There’s been a lot of talk about “people-based marketing” lately. We should know — we coined the term. Since Atlas first launched people-based marketing at Advertising Week 2014, several industry players have followed suit. And you know what? We think that’s a good thing. The appeal of people-based marketing makes sense at this critical moment in advertising history. Consumer attention is more fragmented than ever before, with mobile and cross-device traffic growing by the week. Existing ad tech (read: cookies) simply can’t keep up. In our digital-first era, marketers face a clear choice: customize ad content and delivery to the habits of modern consumers or risk being left behind.
Building and creating optimised digital experiences have been the focus of marketing teams since the early days of the internet, yet the focus has been on the channel rather than the consumer. The key performance indicators of success have been measured on the performance of email marketing, paid media or targeting ads programmes, rather than enhanced customer experiences, increased retention rates, and increased lifetime value.
This approach is in dire need of rejuvenation. Why? Because in trying to optimise each marketing channel, businesses have lost the concept of the human connection. People-Based Marketing, the approach to marketing whereby a business identifies and targets single individuals as they engage across every device, every browser and every channel both on and off the website, hinges on the relationship that brands create and nurture for their consumers. As individuals continue to be drawn to the trend of convenience, they have little consideration for the device, browser or channel that they are interacting on and care far more for consistent, relevant and seamless digital experiences across these mediums.
What is people-based marketing?
People-based marketing is the approach to marketing whereby a business identifies and targets single individuals as they engage across every device, every browser and every channel both on and off the website. It results in the ability to create individualised behavioural profiles that follow consumers throughout their journey, empowering brands to create seamless digital experiences on a one-to-one basis.
Retailers have been practising it since the growth of the corner-shop and the rise of the shop assistant who was able to interpret an individual’s in-store behaviour to identify intent to purchase and make suitable product recommendations.
Yet, with the advent of e-commerce; the explosion in devices through which consumers browse, shop and buy; and the number of channels businesses need to market to, the concept of People-Based Marketing has become clouded. In the drive to optimise each channel businesses forgot that, actually, the individual they are marketing to doesn’t care what channel (s)he is on; what matters is the experience. Yes, personalisation represented the first attempt at making the internet a little less computerised and a little more human. The idea was brilliant. It simply made sense. But everyone struggled to execute on it. And the gulf between expectations and execution remains.
Personalisation is failing marketers. It relies on individuals shopping on the same device, browser and channel. It has become limited to a function of product recommendations, and is less about creating relevant experiences at the convenience of the shopper, and more about trying to predict based on past, limited scope, behaviour.
Cookie based technology provides only partial information
Product recommendation engines are cookie-based; they cannot accurately provide consumer insight across device or browser types. So, if you’re shopping on your desktop at work and later return to that website on your phone, a product recommendation engine can’t identify what you previously looked at when marketing to you. They also rely primarily on historical transactional data rather than real-time behavioural insights, and can not predict future purchase intent.
Personalisation efforts have reached the stage whereby the online experience is being adapted to treat large segments of traffic (new visitors / returning customers and a range of personas) differently but the effort involved in driving this further to achieve true one-to-one experiences can not be achieved in its current state.
The world has moved on since the adoption of product recommendation engines. The online/brick & mortar shopping experience has merged in recent years. Today, the technological limitations that prevented the digital world from being a simple extension of the physical one have been removed. So, the question becomes, not how can we merely personalise experiences, but how can we create a single, unified, customised consumer experience that bridges the various channels and technologies of the internet?
Welcome back, people-based marketing
A function of behavioural marketing that hinges on the notion of ‘connections’ between your business and the ‘individual’ consumers engaging with it, people-based marketing identifies and targets single individuals as they engage across every device, every browser and every channel both online and offline. It results in the ability to create individualised behavioural profiles that follow consumers throughout their journey, empowering brands to create seamless digital experiences on a one-to-one basis. In other words, it brings the intimacy of the brick & mortar store experience to every aspect of digital business. People-based marketing examines the digital body language that visitors exhibit and their levels of purchase intent, and nurtures the relationship guiding each of these consumers to reach their highest potential – purchasing something.
Connections through identification
It all boils down to a unique, individual, digital identifier.
This key point of identification can be anything from an email address to a phone number to a device ID – as long as it can be associated across device, browser, and channel. So when a consumer abandons their cart on one device, it will automatically refill when the consumer returns on another, making the shopping experience seamless.
Over time, brands build entire behavioural profiles, which become a representation of how an individual interacts with their business. The digital body-language – the actions they took on your website; their method of engagement with your emails and ads (opens, clicks, click-throughs, conversions) – allows a business to create experiences across the various channels – website, email marketing, advertisements – that react to those behaviours in order to create the most relevant digital experience.
Over the last few years, the marketing industry has been thrown off course – getting too focused on expanding their business across devices and extending their reach across every marketing channel. It’s time for a change – for a return to the people-centric approach to marketing, where the human connection comes first and your business (the devices, the channels) adapt to the individual in question.