Audience Analytics – Knowing Who, What, Where, When and Maybe How and Why…

By: Edward Ramsey, Vice President, Marketing Data & Tech Strategy, Valassis
Published Monday, Jan 23, 2017

Audience Analytics – Knowing Who, What, Where, When and Maybe How and Why…
It’s All About Precision

With the increasing importance of campaign performance evaluation, assessing the efficacy of coordinated multi-channel media execution, and driving greater personalization and relevance of consumer engagement, precise knowledge of your audience is more important than ever. In the ‘70s, ‘80s and early ‘90s, traditional media channels were the playground on which brands marketed their products to broad as well as targeted audiences. Most of these brands had large budgets. There were also fewer media channels, and the consumer’s path to purchase was fairly simple.

During this period, brands and marketers were comfortable quoting this line by one of marketing’s pioneers, John Wanamaker, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.” Paradoxical as this may sound, there was a prevailing truism in this statement — we did not have a way to truly know who the advertising was reaching, what message prompted a response and how the advertising impacted sales. Nevertheless, as we progressed through the late ‘90s into 2010, we witnessed the following:

  • The rise of digital media;
  • More marketing channels (complexity and fragmentation);
  • A need to prove performance  (greater marketing accountability); and
  • Increasing complexity in the consumer journey.

These changes created a need for greater precision with regard to audience, channel, format, message and timing. In order to achieve this, we needed to know more about the consumer.

Audience Analytics – What is It?

Achieving marketing precision begins with accumulating intelligence about consumers and this can be done with what is called audience analytics. By definition audience analytics provide insight into the characteristics of individuals, groups, users and/or responders who were exposed or engaged with a marketer’s advertising communications. This includes insights such as:

  • Demographics (Age, Gender);
  • Interests (Affinity Categories, In-market Segments, Other Categories);
  • Geo (Language, Location);
  • Behavior (New versus Returning, Frequency and Recency, Engagement);
  • Technology (Browser and OS, Network); and
  • Mobile (Devices).

Examples of some of the methods used to capture this sort of intelligence include surveys, sales transactions, third-party services and attribution platforms. As consumer adoption of internet-enabled devices increases, marketers will find additional ways to engage consumers; this will yield more audience intelligence. These insights will be used for enhanced targeting and campaign optimization to maximize every advertising dollar spent.

Why are Audience Analytics Important?

“It’s not about one touch. It’s about multiple touches along the customer journey and each has to be consistent — from awareness until the customer makes a decision,” said Jamie Anderson, senior vice president of marketing, customer engagement and commerce solutions portfolio, SAP.

The above quote is from the white paper, “Reaching the Right Audience,” published by Forbes Insight in 2015, that I believe is still relevant. Today, audience analytics is about driving real value through an audience strategy — a combination of targeted campaign data, ad serving technologies and partnerships with advertising networks, media buying channels and third-party data providers. Ultimately, the goal is to find intelligent ways to combine these elements so that cost and waste are reduced and relevant messages are delivered to the right consumers. Channeling all these elements is complex, and today requires data management technologies to provide true audience intelligence and targeting (See illustration 1.1). In the future, the data will get bigger, technology better, and insights faster. Audience Intelligence will become ubiquitous.

Illustration 1.1 - Audience Analytics Framework


Things to Consider

If you are a brand or advertiser seeking to improve the effectiveness of your media campaigns, ask yourself:

  • Can my advertising spend be more productive?
  • Who is my audience and what do I, or can I, know about them (demos, behaviors, channel engagement, etc.)? Are there secondary audience segments that are important to my business?
  • Are my ads reaching the desired audience? If so, are they engaging, shopping or buying and why?
  • Is there a unifying metric/KPI that is consistent across my media channels?
  • Do I have the appropriate intelligence to inform my next event/campaign? 

An honest assessment of your strategy, by your internal team or a partner, could prove to be what you need to continuously improve performance and drive results.