Attribution and the ‘Mail Moment’ in the Multichannel Mix

At its Sept. 13 meeting, the Direct Marketing Club of New York hosted an engaging panel discussion regarding the use of direct mail in a multichannel world, and the panelists included representatives from Citigroup, Gerber Life and The Agency Inside Harte-Hanks. … Hearing from two financial service brands, and an agency that services brands in several markets, packed the house. I’m not sure if it was the topic or the brands who spoke, or both, that was the draw—but the information imparted prompted lots of audience interest and questions.

At its Sept. 13 meeting, the Direct Marketing Club of New York (DMCNY) hosted an engaging panel discussion regarding the use of direct mail in a multichannel world, and the panelists included representatives from Citigroup, Gerber Life and The Agency Inside Harte-Hanks.

The representatives included Linda Gharib, senior vice president, digital marketing, for Citi’s Global Consumer Marketing & Internet division; David Rosenbluth, vice president, marketing, Gerber Life Insurance Company; and, from the agency side, panel moderator Pam Haas, who is both vice president, sales, for agency services at Harte-Hanks (and first vice president for DMCNY), and Michele Fitzpatrick, senior vice president, strategy and insight, The Agency Inside Harte-Hanks.

Hearing from two financial service brands, and an agency that services brands in several markets (tech, consumer package goods, automotive, insurance, pharma and more), packed the house. I’m not sure if it was the topic or the brands who spoke, or both, that was the draw—but the information imparted prompted lots of audience interest and questions.

First, customer acquisition—at least in the financial services area—still appears to be very dependent on mail. At Gerber, Rosenbluth said, as many as a third of new business policies are still generated by direct mail, even as the brand is “omni-channel”—digital (including web site, search, display ads, email), direct-response television, as well as direct mail. For Citi, the brand is positioned No. 2 in the nation by Target Marketing in its “Top 50 Mailers” ranking for 2012 (which is ranked by overall revenue, not mail volume), Gharib said, solidifying its importance in both acquisition and retention.

Fitzpatrick agreed, noting that in financial services, where marketing is modeled most precisely for risk and performance, direct mail remains an acquisition workhorse, particularly on new product launches. For automotive and pharma verticals, however, where as much as 80 percent of transactions are researched anonymously beforehand online, digital media is used for hand-raising, and direct mail may be then used to deliver a brochure of other information in a highly segmented way to close the deal. “Consumer preferences [for media] are situational,” Fitzpatrick said.

Who gets credit for attribution, when a multichannel communications mix produces a desired response? At Citi, Gharib said, such discussions are a “work in progress,” where the final interaction point currently gets the credit, whether that is chat, direct mail, email or some triggered communication. Adding to the multichannel attribution discussion is the mix of advertising purposes—some are pure branding messages, while others are intended to elicit a response, but both may compel or influence customer behavior in some discernible (or indiscernible) manner. Hence, there is complexity in the attribution discussion.

Yes, indeed, says Rosenbluth, where “allowances” are given for each channel in regard to the brand’s most importance metric to manage: total costs to convert a policy. Currently, “last touch” gets the attribution on response, but the policy conversion metric is the bigger-picture measurement, where everyone gets to take some credit.

Fitzpatrick pointed to recent Forrester research where “fractional attribution”—first touch, mid-touch and last-touch on the path to purchase share credit—and “engagement” is modeled, rather than response (alone). Every brand should undertake a channel impact study to determine, as best it can, the impact of incremental sales as a result of a multichannel customer experience, while also researching receiver reaction research. Clearly, direct mail, email, chat and other channels can be both or either “conversation starters” and “conversation extenders,” but analytics is the only way to know the role of the channel for any given customer.

“There’s credibility in paper,” Gharib remarked, “that helps with both the brand and its consideration.” Where email is cluttered, direct mail largely is not.

At Gerber, Rosenbluth, there really is no brand spend, all market spending is intended to produce engagement.

Fitzpatrick sees almost all “below the line” spending getting a branding blend—branding and direct marketing have come together. All the panelists agreed: it’s really about the consumer experience across channels, and having a database that enables customer recognition and a full customer view. Having tons of data is not enough—it’s having technology and processes in place for customer data integration and analytics to create smart engagement rules.

The verdict? Direct mail is and will remain a vital part of the media mix—because it’s an anchor in the consumer’s experience and brand consideration mix. As digital gets more clutter, boy that mailbox is looking pretty.

Reducing UAA Must Focus on New Movers

In a recent post, I addressed the issue of undeliverable as addressed (UAA) mail, and how brands, businesses and other mailers lose more than $1 billion a year by not getting their mail addressed properly. It’s a solvable problem. Both the USPS and the DMA have made public commitments to reduce UAA as an industry goal, both of which would help marketers and their bottom lines. Progress toward UAA reduction, however, has not been uniform.

In a recent post, I addressed the issue of undeliverable as addressed (UAA) mail, and how brands, businesses and other mailers lose more than $1 billion a year by not getting their mail addressed properly. It’s a solvable problem.

Both the USPS and the DMA have made public commitments to reduce UAA as an industry goal, both of which would help marketers and their bottom lines. Progress toward UAA reduction, however, has not been uniform.

Recently, Charley Howard, who is the vice president of postal affairs at Harte-Hanks (disclosure: Harte-Hanks is a client), discussed this concern in a monthly e-newsletter he writes for the company called Postology. Charley wrote about UAA, and explained why UAA reduction goals have been slow to materialize. One of the key reasons has nothing to do with mailers, and everything to do with mail recipients: Too few Americans are filling out National Change of Address (NCOA) forms as they had previously. In fact, less than 50 percent are now doing so, and its ramifications on UAA volume are profound.

Frankly, mailers must supplement their use of NCOA with proprietary change-of-address/new move data from commercially available sources in the private sector. There’s just no way around this. However, by taking advantage of such services (as all direct mailers should), there is a risk that the USPS, ironically, will penalize the mailer. Charley explains the paradox here, used with permission:

USPS New Moves Source Is not Enough
“In addition to … postal-approved methods for Move Updates being applied to mailing files, there are those in the industry that additionally supplement postal moves with a Proprietary Change of Address (PCOA) service offering (for example, Harte-Hanks offers such a service). The sources of this move data tend to come from utility, telecommunication and publishing companies. In recent years, PCOA has developed into a near necessity because of the diminishing numbers of people who fill out the USPS Change of Address form.

When NCOALINK started in late 1986, more than 90 percent of all moves were captured. Today the use of COA cards has fallen to less than 50percent of moves. How can the USPS ever hope to reach its goal of cutting UAA mail by 50percent if its own source for Move Update data has fallen below half of all moves? Forcing mailers to go outside the Postal Service to attempt to obtain the balance of the moves contains some postage risk, however.

During Mail Acceptance, mail samplings are run through the MERLIN detection machine. The scanned records are passed by the USPS’s COA data to test for Move Update compliance of 90%. There is a chance of failure through the use of proprietary sourced moves. Here is an example. Say a grown child leaves home to go to college or to get a job and an apartment. The child files the COA with the USPS. Assume 9 months later the child returns home for whatever reason and no COA is filed. The USPS COA has the first move but not the second. The mail owner, using a PCOA, has obtained the second move back to the original address and is using it in the current mailing. MERLIN would show this as a failure because the move the USPS has on record is not reflected in the mailing. The service provider would have to fight this ruling to prove that it has the more current data.

The real problem here is that the USPS’s own COA data is inadequate to achieve the desired results. It is inadequate to even validate the thoroughness of Move Update compliance. The USPS needs to recognize that along with less use of the mail by younger generations, comes little to no use of COA as a stand-alone product. Therefore the USPS needs to supplement its own data with outside sourced data to become the sole repository of moves, once again. The USPS needs to invest in better data to save more in the end – and only then can UAA be reduced in line with Postal Service management goals.”

This opinion in its entirety reflects Charley’s view—and not necessarily my own or that of Harte-Hanks. But, I do believe that using PCOA should be recognized in some fashion by USPS, so mailers can be rewarded for keeping their mail off the UAA track and in the recipients’ hands. Putting the onus on the mailer to explain how its list is more up to date than the USPS’s on change-of-address concerns seems to be a burden that does not reflect today’s list hygiene realities. Either USPS should incorporate PCOA sources in MERLIN, or it should provide some sort of seal of approval on what private sector sources are already doing to help mail reach the intended recipient. Let me know your points of view in your comments here.

Helpful Links:

Direct Marketing Association on UAA Reduction

USPS Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan, FY 2011 (see page 65)

Harte-Hanks Postology (June 2012) on UAA and Move Updates (live link as of June 14, 2012)

Nextmark’s List Search Platform (search using “New Movers” or “Change of Address”)

An example of a recently released “New Move” file (disclosure: Alliant is a client)

What’s On a Retail CMO’s To-Do List?

Focusing on their customers and setting the right expectations for their CEO when it comes to marketing plans are just two of the many priorities chief marketing officers at retail companies are putting on their to-do lists for the remainder of 2011.

Focusing on their customers and setting the right expectations for their CEO when it comes to marketing plans are just two of the many priorities chief marketing officers at retail companies are putting on their to-do lists for the remainder of 2011.

This information was gleaned from a session titled “CMO/SVP Panel: Uncovering a CMO’s To-Do List” at eTail 2011 in Boston this week. Kevin Conway, global director of consumer brands at Savvis; Matt Corey, chief marketing officer of Golfsmith; Lou Weiss, chief marketing officer of The Vitamin Shoppe; Bill Wood, vice president and chief information officer at Brookstone; and Jim Wright, senior vice president of e-commerce and customer marketing at Express, discussed their remainder-of-2011 goals and priorities.

“We’re focused on four specific pillars right now,” said Express’ Wright. “Driving e-commerce, growing the international side of our business, improving our brand for existing stores and opening more stores across the U.S.”

In addition, Wright said he’s focusing on how to integrate the Express brand across channels, optimizing return on investment from marketing programs, and understanding how Express customers shop in-store and applying that information to mobile applications.

“The customer has more control than ever before,” Wright said. “We have to conduct focus groups, ask them what they want from their experience with us, then make those changes.”

Most of the time, Express customers want their shopping experience to be like what they get on Amazon.com. The good news is that “they’re willing to get that experience if they give a little,” Wright said.

Focusing on the customer is also at the top of Brookstone’s Bill Wood’s to-do list. “If we understand our customers better, we’ll understand how to speak with them,” he said. “Two-way communication is important.”

In addition, Brookstone has “eight to 10 initiatives on our plate right now for our website, including video,” Wood said.

For Matt Corey of Golfsmith, setting the right customer expectations about the brand’s marketing plans is top of mind. “All CEOs today are asking their CMOs, ‘What’s the value of a customer on Facebook?’ We just say we’re going to test it, measure it and then decide.”

When discussing marketing programs with your CEO, use “Peter Rabbitt English,” Corey said. This is his term for using basic, plain speech with them. “Don’t use terms they don’t understand. Instead, tell a story.”

Of course, focusing on the customer is also key for Golfsmith. “We have a great online community called the 19th Hole that we turn to all the time for insight,” Corey said. “We ask them about anything from brand messaging to store experiences to taglines. What do they like? What don’t they like?”

What’s more, Corey added, “these types of communities are cool and cost effective. We’re spending less than $75,000 for an entire year to find out what our customers want. That’s a lot less than the cost of small focus groups.”

For Vitamin Shoppe’s Lou Weiss, his primary focus is on the brand’s already successful loyalty program.

“Now we’re trying to figure out how to evolve our loyalty program by integrating it with our social programs, stores and website,” Weiss said.

Another focus? Growing The Vitamin Shoppe’s marketing team. “We’re looking for experts in interactive and social marketing,” he told the audience.

For Kevin Conway of Savvis, his current focus is on cloud computing. “We’re working with several software vendors on putting their applications in our cloud,” he said. “Once in the cloud, the applications can be turned on and off easily to accelerate your business.”

What are some of your 2011 end-of-year priorities? Let me know by posting a comment below.

Michael Becker’s Inside Mobile Marketing: Playing Off the Success of Mobile Marketing

One sure sign of success is the company you keep. With household names such as Best Buy, Disney, Google, Kodak, Microsoft and MTV among the speakers at next week’s Mobile Marketing Forum, it’s clear that mobile marketing is a roaring success.

One sure sign of success is the company you keep. With household names such as Best Buy, Disney, Google, Kodak, Microsoft and MTV among the speakers at next week’s Mobile Marketing Forum, it’s clear that mobile marketing is a roaring success.

But success requires innovation and insights. Does adding a location-based component to a mobile ad increase its effectiveness, for example?

Absolutely. Nearly half of consumers who notice ads while using mobile, location-based services take at least some action. That’s roughly 12 percent more than those who notice ads while sending and receiving text messages, and almost twice the rate of those who notice ads while browsing websites.

Those figures come from a recent survey conducted by the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) and Luth Research, and they’re just one example of the types of actionable insights available at next week’s Mobile Marketing Forum.

Held June 7 through June 9 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, the Mobile Marketing Forum is a convenient, concise opportunity for agencies, brands, operators and technology companies to hear from some of mobile marketing’s leaders, including Microsoft Advertising, Alcatel-Lucent, Millennial Media and The Weather Channel.

Executives consider the Mobile Marketing Forum a must-attend event. In fact, 68 percent of attendees at the 2009 forum held positions of vice president or above. As one attendee put it, “The MMA Forum delivers on crucial industry needs in an open, engaging and interactive environment that truly fosters a real sense of community within the mobile marketing industry.”

Here are just a few examples of what’s on the agenda this year:

  • Keynotes from CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, Microsoft Advertising, Best Buy, Electronic Arts, ESPN Mobile, Google, Kodak and the United Nations Foundation.
  • Presentations on the role of ad networks, mobile-enabled loyalty programs, going beyond banner ads, measuring campaign success, couponing, applications, hyperlocal marketing and premium content.
  • Success stories that provide models to follow.
  • An agency panel offering tips on using mobile to build brand recognition.
  • Battle of the regions: The MMA’s regional managing directors face off, presenting case studies from Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, Latin America, and North America, to prove which region is leading the way in mobile marketing.

There’s also a pre-event workshop, held June 7, that features a crash course on mobile marketing, including an overview of the types of companies that help facilitate campaigns and strategies for building awareness and participation. Also on June 7, qualified agencies, brands and retailers can participate in a newly added preconference Agency, Brand & Retailer Roundtable, which is followed by a cocktail reception. (To find out if you qualify, simply email your complete contact information to forum@mmaglobal.com.)

Another first for the MMA Forum, the “Adopt-a-Brand” program offers a convenient, cost-effective way to introduce more companies to mobile marketing opportunities. “Adopt-a-Brand” lets MMA members subsidize the cost of a pass for agencies, brands and retailers that want to attend the forum.

Finally, this year’s Mobile Marketing Forum marks the debut of the Mobile Experience Lab, an interactive opportunity to hear from the industry’s thought leaders, experience mobile campaigns firsthand and interact with brands using mobile as part of their integrated marketing strategy. Each mobile campaign features a booth that provides attendees with an interactive, hands-on opportunity to experience the campaign from an end user’s perspective.

For the latest updates on this year’s forum, follow @MobileMktgForum on Twitter and visit www.mobilemarketingforum.com.

Easy Fixes for Your Website Mistakes, Part 2

Last week in this space, I discussed the first five web design mistakes highlighted in an Oct. 13 Target Marketing-sponsored presentation titled 10 Mistakes Your Website Is Making (And How to Fix Them). Speakers included Amy Schade, a director at the Nielsen Norman Group, and Matt Poepsel, vice president of performance strategies at Gomez, which was also the event’s sponsor. I moderated.

Last week in this space, I discussed the first five web design mistakes highlighted in an Oct. 13 Target Marketing-sponsored presentation titled 10 Mistakes Your Website Is Making (And How to Fix Them). Speakers included Amy Schade, a director at the Nielsen Norman Group, and Matt Poepsel, vice president of performance strategies at Gomez, which was also the event’s sponsor. I moderated.

(To tune in to a replay of the presentation, register here.)

This week, I’ll discuss the last five mistakes, which were presented by both Amy and Matt.

6. Blocking your users’ progress. Don’t make people go through extra steps to get the information they need from your site, Schade said. Instead, make your users feel like they’re flowing through your site and making progress toward reaching their end goals.

7. Saying way too much or way too little. Before offering any details about a product, offer a synopsis of the product you’re selling, Schade said. Users will not scroll through pages and pages of information about a product unless they know exactly what the product is. Also, be specific when categorizing your products.

A good way to do both of these things, according to Schade, is to use a concept called layering, where you offer different layers of product information on your site.

At the top of a page, for instance, you could show a picture of an item, along with some identifying characteristics. If users are interested, they can scroll down the page and see a highlights tab that summarizes more detailed information about it. Then if they’re still interested, they can click through and read more detailed information. This is a nice balance of presenting the right amount of information in a very usable way, Schade said.

8. Not taking a walk in your users shoes. This applies to users web usability and technical perspectives, Poepsel said. Make sure the experiences they have in terms of website availability, performance and load time are excellent. If not, users will be frustrated, your brand will be at risk and you’ll incur higher operational costs, among other potential problems.

9. Not checking your work twice. Validate how your website looks, displays and performs not just in the most popular browsers — such as Internet Explorer 7.0 — but in all the possible browsers consumers may use when visiting your site, Poepsel said.

10. Not preparing for success. Make sure your website can perform well in both your lowest traffic times and your highest, Poepsel said. You don’t want to have the performance of your website flounder after sending out an email blast about a special promotion. Despite the influx of people going to your website at the same time, it should perform just as well as it normally does.

Easy Fixes for Your Website Mistakes

Target Marketing presented a webinar on Oct. 13 titled 10 Mistakes Your Website Is Making (And How to Fix Them). Speakers included Amy Schade, a director at the Nielsen Norman Group, and Matt Poepsel, vice president of performance strategies at Gomez, which was also the sponsor. I moderated.

Target Marketing presented a webinar on Oct. 13 titled 10 Mistakes Your Website Is Making (And How to Fix Them). Speakers included Amy Schade, a director at the Nielsen Norman Group, and Matt Poepsel, vice president of performance strategies at Gomez, which was also the sponsor. I moderated.

Since the topic turned out to be very popular — more than 500 attendees listened in and stayed for the duration of the 60-minute presentation — I thought I’d present the mistakes discussed. Here, I’ll discuss the first five mistakes, which were all presented by Amy. The last five mistakes, which were presented by Amy and Matt, will follow next week. (To tune in to a replay of the presentation, register here.)

Mistake 1: Believing people read what you write. Users don’t read; they scan, Schade said. As a result, when writing copy for the web, simple and straightforward are best.

Mistake 2: Reflecting your priorities, not your users’. Balance your goals and your users’ goals, Schade said. While you may want to promote your latest offer, sell off inventory, promote your brand or collect leads, your users probably want to get the answers to specific questions or get in and out of your site quickly.

Mistake 3: Ignoring standards. Some design elements on web pages already work and are de facto standards, Schade said. The search box, for example, is usually located in the upper right-hand corner of a web page. When a search box is moved to another spot on a page, this may give users the impression that a site is trying to hide the search box or that the search isn’t very good.

You don’t want to convey that information just because you changed the design location of where something appears on the page, Schade said. There’s room for creativity in web design, but make sure any new designs you try are usable.

Mistake 4: Using the wrong images. While pictures can go a long way on a website in terms of conveying information and getting users interested in your site, products or services, you don’t want to use the wrong ones, Schade said.

Examples of the wrong images include the following:
• generic or stock art;
• boring graphics;
• images that are not related to content; and
• graphics that look like ads.

The right images, on the other hand, include the following:
• images that are related to content;
• images that are clear and the right size; and
• pictures of approachable, real people.

Mistake 5: Not speaking your customers’ language
. It’s so easy getting caught up in the lingo and language used internally at your company when writing web copy; you forget about your users’ perspectives, Schade said. Big mistake. Instead, always think about how users may define or categorize your merchandise. Good places for inspiration on this front are your product reviews. Since they’re provided by users, they speak your users’ language.

Behavioral Targeting Industry Needs Further Delineation

I received an interesting press release the other day from ValueClick Media that recapped a recent behavioral targeting panel that took the stage at the Hard Rock Hotel in Chicago.

The panel featured an industry analyst (David Hallerman, senior analyst, eMarketer), a behavioral targeting product expert (Joshua Koran, vice president, targeting and optimization, ValueClick, Inc.), a brand marketer (Julian Chu, Director of Acquisition Marketing, Discover) and an interactive agency executive (Sam Wehrs, Digital Activation Director, Starcom).
 

I received an interesting press release the other day from ValueClick Media that recapped a recent behavioral targeting panel that took the stage at the Hard Rock Hotel in Chicago.

The panel featured an industry analyst (David Hallerman, senior analyst, eMarketer), a behavioral targeting product expert (Joshua Koran, vice president, targeting and optimization, ValueClick, Inc.), a brand marketer (Julian Chu, Director of Acquisition Marketing, Discover) and an interactive agency executive (Sam Wehrs, Digital Activation Director, Starcom).

What I found most interesting about the release was that fact the group discussed and agreed on the need for delineation between the different approaches to behavioral targeting.

“While it is important to understand the difference between retargeting – which Hallerman referred to as “reactive” – and the more complex models, the panel agreed it is also critical to understand the differences within the more sophisticated group of behavioral targeting approaches, and Joshua Koran shared three designations: “clustering,” “custom business rules” and “predictive attributes,” the release said.

The “clustering” approach assigns each visitor to one and only one segment while the “custom business rules” approach offers marketers the ability to target visitors who have done X events in Y days, with Boolean operators of “and.” “or,” and “not.” Finally, the “predictive attributes” approach automates the assignment of interest categories based on the visitor activities that best correlate with performance; thus, the system is continuously learning to identify multiple interest attributes per visitor.

Another notable takeaway was the need for a focus on the customer experience and the corresponding importance of demonstrating value to customers when serving behaviorally targeted ads.

According to the release Julian Chu offered three questions marketers must address to make behavioral targeting a valuable experience for customers instead of merely serving the ads, which would unavoidably become customer annoyance: How are you going to do it? Where is it going to happen? What is going to happen at that time?

Presented as part of ValueClick Media’s ongoing Media Lounge education event series, this event – The Changing Behavioral Targeting Landscape – as well as the discussion itself underscored the importance of education relative to this increasingly important online advertising technique.

Food for thought!