Tim is CEO at DataSift.
Cookies were once the kings of the advertising industry, but times are changing.
Once upon a time in the world of online marketing (or five years ago), every time you visited a website, a pixel would drop a web cookie into your browser. Cookies served as a tagging device to identify your computer among the millions of other users browsing the Internet, tracking your activity as you visited pages online. This meant marketers could use this “cookie profiling” to reach you via an ad exchange, or an automated pool of ad impressions. Marketers targeted potential customers based on their browsing patterns, displaying ads tailored to age, marital status, or political affiliations. When one person equaled one browser, this targeted ad model worked.
Fast-forward to now, with consumers spreading their digital time among various devices and apps. Today’s consumer is a multi-tasking, multi-talented research expert who communicates, researches and shops on multiple devices.
In fact, industry reports estimate that consumers spend an average of three hours each day on their mobile devices. For marketers, following a consumer’s journey across digital destinations and touch points is difficult. And for those marketers who rely on cookies to track your digital trail, their task is a difficult one. They must connect all the cookies across all of the devices and apps that you use. How can companies track consumer demand as well as anticipate and meet consumer needs? How can marketers best listen to customers?
Mobile ate the cookie
Traditionally, marketers relied on pixel tracking, a cookie-based technology that uses code to anonymously follow people around the Web as they visited webpages. When a potential customer visits a page, the code drops a browser cookie. The cookie then determines when to serve ads, ensuring ads are sent only to those who have previously visited a particular site. Pixel tracking provides information on who is clicking through on ads and ending up on a sales page.
However, five years from now, we’ll look at companies that use pixel-based marketing in the same way we view someone who still has a GeoCities email address — another addition to the Wayback Machine. eMarketer estimates that by 2018, mobile will account for 70 percent of digital marketing spend. Mobile is complicated, as mobile browsers don’t support cookies. Given consumer mobility, pixels and cookies fail to connect users as they shift between their various devices.
People, and why they matter more than ever
We are moving from pixels to people — more specifically people-based marketing.
People-based marketing allows the marketer to learn – from actual humans — about an audience’s sentiments and reactions to a company’s products, performance and prices.
For example, Facebook Atlas demonstrates that there is a simpler way to enable marketers to reach people that does not involve using pixels. Atlas represents the two foundations of people-based marketing: allowing consumers to establish their identity through opt-in/log-in and accounting for consumer cross-device and cross-channel activity. Brands and agencies, with Atlas, can measure ad campaigns across screens and solve the cookie issue, targeting real people across mobile and the Web. Atlas uses Facebook’s ID (rather than a cookie) to follow a user’s journey from mobile to desktop and back.
Humans are at the core of people-based marketing, of course, and mining human data intelligence is integral to marketers understanding their audience. Human data, which includes real-time feedback from real humans, is quite valuable. Brands can analyze this information to track customer responses, patterns and trends to refine their competitive edge.
The ubiquitous nature of social media has prompted businesses to adjust their marketing strategies accordingly. Recent research indicates the average American spends 37 minutes per day on social media. Also, 46 percent of web users look towards social media when making a purchase. Meanwhile, 65 percent of B2B marketers invest in social media to gain market insights.
Human marketing requires human input
The marketer’s goal has moved beyond serving ads to the same people on the same device toward gaining a greater understanding – and even anticipating – consumer buying patterns. When you consider that more than half of all site visits are not even made by people, but by bots, it’s clear active human participation is vital to successful marketing.
For example, to properly engage with potential customers regardless of device, ask their permission by requesting their email address. Urge customers to opt-in and provide product preferences so that you, the marketer, can personalize and improve the customer experience.
Brands and agencies must first understand their audience before they can build and nurture customer relationships. This “understanding” involves going where customers are (social media on mobile devices), listening, communicating the value they offer to the consumer, and enabling user control. Modern marketing is really people-based marketing and should involve choice and convenience across multiple devices. Only then will today’s marketers gain an accurate understating of their market, customer, and future customers.