Flowers in a field
By Erin Peralta Jul 14 2015

The cross-channel journey, powered by programmatic.

Yesterday we talked about the always addressable consumer and the terms associated with building a cross-channel strategy. So now what? How do you actually execute this type of strategy? Where are the pitfalls and windfalls? For starters, find a programmatic partner with true cross-channel capabilities. Then consider these four strategies to gain a real competitive advantage.

  1. Deploy Your Data

With digital ads delivered at high speeds and volume, data about customers and audiences plays a key role in determining campaign effectiveness. In the era of programmatic media, mastery of data will define success. It’s not only about the customer you know (the ones already stored in your database) but also about acquiring new customers. This means deploying the data you have to identify the people most likely to respond to your brand offers.

What now? Use a mix of technology to track your own data on customers and prospects, access third-party data about different audiences, and link audience targets to the sites and apps they visit, no matter the device they use. Time and time again, first-party data has proven to be the most valuable and effective. For marketers, this means having a system that stores, analyzes, and refreshes what you know about customers and prospects. Most importantly, if you don’t have a comprehensive data strategy for your brand, it’s time to start developing one.

Watch out! Teams aren’t the only ones sitting in silos. Oftentimes data is stored that way, too. Your most valuable first-party data may be managed by another part of your organization with different expectations about who can use this precious resource and in what ways. Delivering a consistent experience across devices will prove extremely challenging when your own data isn’t shared across teams.

  1. Customize Your Creative

Ad tech vendors have long focused on the algorithm and the science behind programmatic technology, asserting that efficiency and scale will drive conversions and results. But advertising is as much art as it is science, and technology should augment the effectiveness of this art form, not subjugate it. Brand managers and creative directors must own the brand story as it moves across devices, screens, channels, and ad sizes. Constrained by time and resources, many businesses settle for repurposing creative (cutting 30 second into 15 or even seven second spots, or merely cutting the number of pixels in a banner to squeeze it onto a smaller screen).

What now? Think of campaigns holistically to understand the sequence of events as a person transitions from a target to an interested prospect to a customer. What messages drive the person down the funnel, and how effective are different offers in achieving your goals? Programmatic buying platforms can help you easily target your audiences across all major channels. Paired with dynamic creative optimization technology, it’s possible to deliver customized creative based on specific criteria like location, language, user behavior, and – even in some cases – external triggers like weather and time of day.

Watch out! The technology exists to serve up unique creative but the heavy lifting comes in mapping out customized messages across the customer journey and developing a robust portfolio of creative assets.

  1. Align KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) with Business Outcomes

The first banner ad was served in 1994. More than two decades later, measures like delivery (whether the ad was served) and click-through (an early attempt at measuring engagement) are still prevalent. Digital may be the most measurable medium, but the KPIs obviously vary by format and channel. Plus, emerging concerns like viewability make measurement even more complex. Don’t let these challenges distract you from the need to define media metrics that align with real business outcomes such as growing your market share with a specific audience year-over-year.

What now? If you are primarily measuring ad delivery and click-throughs, it’s time to reimagine how your campaigns are helping drive specific business outcomes. Let’s measure how much was sold, how an ad view drove a customer down the purchase funnel, how the brand perception improved, how much it costs to acquire a customer, and how long it takes for a prospect to convert or engage. The clearer the organization is about KPIs, the smarter its choices will be for adopting technology to measure them.

Watch out! In order to measure efficacy of a campaign, first determine how you’re going to collect data. Media planning today is as much about planning collection as it is the buying of media. Is your ultimate KPI online or offline? What challenges does this pose? What are your options for measuring performance across numerous platforms? Identifying appropriate KPIs for each campaign is still something that troubles the industry but aligning KPIs around business outcomes is the right start.

  1. Cultivate Talent

No matter how meteoric the rise of programmatic advertising, humans still play a vital role amongst all the machines. In fact, talent is more important than ever before. In part, because marketers are trying to fill new roles that didn’t even exist three to five years ago, including data scientists, programmatic buyers, privacy officers, video specialists, and more. It’s even harder to execute cross-channel marketing when your experts are organized in silos with work being done by different teams and – among larger brands – often supported by different agencies. It takes a lot of people with specialized knowledge of all aspects of digital working together to achieve goals in a cross-channel world.

What now? If you’re committed to delivering a cross-channel experience to your customers, identify talent gaps, eliminate silos, and encourage collaboration. Is your team staffed with left-brain thinkers to analyze and act on data? Are your brand and creative teams ready to take on the challenge of cross-channel storytelling? Do you have media strategists who can craft campaigns that successfully link media metrics with business outcomes? Have you researched external partnerships, whether a team of consultants, an ad tech vendor, or industry analysts?

Watch out! It’s hard to hire for functions you’ve never performed and assessing for skillsets you don’t possess yourself. When evaluating talent, there is one trait that’s mandatory for the cross-channel marketer: intellectual curiosity. You need inquiring minds that are hardwired to seek and question, as it’s imperative to keeping pace with the rapidly changing digital landscape.

Connecting these moments along your customers’ journey is how brand affinity is created and sustained in the digital age and the programmatic technology exists to realize this vision. But buyers be warned: very few vendors have all of these capabilities. The best advice? Find a partner who has the technology, talent, and right suite of solutions to help you build a true cross-channel strategy — one that targets real buyers and drives real business results.