How to measure the success of digital marketing across devices and platforms

Data leads thinking, planning and budget allocation in a digital world but how can brands ensure they are getting a true measure of success across platforms, channels and devices?

Nectar
Nectar UK urges brands to remember that customer trust is key when linking up digital metrics

Measuring the effectiveness of digital campaigns is an integral part of engaging, exciting and efficient marketing. However, it is also a complex demand for brands grappling with difficulties including fragmented data pictures, multiple tools supplying uncalibrated data and different teams reporting and interpreting in different ways.

“I really like the concept that the modern day marketer needs to be part-artist and part scientist,” says Mark Brayton, content marketing director at Barclays UK. “That blend is what I look for in my team. You need to know all the things that drive short-term interest and intrigue but you also need to be able to understand what impact that is having on some of your ongoing trading and performance metrics, and that is where the deep analytical knowledge is required.”

Barclays has a continued focus on digital measurement, needing to get as much detail and analytics behind it as possible. “The big challenge for us is the attribution of digital marketing,” explains Brayton. “I don’t think there is a bigger challenge across the marketing community now.”

This is echoed across other sectors. Royal Mail uses a range of digital channels and platforms depending on the objectives at hand, including search, display, content and social – both paid and organic.

“Attribution continues to be a major challenge across marketing channels. Getting the right marketing mix for both digital and offline channels, as well as understanding the impact of earned and paid activity on lead streams remains key in the efficient stimulation of growth,” says Ben Rhodes, director of customer marketing at Royal Mail.

“The currency of digital is becoming outdated, as dealing in trading impressions and clicks can be very limiting when you are seeking active engagement with customers across multiple touchpoints and platforms on their journey.”

READ MORE: Royal Mail pushes mail’s role in marketing with research-backed campaign

The brand uses different approaches to measuring the value of its digital marketing. For direct marketing activity, where it can directly track impressions to sales, it uses a cost per acquisition (CPA) metric. For broader engagement it uses a series of different metrics such as view ability, share of voice, recall and shifts in brand metrics such as consideration.

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Hostelworld operates a ‘data lake’ that connects digital feeds

Maximise effectiveness

With a less linear consumer journey and more pressure to scrutinise marketing spend to maximise effectiveness, the agreement of what success is prior to executing campaigns is essential.

“Digital has an infinite amount of measurable elements,” argues Karen Standen, head of digital marketing at Vauxhall. “Given the possibilities in terms of journey sources, platforms, time frames, channels and devices – to set KPIs to measure effectiveness that fit all of these is extremely difficult.”

Vauxhall segregates its activity into the relevant role it is playing in the customer journey. A new car launch, for example, may have elements looking at awareness, others focusing on engagement and some on conversion to a lead.

“Each one of these areas would have its own clearly defined KPIs based on what the activity [is supposed] to achieve,” explains Standen. “This would be based on creative, media planning and the subsequent journeys and the metrics for each area. Awareness display placements would be focusing on viewability and reach, for example, whereas an engagement social piece could be benchmarked on video views and referral traffic.”

In many ways, it is a blessing and a curse that digital is so measurable. The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) argues that a good advertiser is one that builds up benchmarks within their own organisation and selects metrics against the objectives of a given campaign. There is no ‘one size fits all’.

“It comes back to having to unpick what the digital campaign is trying to achieve and what true success looks like,” says Hannah Bewley, senior research manager at the IAB. “What you are expecting the digital part of the campaign to achieve versus the TV, for example, and then selecting the right metrics to measure those things.” This should take into account quality metrics and reach.

Telecommunications business Tata Communications takes a customer-centric view to measurement. “I want to understand how customers are behaving at key brand touchpoints, so it’s about segmenting metrics across the customer journey,” explains Craig Hepburn, global vice-president of digital marketing who works with agency Brilliant Noise. “In real terms this is about focusing on customer needs to ensure we are providing the right content on the right device, at the right time.”

The key metrics will reveal how aware customers are of the Tata Communications brand, products and services; how engaged they are; what actions they are performing; and how they are sharing and amplifying its content. For example, a potential customer in the buying phase will have very specific content requirements that are different to an existing customer looking for additional products or services. In order to better meet customers’ needs in a data-led, intelligent way, it really needs to understand these differences at a granular level.

Multiple devices

The challenge presented by the consumer’s use of multiple channels and platforms is compacted by the fact people often start and finish their journeys on different devices. To be able to get value out of digital you have to be able to see the full picture of what a customer is doing. Linking up the metrics from different channels, platforms and devices will arguably give you the insight into their path to purchase.

READ MORE: Don’t let technology dictate your customer strategy when selecting a data management platform

Getting a clear picture of how customers operate between devices, viewing on mobile and purchasing on desktop, for example, is a challenge brands tackle in different ways.

Marylebone Cricket Club says cart abandonment and journey analysis can help provide insight into the performance of its mobile optimised sites versus desktop. Meanwhile, dating site eHarmony uses its own back-end data and attribution modelling to measure all return on investment metrics, while leveraging various analytics tools to join the dots between channels, and optimise user journeys (see Q&A with Romain Bertrand).

Brands need to remember that customer trust is key. “I don’t think you as a brand have the right to link up your digital metrics,” cautions Will Shuckburgh, managing director of Nectar UK. “I think the customer has the right to allow you to see how they are engaging digitally across different devices and platforms.”

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Vauxhall divides digital activity into the relevant role it plays in the customer journey

In-house capability

Hostelworld CMO Ottokar Rosenberger believes taking a lot of that data expertise in-house is central to solving the measurement challenge. There is a dilemma for marketing service agencies here. “How do they continue to deliver value and where do they fit into this digital world?” Rosenberger asks. “To get that one single view of a customer is probably best done in house where you have all the data directly available.”

Hostelworld operates a ‘data lake’ that unites the various disparate digital feeds, signals, metrics and measurements to form one view across platforms, channels and geographies.

Telecommunications player EE echoes this sentiment. As digital measurement becomes more and more critical to its business, what the in-house capability looks like grows in importance.

“There is certainly a degree of desire on our side to have more capability in-house, more expertise particularly in the hosting and managing the data side of things,” says Spencer McHugh, brand director at EE. “There is always a risk that as this stuff evolves fast it becomes complicated very quickly so we are trying hard to keep it as simple as we can.”

Sponsored viewpoint: Andy Mihalop – UK Head, Atlas by Facebook

Andy Mihalop

With people engaging with content on desktop, mobile, tablet, in-app, across browsers and cross-publisher, the opportunities for marketers to connect with audiences has never been greater. Despite these opportunities, how we measure the efficiency and effectiveness of digital ad campaigns is still stuck in a desktop only world.

To leverage the opportunity to persuade, educate and communicate, businesses and brands need to be able to measure things that drive true business value. True business value is having insights that piece together the increasingly fragmented path to conversion, measure cross-device, look at media validation and connect online to offline and vice versa. It’s not just about delivery and results, its also about understanding what drove these results and how this can be leveraged to drive business outcomes.

And with mobile ad spend hitting £2.6bn in the UK alone last year, (60% up on 2014), it’s clear the time to measure digital ad effectiveness is now, not tomorrow. This means measurement metrics based on real people, not proxy metrics and cookies measurement in isolation.

Why is this so important? According to Nielsen estimates, with cookies alone we typically see a 58% overstatement of reach, a 141% understatement of frequency, and 54% accuracy for broad age and gender targeting. That means 46% of ads are not reaching the right audience. That’s a massive ad-spend waste and it’s not good enough in the demanding advertising industry of today.

With the shift from last touch to multi-touch attribution well underway and evolving fast, brands need visibility and the ability to be able to see the path consumers are taking across all digital touchpoints prior to conversion. Marketers need a solution that is ‘cross-everything’ not just between devices, but across publishers, browsers and in-app.

We worked with Toyota to measure cross-device consumer journeys within their digital ad campaign. Half of all conversion journeys included at least one mobile touchpoint along the way, an insight they would have been completely missed if measuring with cookies alone.

For KLM we were able to detect an additional 24% in conversions that could be attributed back to media through measurement of the full cross-device consumer journey. Furthermore, we could show KLM which publishers were driving those conversions, which enabled them to leverage additional media efficiency and use Atlas people-based insight to drive incremental conversions.

There is huge value in being able to measure whether an ad has driven an online or offline business outcome. Tommy Hilfiger found that 13% of in-store sales were preceded by online ads. Plus, insights revealed the people who were on both desktop and mobile converted at more than twice the rate of those reached on just one device.

By extending people-based measurement beyond Facebook it allows marketers to see how ad exposure is tied to sales, whether that’s online or offline. If you have people-based measurement you can make decisions based on fact, not fiction. As well as detecting additional conversions not attributed to media using cookie based platforms, marketers can also understand true reach, frequency and on target audience delivery allowing brands to leverage media efficiency at scale across markets and products.

If advertising connects with real-people, there is an outstanding opportunity for real sales, real brand-loyalty and real business results. But the only way forward for brands and businesses to achieve this is with people-based measurement solutions.

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