Last month, members of our Matterkind team attended the eTail 2022 conference in Boston, where eCommerce and omni-channel leaders were able to network and share new solutions, strategies, opportunities, and challenges. There was quite a bit of excitement at the event, as it was one of the first face-to-face networking events in the last two years.

Over the three-day conference, top speakers gave keynote sessions featuring action-packed stories and disruptive strategies to level up a company’s digital business game. Here are three key takeaways from eTail 2022.

  1. People want authentic, conscious marketing from brands
    One of the key conference themes centered around the importance of being authentic, honest, and purposeful in a brand’s marketing. More than 90% of individuals value authenticity from brands, and 66 percent of people agree businesses should take a key role in solving issues in society and culture. When discussing marketing campaigns that addressed sustainability, such as the session Tackling Sustainability Initiatives For Retail, there was a focus on making sustainability a part of the brand experience. Brands now have the perfect opportunity to create real conversations about the world around us.
  2. Building retention programs that work
    As customer acquisition becomes more costly, many retail brands are making the shift toward marketing strategies that rely on owned channels, first-party data, and custom experiences. Focusing on the customer experience and staying efficient with spend will be crucial to brand success. During the panel discussion, Creating A Customer-Focused Retention Strategy, three retailers shared how they are prioritizing customer retention and developing strategies to drive brand advocacy and increase customer lifetime value. These ideas included creating a feedback loop to listen to what customers are saying and building it into your retention strategy. Building customer tailored emails, such as asking for feedback and empowering the customer to help create “what’s next” (i.e., new suggestions, new colors for a product), and being adaptive with content based on customer feedback help to build strong customer acquisition

    In fact, retention was such a key focus, eTail has dedicated an entire day focused on email and retention at the West Coast edition of the event: eTail Palm Springs, happening February 27 – March 2, 2023. Download the agenda here!
  1. Create Value Brand Partnerships
    Whatever size the business, brand partnerships are incredibly valuable assets. Brand partnerships are a tried and tested way to hack growth for newer organizations, but with unlimited partnership options, and so many potential matches out there, where one begin? In the keynote session, How To Create Brand Partnerships That Transform Your Business, insider tips and info were shared on how to find the perfect match, guiding the creation of a winning partnerships strategy, shortlisting potential partners, creating compelling concepts and pitches, and much more. Creating brand partnerships that have value isn’t just important, but vital to diversifying the success of your brand. Building partnerships that align with brand strategy and deliver measurable, guaranteed outcomes is key to brand growth.

As the ecommerce world continues to evolve, marketing and advertising efforts will need to adapt as well. Marketers need to stay on top of industry-wise and retailer developments in order to keep their brands relevant, relatable, and conscious. Follow Matterkind on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram for more info on intentional, sustainable, high-performance marketing that delivers guaranteed outcomes.

Connected TV has become a powerful performance channel for brands looking to achieve specific outcomes with greater attribution. As connected TV viewership has increased, and advancements in ad tech allow for better, more unique experiences, marketers need to incorporate CTV more thoroughly into their marketing strategy. Through CTV, brands can connect directly to business results, feed the brand funnel with new, fresh prospects, drive retention and acquisition rates, and allow brands to diversify from search, social, and display. There are many ways in which retailers can best capitalize on connected TV and drive successful results.

During the pandemic, the growth of connected TV viewership and new advertising technologies gave rise to this powerful performance channel, not to mention it is immune to the depreciation of third-party cookies. Now, brands see that CTV can drive acquisition and help deliver on sales goals. Research shows that CTV is…

With recent advancements in CTV technology, there are more emerging T-commerce shoppable formats than ever before. With the ability to switch between devices using QR technology, on-screen browsing options, and send-to-phone from device capabilities, more brands are harnessing the power of these valuable CTV advertising tools. The benefits of these tech advancements are clear to see.

CTV advertising also allows for real-time measurement that shows the immediate impact of CTV campaigns with a cross-device graph that ties TV exposure to online action. Real-time tracking also means brands can better conduct real-time optimization, such as budget fluidity to shift top performing partners and remove poor performers, adjust advanced bidding strategies on audience and brand value, manage frequency, and increase reach. Brands can then accurately score each impression in order to deliver highest ROAS.

Capitalizing on the CTV wave means following best practices, like:

CTV is a powerful channel to help deliver business goals. Marketers are reallocating budgets into CTV from linear TV, Social, and Web Display—don’t let your brand fall behind the curve.

Your brand might be thinking about internalizing some aspects of media management for a variety of reasons. Maybe you want to take more control of your customer data? Or perhaps you want more transparency into media activation? And there’s a good chance you also want to reduce costs.

These are all valid goals, and your agency partners should be there to support you in achieving them. Whatever portion of your operation you want to internalize, there will always be a role for agencies to play in supporting you with complementary services, technologies and teams, as well as offsetting any pain points you encounter along the way. You can learn more about how this hybrid approach to media operations might work in our recent post.

When brands set off along the path to internal media management, most of them quickly encounter operational obstacles, and almost all discover the investment in capital and resources is far greater than they expect. From hiring teams to integrating systems, internalizing media is a big undertaking. Timelines are inevitably pushed out and budgets have to increase.

For these reasons it’s vital to level set expectations before you begin the journey of internalizing media management. And we’re here to assist you with that.

Matterkind’s Advisory Services team is well positioned to work with brands that are considering internalizing media management. We can help you understand what you really want to achieve, what is possible and what it will take to get there. We take a holistic approach to evaluate where you are currently and where the gaps are, so we can recommend a path forward. This helps you to be realistic about resource, time, and budget requirements, and prevents your brand biting off more than it can chew.

Level setting expectations is a two-part process:

Stage 1: Getting everyone on the same page

The first, and arguably most important step in setting expectations is making sure everyone across the organization agrees on what they want to achieve.

Most brands with the resources to consider internalizing media will be large organizations with many different lines of business, each with its own operating principles. It’s likely each team will work to its own KPIs, whether that’s pushing brand metrics, generating leads, or driving sales, so creating a single in-house team to support all of these is challenging to say the least.

Resolving internal conflict is a key part of this initial phase. There are likely to be some teams or individuals that are committed to the idea of internalizing media, while others aren’t convinced of the benefits. Some may doubt the brand’s capacity to support the shift from a financial or operational viewpoint. It’s very rare to find a brand where every team is in total agreement on how they want to manage media internally.

To make sure everyone is on the same page at this critical, early stage, Matterkind performs an audit known as the Maturity Canvas. This combines stakeholder interviews and in-depth questionnaires across multiple functions to find out what different teams are looking for. From the results of this audit we’ll put together a mission statement, around which everyone can be mobilized. This mission statement is continually refined until your entire organization is in agreement about what it is working towards.

Stage 2: Auditing the tech and the team

Once the entire organization is aligned around a mission statement, the next phase is to explore what advertising and marketing technology the brand already has internally and determine what else is needed to support the plan.

In addition to looking at which platforms are present, this also means determining whether systems are already integrated or whether they are managed in silos. It includes checking whether the brand has relationships with multiple inventory suppliers with different specialties. It involves looking at how business intelligence is managed, how data flows across the brand’s systems, who has access to that data, and how it is being modeled. And it means finding out whether the brand has capabilities around optimization, consent management, brand safety, verification, and audience value analysis, to name but a few.

This evaluation is designed to reveal any gaps in your brand’s tech stack, determine what additional tools or platforms are needed, and explore how best to deploy them.

Alongside the technology audit, we can also help brands with a people assessment to understand whether they have internal talent capable of carrying out their media management plans. If so, we can help integrate these teams and ensure they are rowing in the same direction, rather than competing against one another to meet the goals of different marketing departments.

If internal talent does not exist we can help brands determine what an operating structure might look like, and the new roles they might need. This could include ad ops and campaign managers and strategists, as well as data scientists and analysts.

Hiring the team required to internalize media management can have a big impact on the organization, which isn’t always obvious at the outset. We can support by creating job descriptions and helping with the recruitment process. We can also deliver custom training and seminars, both for new and existing team members.

Working towards a hybrid approach

The two stages outlined above are vital to help you understand what internalizing media management really means to your brand and what is involved in achieving it. It also reveals ‘in-housing’ is not an all-or-nothing proposition.

With a better understanding of what they want, the vast majority of brands opt for a hybrid approach to media management rather than trying to build an entire internal operation. The ideal model varies greatly depending on your brand’s goals, resources and capabilities. But overall the hybrid approach enables you to focus on the things that really matter to you, while still enjoying complementary support from your agency partners in the form of managed services, technology platforms and experienced people.

By level-setting expectations, we can make internal media management work to meet your brand’s goals, while still maintaining valuable agency-client relationships.

Marketing has changed dramatically in the last two years, especially when it comes to where and how budgets are utilized. Many businesses felt the financial squeeze of the pandemic, where tight budgets created limited advertising options. Additionally, the needs of the average person were changing—from in-store shopping to homebound online shoppers. We saw that what marketers needed during this time, and going forward, was flexibility above all.

With this shift in habits, we knew marketers needed more options, and we were happy to provide them. As everyone spent more time at home, marketing efforts and technologies were shifted to reflect that. Dotcom marketing, streaming video-CTV, YouTube ads, and QR codes transitioning from TV to mobile became the focus, all while still adhering to an audience-first approach. Rather than pushing struggling businesses into a fixed payment schedule, we encouraged marketers to explore our Outcome Based Marketing solution. With this measure, teams were able to feel at ease knowing they were only paying a single CPA, instead of separated CPM for display and CPC for search.

As marketers look at the rest of 2022 and beyond, there are three key technology trends that require special attention. These trends will shape the future of AdTech, MarTech, and marketing overall.

1. The Emergence of Retail Media Networks & Their Data

Most retailers are now offering media and purchase data to other brands. This data has now become “the gold standard”—opt in compliant, deterministic, new, active, and accurate. This kind of data is a goldmine for most marketers, and allows brands to engage with people in a meaningful way across channels to drive sales in store and online. In fact, more than 75% of brands have seen an increase in ROI thanks to retail media. Best of all, it is not reliant on cookies, allowing for a better method of compliant data collection to pave the way. Brands need data, and retailers have more than enough to spare. Read more about the shift to first-party data in blog post by Elizabeth Schwartz, VP of Commerce Solutions, here.

2. Total Convergence of TV and Digital
As people switch from watching on a TV, to reading on a tablet, to browsing on mobile devices, the transition between devices is becoming even more seamless. Newfound QR comfort following the pandemic has also made the shift from CTV to mobile even easier, as a unique QR code displayed on CTV provides a more streamlined jump that people are willing to make. As a result, single marketing strategies across TV and digital channels aren’t just possible, but thriving. This process also allows for more holistic, efficient marketing campaigns, as it dedupes the overlap between partners in the same channel, saving brands money and giving people a better experience.

3. Shift From Channel-Led Planning to Audience-Driven Planning
Leading with a people-first approach doesn’t seem like such a novel idea, yet many are only just starting to embrace it. This shift in planning has allowed for precise and consistent messaging across all channels, which allows for better personalization and reach of advertisements. Moreover, this provides people with a better overall experience and better brand perception This is one of the pillars of conscious marketing—brands must take a more respectful and people-led approach to communication, delivering the right message to the right person.

As we face a cookieless future, we know marketers will require increasing flexibility in their marketing tools. The ever-changing data and compliance landscape, evolving pandemic needs, and new technological advances, will continue to demand creative digital solutions. Observing and monitoring key industry trends like these will help marketers succeed and stay ahead of the curve.

Harnessing your first-party data to drive decisioning and to use for Marketing, Personalization and Analytics isn’t easy to employ, and it requires curiosity, rigor and cohesiveness.

A brand that is intent on using and activating this data should be knowledgeable about their first-party data and the resources available within their organization for cleaning, segmenting, usage of data on file, and portability. This work will likely require an investment and  numerous internal resources, but it will pay off with tremendous benefits to the bottom line; increased sales, decreased overall marketing costs and a better customer experience.

To accomplish these goals, brands need to invest in and build out their Martech because it takes people-based technology to support data management, insights, segmentation and activation. The customer data from disparate databases within the company, from all groups, should be integrated into a single, centralized data warehouse. And then, the data must be cleaned. This includes accurate identification across all devices, households and addresses as well as deduping in order to understand unique profiles. Cleaning data is a big, yet a critical task that needs to be accomplished when combining data sets. That includes (but is not limited to) standardizing the data across all fields, eliminating duplicate instances of the same customer (for example across emails), filling in missing data (like zip code attached to postal address), and creating a data map so that data stored in separate places can be pulled into the new data warehouse in an organized and uniform fashion.

Once the data that is being pushed into this centralized database has been standardized, one must develop a procedure for aligning data collection methodologies and capabilities across all ecosystems within the organization for continuous use and development. This gives you the ability to create single user profiles with all attributes appended to the individual within the database. This is important for truly understanding the customer, how she interacts across channels, how she has interacted with your brand over time, what she likes and dislikes, what devices she uses for different functions, what she purchases and more. This data will power cohesive and authentic interactions with your customer and will inform future tactics to her and others who act like her, across touchpoints.

While cleansing the data is important for identifying customers and for portability purposes, you must be aware of how your first-party data has been obtained and ways in which you are permitted to use it. The first question to ask is where the data originated, how it was obtained and for what purposes. This starts with checks and balances around whether the audience has opted-in and consented to receiving messages. Further, what type of marketing they have opted- in for and if they can be messaged by you and/or your partners. If you are using second- or third-party data to enhance profiles, to expand reach or for measurement, you should receive assurances that you have permission to use that data for these objectives. Also, clarifying the commercial model around that data usage will be important for determining the amount of data that you use and if it is efficient. For example, do you have to pay for the data each time you use it or is it a one-time fee? Also, understanding the data collection methodology gives you insight into the freshness and accuracy of the data and audiences.

Once the data lives in this warehouse it is time to put that data to work! Data segmentation can be done in order to ensure that you are grouping like audiences together for ease of portability and activation. There are several ways to do this and the types of segmentation done within an organization will definitely change over time. For ease, though, and when there aren’t multiple resources to perform this work, the framework should not be over ambitious-it should start out simple.

Having time stamps against profiles will help this process. These can inform of the last time a consumer interacted with your brand, purchased, etc. This allows you to build your segmentation into groups around recency and frequency as well as dormant, lapsed, recurrent purchasers or high-value customer. You may also want to group your audiences into demographic criteria, psychological criteria such as lifestyle and hobbies, and behavioral criteria like loyalty. Segmenting your customers based on her channel of interaction is a great way to continue engaging with her on this channel and it can be helpful for informing and inferring other behavioral actions that can take place on this channel. Lastly, develop thresholds for sizes of these segmented audiences so that you can ensure that you have a scalable segment to reach or to be modeled. This approach will help a marketer meet customer demands efficiently and effectively by delivering relevant and consistent messaging, communications and interactions.

Now that your data is clean, accurate, compliant and segmented, you can migrate it to different platforms for modeling, suppression and activation. This process of porting data from one application to the next is imperfect, though, because the nature of the process means that data gets lost during the transfer process. Therefore, you must choose a data matching and syndication partner who has a scalable identity graph that is not solely dependent on cookies and that can show you high match and reach rates. In the next part of this series, we will review a method for defining needs for onboarding while evaluating differences in matching partners.

Check out part one in this series, Understanding Data Activation and Data Matching.