Who’s happy about programmatic marketing?

5 July 2018

Programmatic marketing seems to be the marketing world’s equivalent of the self-driving car.

What is programmatic marketing? Is it the same as real-time marketing? Or automated marketing? And what tools and skills have you got to get it? And why would you actually want to get it? We have noticed there’s quite a lot of confusion and uncertainty when it comes to programmatic marketing. So what better reason to take a specific example and clarify what programmatic marketing means for Cmotions.


What is programmatic marketing?

Programmatic marketing, marketing automation, automated marketing are overarching terms for the strategy whereby decisions within marketing operations (which customer/prospect to contact at what time via which channel with which message) are taken automatically as much as possible. This is achieved by using the available data (and insights from analysing that data) on purchasing habits, browsing habits, responsive figures, customer characteristics and so on.

“That sounds familiar,” you might be thinking. “I mean, we already send out segment mailings, tailoring the content on offer and style of language to the group of customers. So aren’t we doing marketing automation already?”.

Yes and no. Are you cooking if you are only peeling an onion? Or frying an egg? Or searing a duck breast?


Examples of programmatic marketing

Applying a churn model and, based on the churn rate, calibrating a campaign for customers with a high or higher likelihood of walking away – this is just one aspect of programmatic marketing. Measuring a purchase journey and addressing the customers who drop out part-way through – “you still have a full shopping basket in our web shop” – would be another example. Dynamically adapting content on your own website based on previous browsing habits would also be a part of this.


Separate components come together

Pretty much all of the separate components required for programmatic marketing are already familiar and already available in the organisation in one form or other. It only becomes programmatic marketing once these components are threaded together into a chain. A chain that feeds itself with the information it produces as an automated whole. This linking of separate components in the marketing process can already be considered programmatic marketing. However, the most important principle is that the results are measured. The insights from this can then be used to optimise the functioning of the chain. This can be done manually, but as the scope and complexity increase, tools are essential.

Another example: Multiple styles of address are used within a campaign. When it appears that the response or conversion is lagging behind expectations for a particular group of customers, it automatically starts using a different style of address. Therefore the system is constantly trying out what works best without any manual intervention. This is essentially “just” A/B testing, but automated.

“Doesn’t this mean the personal attention for the customer is lost?”

Why is it that we seem to value personal attention when we see the baker (when they know what you usually buy, they know your children’s names and what sports club you are a member of) and yet with large organisations we are suspicious if they aggregate and utilise the knowledge (data) they have about us to achieve a similar approach? While at the same time we actually do expect that personal attention from these organisations?

Maybe this is because that it sometimes still feels like you are being talked to by a machine rather than a real employee. If you keep having contact with the same member of staff at an organisation, you get a familiar feeling. So it seems the tipping point comes when people lose that sense of control over who knows what about them. “When the baker has personal information about me, it doesn’t bother me. It’s just one person after all.” If an organisation has a face, people are more willing to share data. At least that’s the way it seems.
The objectives that companies are currently pursuing (be relevant, useful and valuable for their customers at all times) can only be achieved using automated decision-making. Surely the baker remembers that you buy a bag of croissants every Saturday and uses this information to be relevant/useful/valuable for you. Why would that be any different for a web shop that tries to determine what products you might be interested in based on what products you look at?


For success in programmatic marketing: start small

Is there some kind of destination to reach at which point you do programmatic marketing? I don’t think so. Although I do think that pursuing a working method whereby customers and prospects receive the most relevant communication for them at the right time in the right way is a noble, and above all profitable, thing to pursue. It’s better to have a few well-executed components automated in a short chain than a long chain full of complex processes and calculations but without sufficient clarity.

Or rather, it’s better to have simple recipes that are carefully prepared with good ingredients than a six-course dinner without enough time to concentrate on each course.


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