decided to leave the corporate world for a while; I coached full-time and eventually earned my Masters in Applied Kinesiology. I was on the road most weekends, about nine months of the year and eventually wanted to start a family. So, I retired from coaching and came back to marketing at a company that was eventually acquired by Merkle. I don’t have any formal training in Technology, but I’ve always had a passion for learning new things. Here I am!

3. To date, what has been your biggest learning or teaching moment?

I can’t say this has been one moment or even a few moments. I try, and I encourage my team to try, to take something away from every experience and every relationship. There have been many individuals, people I’ve worked with, sponsors, friends, teachers, and coaches who have helped shape my personal and professional philosophies. I think that’s what you have to do; find the learning where you can. Life isn’t about one event, it is a huge collection of moments. So, the question is always, “What are you going to contribute to those moments based on learnings from the past, and what are you going to take from those moments to carry into the future?”

4. What is a moment in your life that defined or shaped who you are today?

The most pivotal event in my life thus far has been my mom’s passing a few years ago. Although I was already in my 30’s and “on my own”, her death caused me to feel felt like I was learning how to really be on my own.

5. What inspires you about your workplace culture?

What inspires me most is when I get to collaborate with people who strike just the right balance of truly knowing, caring and acting in accordance with our client’s best interest and doing the same for Merkle. There is always a balance and sometimes it takes creativity to strike that balance. That collaboration is really energizing to me.

Merkle has something called the Merkle Awards, which is an investment in recognizing great work and celebrating our people. I have been honored to win two awards (Client Management Excellence and Unsung Hero) and I am in awe of the talented people at Merkle whom I am fortunate enough to work with every day. To be recognized amongst all that talent is incredibly humbling for me.

6. If you currently weren’t doing what you do today professionally, what would you be doing? (dream job)

Several years ago, I was considering the idea of going to law school, so it would have to involve that. I also considered potentially working on a campaign or as a political consultant. I am a big advocate of empowering girls through the power of sport, so perhaps expanding my role in the Girls on the Run organization for which I currently volunteer would be a consideration.

7. What was the first concert you went to?

MC Hammer on the Let’s Get It Started tour in 5th grade.

8. Rapid Fire Round:

Favorite food

Sushi
 

Favorite TV show/movie

TV Show: Wonder Years

Movie: Good Will Hunting & A Star Is Born
 

Favorite hobby/activity

Practicing yoga, and watching my kids compete in various sports
 

Favorite book

“Becoming” by Michelle Obama
 

Guilty pleasure

Watching The Bachelor/Bachelorette and listening to Charlie Puth
 

Best advice or mantra you live by

There are a couple. I can’t choose:

 

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,

Your thoughts become your words,

Your words become your actions,

Your actions become your habits,

Your habits become your values,

Your values become your destiny.” – Mahatma Gandhi

 

Trust the wait.​

Embrace the uncertainty.​

Enjoy the beauty of becoming.​

When nothing is certain, anything is possible.​- Mandy Hale

Are your CRO activities too narrow?

Many people wrongly believe that conversion rate optimization (CRO) is about arbitrarily tweaking page elements. Some think it is limited to landing pages—which seems perplexingly arbitrary to us. CRO applies to every customer interaction in the business, through the whole customer lifetime experience. Beyond landing pages The following list contains some of the unconventional things we’ve […]

Morph Costumes Slender Man costume
While studying the analytics for client Morph Costumes, we noticed that visitors were searching for “Slender Man costumes.” Morph Costumes responded quickly, launching a Slender Man suit that became a top seller. (See our testimonial from Morph Costumes.)

Many people wrongly believe that conversion rate optimization (CRO) is about arbitrarily tweaking page elements. Some think it is limited to landing pages—which seems perplexingly arbitrary to us. CRO applies to every customer interaction in the business, through the whole customer lifetime experience.

Beyond landing pages

The following list contains some of the unconventional things we’ve done to grow businesses measurably by increasing conversions. If you submit your own, we’ll add the best to the list.

  • Hiring a celebrity doctor to be a figurehead for a health supplements company. Also, hiring TV presenter Sarah Beeny to be the figurehead for e-commerce store LED Hut.
  • Investigating how a consumer electronics product could be packaged for sale on home shopping TV.
  • Initiating the redesign of self-build sheds, to improve the client’s Net Promoter Score.
  • Redesigning the packaging of a third-party travel adapter, to increase its usability, and thus reduce calls to customer service.
  • Years before Groupon existed, persuading a voucher-codes website to email its subscribers every day.
  • Converting an education lead-gen site into becoming a highly successful education provider.
  • Persuading a client to partner with one of its biggest competitors.
  • Designing a viral refer-a-friend program that became the third-highest source of customer acquisition for a telecoms company.
  • Proposing the design of what turned out to be a best-selling Halloween costume, based on insights gleaned from visitors’ search terms.
  • Changing the revenue model of several clients.
  • Designing and optimizing a mobile app for a real estate company.
  • Getting one of our clients’ products recommended in the New York Times’ bestselling book, The Four-Hour Body—to provide a proof element that could be incorporated into the product’s landing page.

In the examples above, the goal wasn’t always to increase sales, and very few of the examples involved landing pages. But they were all about increasing conversion rates, and in ways that were measurable.

Ben with his shed.

Common CRO opportunities

Each company has its opportunities for increasing conversions. The following activities, though, work well in many companies:

  • Building the relationship with visitors via regular follow-up—with an email autoresponder sequence or lead-generation welcome pack.
  • Becoming more than a transactional store; becoming a community and a trusted adviser.
  • Creating and optimizing a tell-a-friend program.
  • Cross-selling on your thank-you page, which can increase the net profit considerably, because you have already acquired the customers, so the additional gross profit goes straight to the bottom line.

Look beyond landing pages

Are there parts of your business that have been untouched by CRO? Perhaps they appear to be off limits. Such “blind spots” are often the biggest opportunities.

What are the quirkiest things you’ve done for CRO?

We’d love to hear things you’ve done that don’t fall within the traditional boundaries of CRO. If you let us know, we’ll add the best ones to this page (and credit you, of course).

When should you invest in Conversion Rate Optimization? I asked a Competitor

Having trouble viewing the text? You can always read the original article here: When should you invest in Conversion Rate Optimization? I asked a Competitor
It’s a big question. “When should I invest in conversion optimization for my websit…

Having trouble viewing the text? You can always read the original article here: When should you invest in Conversion Rate Optimization? I asked a Competitor

It’s a big question. “When should I invest in conversion optimization for my website?” Even though I’ve been preaching the benefits of CRO since 2006, I don’t consider it an obvious decision. Instead of telling you what I think, I asked a competitor to tell you, just to keep me honest. We have answered the […]

The post When should you invest in Conversion Rate Optimization? I asked a Competitor appeared first on Conversion Sciences.

Underpowered A/B Tests – Confusions, Myths, and Reality

In recent years a lot more CRO & A/B testing practitioners have started paying more attention to the statistical power of their online experiments, at least based on my observations. While this a positive development for which I hope I had contribu…

In recent years a lot more CRO & A/B testing practitioners have started paying more attention to the statistical power of their online experiments, at least based on my observations. While this a positive development for which I hope I had contributed somewhat, it comes with the inevitable confusions and misunderstandings surrounding a complex concept […] Read More...