Advertisers Clamor for Enhanced Audience Segmentation to Improve Targeting

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What happens when marketers finally get access to high-quality data on attribution and ROI? According to Ryan Rolf, vice president of data solutions at data management platform Lotame, access to the right types of data creates a new demand for performance-based campaigns and even greater transparency.

Rolf’s opinion mirrors the findings in a survey just released by Winterberry Group and the Data & Marketing Association (DMA), which found that audience segmentation and journey mapping are critical to aligning campaign goals with known customer attributes. Sixty-two percent of advertisers, publishers, and tech developers in the survey said they want better audience segmentation to support ad targeting, and 54% want the ability to map customer behavior across different channels. Audience segmentation and customer journey components were prioritized above other campaign goals, reflecting the critical role they now play in today’s marketing environment.

“There shouldn’t be opacity,” says Rolf. “For a campaign to truly perform and yield value for brands, enhanced audience segmentation—to enable more effective ad targeting—is critical. Performance and targeting go hand-in-hand.”

So, what’s the hold up, and why aren’t more marketers getting the type of precise ad targeting they’re looking for? According to Rolf, it comes down to technological infrastructure. The infrastructure for identifying, tracking, and profiling users across channels has been a longstanding hurdle getting in the way of precise ad targeting. But data science, and improvements in technology at large, are finally knocking down those barriers to allow for new opportunities.

“In many cases, particularly in today’s crowded audience data marketplace, the good players get mixed in with many other players, who may or may not be as stringent or focused on quality data as others,” Rolf says. “This, in turn, adds a confusing element into the mix, pulls quality of data down, and leaves the opportunity for advertisers to continue to chase ‘new and shiny’ data companies, without focusing on the right providers.”

Rolf says Lotame’s team of data scientists has been working for two years to create a new wave of high-quality audience profile segments that exceed typical industry benchmarks and improve the accuracy of targeting and audience measurement. Other vendors, like Nielsen, have invested millions into building artificial intelligence platforms to automate the creation of custom audience segments.

Mapping customer behavior across different channels is also a high priority.

“Cross-device marketing is great because it allows brands to tell a cohesive, yet effective, story to consumers no matter where they are visiting from,” Rolf says. “Someone browsing via desktop who then switches to mobile can have the same cohesive experience as if they just stayed on desktop.”

Although Rolf calls this a “brilliant, effective, and rewarding” strategy, he says there are also some real challenges to effective journey mapping. For example, in order to create a seamless journey for customers across devices, brands first need to understand how and why customers are using technology differently—a process that can be both time- and resource-intensive.

Nonetheless, Rolf sees a future in which brands are finally able to harness mobile technology to unlock key opportunities for cross-device campaigns. He envisions brands being able to tap into more detailed information, including GPS and location information, habits and patterns, and places visited.

“Moving forward, there is going to be a huge focus on defining and ensuring data quality. With all the various sources of data today—ranging from first-party data to private exchanges that buy second-party, and others—making sure that all of this data is of the highest quality is going to be incredibly challenging, but [it] needs to be a focal point for the industry,” Rolf says. “Improving attribution will also be of paramount importance, given how pivotal it already is to gauging campaign performance.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.