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Applying AdTech for Customer Centricity

Customer centricity has now become an assumption - of course you put your target consumer at the forefront of your activities. This becomes somewhat more complicated in practice however, particularly for an industry that didn’t exist 15 years ago and continues to grow and contort at a staggering pace, and despite brands knowing more about the market than ever before.  

In what can only be described as a true-marketer approach to some of the more controversial adtech related incidents of recent times, we learned that perhaps data isn’t as scary, or as precious, as we hold it to be, and that the context of humanity and behaviour should always accompany it.

We explored

  • Defining adtech and customer centricity

  • The evolution, and sophistication of adtech and the industry

  • The biggest threat to adtech

  • Data management and privacy

  • The future of adtech

With panelists

When defining ‘adtech’ and ‘customer centricity’ the consensus is; be more concerned with action than definition

Both ‘adtech’ and ‘customer centricity’ have become part of the marketing vernacular, so much so that they’re almost (arguably) jargonistic.  Jargon can often disguise or compensate for a lack of meaning, and for these terms it’s become more about the action, application, or technology they infer.

‘Adtech’ broadly refers to digital tools, platforms and analytics used for advertising.  It can be software, automation, reporting, conveyance… it’s simply technology that delivers the right message, at the right time, to the right audience, and/or reports on how it performed.

‘Customer centricity’ is starting with the human and not forgetting them amongst the numbers - considering the human trigger behind the digital action.  It has developed from the old adage that ‘the customer is always right’ into a consideration of where your brand sits in your customer’s value chain. Organisations have moved on from the reactionary cost-cutting during the GFC, to recognise that market access has changed and revenue streams have eroded.  To be customer-centric now means a successful juggling act between a changing market, increased threat to revenue while keeping the customer at the centre.

What does the industry look like right now and how has it evolved?

While we’ve mostly become desensitised to how quickly tech can change, or create an industry it’s mostly data and hyper-consolidation that are shaping the adtech industry of today.

Rich media, driven by data, has improved the effectiveness of digital advertising.  Video, AR and other formats are creating campaigns that are not only visually impressive, but targeted and measured in a way that offline advertising has never truly been able to achieve. The shoes that sit in your abandoned cart can reappear on Facebook with a 10% offer, the Tasmanian holiday you were researching now appears as a rich display surrounding an article and links to accommodation options.  Digital advertising is no longer only annoying and disruptive, it has become relevant, even helpful.

Data and the pursuit of customer-centricity in markets where revenue is shrinking, and complexity is growing, can both be identified as influencing factors driving change in the way the industry looks today. Videology went bankrupt and was purchased Amobee in May, AT&T bought Time Warner in June, and in July IPG bought Acxiom for $2.3B, and Salesforce purchased Datorama. Start-ups and smaller players are being bought up by bigger players more frequently.

What are the biggest threats?

Surprisingly, privacy regulation is not high on the list of things affecting the adtech industry.

SAP North America conducted a survey of its customers, asking them how they would fix CRM for today’s market.  The answer was breaking down the data silos. Data is the fuel that drives adtech, and at the moment it’s predominantly owned and controlled by three tech giants, creating an oligopoly where they’re essentially able to operate as they please without challenge.  Consider:

  • Facebook knows who you are.

  • Google knows what you’re searching.

  • Amazon knows what you’re buying.

The lack of collaboration between frontier companies operating in emerging technology is not new (we touched on this in past discussions on AI and Voice Technology), and in the eyes of the adtech industry it’s stifling innovation and slowing development. The lack of competitors, transparency, and ineffective regulation has also enabled privacy scandals like Cambridge Analytica.

Breaking down these silos then raises the questions - would the company or the customer own the data? How much data is really relevant to organisations?

Data ownership and privacy: an advertising perspective

Cambridge Analytica was the catalyst for the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation and Facebook’s $16.8B stock price plummet, and we all recoiled in horror at the news of a teenage girl’s pregnancy being revealed to her father by Target’s predictive marketing, but is there a way to look at these incidents as something other than creepy invasions of privacy? It would seem yes – they’re really great examples of how to use data to create and deliver relevant information. Essentially, good marketing.  

It’s argued in the media, and by some in marketing and advertising, that customer’s data needs to be protected and hidden from organisations that may misuse and abuse it. However, this is not reflective of the general public’s attitude, who may be more utilitarian than we realise, caring more about what they can get for their data rather than who has it.  

The question of data regulation and protection then comes down to two considerations:

  1. Ownership

  2. Relevancy and context

Customers may one day have the opportunity to own and enable access to their own data in return for relevant deals, product information, or messages from their preferred brands, rather than it sitting the hands of third party’s like Amazon’s $1B + media company.  

In the mean-time though, brands need to consider how much they really need to know about their audience.  To sell them a low-involvement item like washing detergent, do you really need to know where they went to school, their political affiliation, and whether or not they hope to one day own their own home? Probably not.  

Brands that guide themselves by the principles of relevancy, and ‘just because you can doesn’t mean you should’, give themselves a better chance of ensuring they don’t end up news for the wrong reasons.

How best can adtech use data to achieve customer centricity now?

While there is a lot of concern about data use and misuse, the truth is that brands are quite limited in what they can see or identify about their target audience.  However, there are ways to maximise the data that you do have:

Think two to three campaigns ahead

By building in the relevant data points to what you’re doing now, you can ensure that you become more relevant and personalised to your audience with upcoming activity each campaign.

Look beyond the numbers.

Platforms like Facebook are built around actions, and creating emotions that illicit more actions.  Consider how to ascertain the emotional and behavioural context around the numbers that your campaign generates, as the insights will inform your messaging and content for the better.   

Where is the adtech industry heading next?

Apparently, Utopia....

Cast your mind forward, and meet Alice.  She’s been working long hours and wants to reset her work life balance by reconnecting with old friends and becoming more active.  She puts this to Siri, who suggests that her friend Charlotte is free next Wednesday - perhaps they could play tennis (a mutual interest)?  Alice loves the idea, and Siri recommends that Carlton Gardens tennis court is a good mid-way option free on that day.  Alice agrees, and Siri books.  Siri also asks if Alice would like to get some practice in between now and Wednesday, as Nike is offering free virtual tennis lessons with Roger Federer.  Who better to learn from than a 20-time grand slam winner? Alice agrees.  She’ll also need a racket, Nike has one available for 3D printing so Siri puts through an order and it’s delivered the next day.

Emerging technology like blockchain and voice technology will have a huge impact on the way that data is managed, and content is presented, potentially leading to the hyper-personalised experience of Alice.

Brands are investing in this emerging technology much earlier than they used to, recognising that younger generations are also adopting them at faster rates.  This means that the path to mainstream is becoming much shorter, and Alice’s experience may be our own in as little as five years.

We covered Blockchain and Voice Technology in our March and April events.  You can read about these in the relevant event reports.