Following Tradedoubler’s insightful webinar on data-driven strategies last month, the international performance marketing partner is returning to PI LIVE this year as a headline sponsor as well as hosting a Main Stage panel session on The Changing Of The Performance Marketing Funnel.
Ahead of the show next month, we speak with Tradedoubler’s UK country manager Chris Russell-Smith on the landscape of measuring data and its challenges, including Apple’s ITP 2.0 update; also their session at PI LIVE and overall highlights in 2018.
Your recent survey found that a lack of data-driven insights was holding back performance marketers in achieving success in the channel. What tips can you suggest for them to overcome this challenge?
Chris Russell-Smith: This was the number one perceived challenge in our survey, and it stems from a couple of things. First is the amount of data that is potentially available, and not being able to differentiate between that which is useful and not, commonly referred to as data blindness. The second is appreciating the hierarchy and gap between raw data and insight. Data visibility and how that data is organised is crucial to getting to the point where insights can be generated. It is important not to focus unnecessarily attention on the data that backs up your agenda but to maintain critical objectivity, testing hypothesis rather than being a slave to an assumption.
Identifying actionable insights will depend on the how they align with business objectives – if you don’t know how to react to a metric when it significantly increases or decreases then you may be looking at a vanity metric. Insights based on KPI’s and other key metrics will inherently create a sense of urgency that other data won’t. It’s easier to interpret and convert strategically-aligned insights into tactical responses because they often relate directly to the levers in your business that you control, influence or are focused on. Advertisers should be looking at business intelligence platforms that allow them to do this and combat data blindness.
How has the dynamic of measuring data changed since the introduction of new technologies such as AI and machine learning?
CRS: How we capture data has changed quite a bit, from simple cookie-based conversion tracking to cookieless, cross-device, and improvements in things like voucher code tracking. This has also meant that the number of data points and the quantity of data being captured now, compared to a few years ago, is much higher and more accurate. What has also had to change is how we analyse that data.
With regards to machine learning, there’s threats and opportunities in this emerging technology. A good example of a threat is what we are currently seeing with ITP. Apple is using machine learning to identify tracking providers which may be then be blocked, so this, in fact, makes it harder for us to track rather than easier and so has created a potentially unnecessary issue in the bigger picture of privacy. We’ve been working on this for a while to get ahead of the issue and ensure that our advertisers are using our first party solution to mitigate the problem.
There are of course opportunities as well. Machine learning has changed the way data can be categorised to create a meaningful and reliable outcome. We’ve been using this for a while to identify partners for programs which can then be presented to the advertiser for approval and it’s that sort of area where tasks can be actioned more efficiently that we will see the most short-term impact. By using the years of conversion data we are also able to use machine learning to forecast more accurately and build in scenarios.
And just how crucial is this when it comes to measuring campaign performance?
CRS: I’ve seen a few articles lately that make the important distinction between the importance of technology in enabling the efficient categorisation of data and information but the need for human input to generate the insights and that is important to bear in mind. Machine learning can only take things so far.
At a basic level, machine learning can shorten the process of understanding performance and even make recommendations, but it takes human expertise to understand and interpret nuance and it can never replace relationships which is a key factor of affiliate marketing. The advantage for networks is that we have the data and we have the experienced people to understand it and provide insight.
You’ll be attending PI LIVE again this year; what are you most looking forward to and what are you hoping to achieve at the event?
CRS: We are indeed. Tradedoubler is a headline sponsor this year and comes at the end of a year where we have made significant headway in many areas. I am looking forward to hearing from some great speakers, seeing familiar faces and meeting lots of new ones.
For us, it’s about creating and developing relationships and connections so I hope everyone that reads this will come and say hello and find out what Tradedoubler has been doing and what we plan to do in 2019. We will also have some of our partners on the stand with us and they can be reached through the PI LIVE app.
You’ll be hosting your panel session on The Changing Of The Performance Marketing Funnel. What can attendees take away from your sessions in October?
CRS: In our panel session we’ll be looking at this subject of data visibility in some detail and how we can bring that the bear on the performance marketing funnel. We’ll be discussing what has changed and how it can be leveraged to make campaigns more effective. We have a great panel representing all sides of the industry, and so we’ll get a rounded view of people challenges and successes, which hopefully the audience can take away with them and apply to their own businesses.
What have been your highlights for this year and what is in the pipeline for Tradedoubler over the coming months?
CRS: We’ve been working hard this year to embed our Connect & Grow strategy and try to think about spreading it into as many parts of the business as possible. I’m keen that as a business we react to the requirements of the market rather than follow our own agenda. Advertisers and publishers want the best account management service and so we have implemented an ongoing training plan, and have put new processes in place to capitalise on market opportunities for our clients. We also introduced a 10-month management training program this year and we’ll be looking to make a similar investment in training in 2019 to make sure we continue to attract the right talent.
Our external positioning has benefited from a raft of new vertical and publisher based events, including our Influencer event back in the summer and a Travel event this week. In the spirit of fostering industry connections, we also held our first Alumni party, which was a great success and will be repeated next year. By the end of this year, our new interfaces will have a launched along with a new website with refreshed branding which will provide a much more satisfying user experience.
Over 2019 clients and publishers will notice improvements through our advancing machine learning functionality and we’ll be looking to build on the leadership position we have established in interpreting and using data through our business intelligence platform. We will no doubt have a lot more to come as we head towards Christmas and 2019.