A marketing window of opportunity

We operate in a cluttered media environment where advertisers and programmatic platforms have turned targeted advertising into a science. In this competitive world, identifying customers early in their journey to purchase a product or service and hitting them with the right message can give brands a real edge. It’s about ensuring the brand is already on their radar when customers start considering their options and, in some cases, converting them before competitors start to target them.

This is the world of event-driven marketing, which is built on the understanding that customers don’t follow a linear path from exposure to conversion. To succeed with this powerful marketing technique, a brand needs to master the art of data modelling and have access to the right first-party and second-party data in addition to the data that programmatic platforms have about their audiences. When effectively harnessed, data modelling enables marketers to reach customers early in the purchase cycle with the right messaging.

There’s more to the customer journey than a funnel that starts with interest before moving through awareness, consideration and conversion. According to research done by Google, these phases can take months and customers can alternate between exploration and evaluation. Or the path to purchase can be quick, depending on the individual’s personal biases and sense of urgency.

One way to help nudge customers towards a purchase is by appealing to their biases with targeted messaging. Google’s research also provides great insights into these key biases. These triggers could, for instance, appeal to the “power of now” bias with a limited time offer, the “scarcity” bias with messaging about limited stock or an “authority” bias by getting an expert to support the offer. But to trigger the right bias, advertisers need to have data about customers and prospects that enables them to reach the audience with the right message.

Identifying the trigger for change

Advertisers that use the right trigger at the most opportune moment are the ones that will have an advantage. This is where event-driven market comes into play. We can define an event in this instance as a change in the customer’s or prospect’s circumstances that will make them more open to purchasing a product or service, or to switching brands. Based on such an event – a pregnancy or a salary increase, for example – a marketing message could be triggered.

The beauty of this approach is that a brand can start talking to customers before they start researching options, perhaps even before they are even consciously aware that they will need to buy a product in the category. For example, if you can create audience segments comprised of people who have just applied for vehicle financing, you know they will need car insurance. And if your data model helps you segment people who have just received approval for a home loan, they are probably going to be interested in new furniture.

This is a fleeting window of opportunity, when the customer is receptive to relevant messaging but has yet to be bombarded with ads for car insurance or sofas wherever they go on the internet. By getting a tailored message to them at this early phase of the purchase cycle, the brand can claim a space at the top of their mind. As customers start considering their options, they can be addressed with a re-marketing strategy to close the conversion.

Personalised marketing that complies with data privacy

Data privacy regulations like Popia in SA and the GDPR in the EU, as well as consumer sensitivities about data ethics, mean brands need to tread lightly when they approach this level of personalised marketing. But with effective data models and the right partners you can use first-party, second-party and third-party data to create powerful customer engagements that drive conversions without annoying consumers or ignoring their rights.

In these campaigns, anonymised data from your customer relationship management systems and data partners could be used to create ad campaigns on platforms like Google and Facebook, which offer secure application programming interfaces to create custom segments of hashed data. You will be able to access the audience lists but no personal information can be extracted from the platforms. This addresses the privacy concerns while delivering accurate audience targeting.

Prospects and customers will then see targeted ads across Facebook, Google Display or relevant social media channels. This is far less invasive than direct marketing text messages or e-mails. After all, customers expect to see banners and ads when using free-access websites or social media platforms. Despite it not being direct marketing, marketers need to ensure that the data is Popia compliant and that customers have opted in for marketing communications.

Companies with a large base of opt-in customers and access to other compliant data sources have an opportunity to create dynamic audience segment lists that are automatically populated in the ad platforms used for event-triggered marketing. Then it’s about watching for circumstance-changing events to take marketing to a whole new level by reaching customers in the precious window of opportunity before they start actively looking for a product or service.