(Editor’s note: Byron Deeter is a partner at Bessemer Venture Partners. He submitted this story to VentureBeat.)
The modern chief marketing officer is as much a scientist as he or she is an artist.
The role is one that’s rapidly evolving these days thanks to advanced new technologies that allow marketing professionals to track, target and measure their company’s spend. At Bessemer, we see many of the best CMOs as “quant jocks” – not creative types ordinarily concerned with creating attractive print ads or snappy videos. Top CMOs get the creative, but also understand how to use the latest high-tech tools to maximize marketing programs and convert potential customers into buyers.
Those tools make CMOs more powerful because they can directly attribute actions to results. It’s now possible to track the vast majority of customer-influence points, rather than just the final keyword or e-mail that triggered an online purchase.
To wit: What if a prospective customer types “Diapers.com” into Google and unknowingly clicks on a paid link, instead of the SEO-optimized link? This would be an inaccurate attribution of value in the final sale, thanks to Google’s smart SEM technology. The customer already knew the company’s name, so another marketing touch point, like a branded display ad or an e-mail marketing campaign, must have initiated the consumer’s interest in the company, and deserves partial credit for the purchase. Technology providers like Convertro enable advertisers to precisely understand the value of each interaction with its customers.
CMOs often find that targeted display ads, not Google AdWords, drive actual purchases. An emerging trend that takes advantage of this is called retargeting. This practice allows e-commerce websites to selectively target shoppers who have previously visited their website and viewed products, but left without completing a purchase. Here’s a real world example:
Noodling around Zappos.com one day, you find a pair of shoes you like. You add them to your shopping cart, but get distracted before purchasing and click away from the site. Two days later, you might be reading an article on Yahoo! News and see a display ad touting those exact shoes (or a similar, recommended pair), possibly including a promotion.
This is personalized retargeting. And these ads are far more relevant and effective than non-targeted ones. Today’s Web users are starting to see relevant ads, click the links and conveniently make a purchase, rather than wasting time revisiting multiple sites.
One of the largest personalized retargeting companies is Criteo, which actually allows its customers to re-acquire these uncommitted shoppers on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis, rather than the traditional cost-per-thousand (CPM) model of display advertising. This lets marketing executives pay only for results – like they do on Google.
For marketing departments, this is the best combination of the pay-for-performance model of SEM and the branding impact of traditional display advertising (since even free impressions that don’t result in a click generates brand awareness!).
Given the strong ROI of re-targeting, we strongly believe the vast majority of medium and large e-commerce companies globally will be using this relatively new form of online marketing within the next 18 months. (For a more thorough argument, see a white paper we put together called “Bessemer’s Top 10 Laws of E-Commerce”.)
Targeted display ads are just the beginning, though. There is far greater monetization potential, for example, when someone books a first-class ticket to Hawaii through an online-travel site. The consumer’s individual cookie data associated with the flight purchase may subsequently be used to identify the purchaser as affluent, and help hotel chains show the shopper display ads for luxury Hawaiian accommodations, or to offer high-end auto rentals in Maui.
We’re also seeing the emergence of advertising exchanges like Google’s AdX, Microsoft’s AdECN, or Yahoo’s Right Media taking advantage of this “renaissance of display.” On these exchanges, display inventory can be purchased on a per-impression basis. Separate data exchanges such as BlueKai and eXelate allow buyers to purchase segment data independent of impressions, and manage their own, targeted buys.
Although the consumer market is leading the charge, we’ve seen exciting companies like Bizo and Eloqua emerge to allow data-driven, display targeting and marketing automation for B2B customers as well. Although B2B purchases typically have much longer sales cycles than consumer purchases, the purchase value is much larger. Thus, the value of influencing a buying process also is quite high.
B2B sales and marketers can segment and target prospects on any site they visit, whether the Wall Street Journal or a local community sports site, and track their entire digital signature through every stage of the buying process.
That’s good news. The cost of traditional, offline media remains exorbitant for many companies. A one-time quarter-page ad in the print Wall Street Journal, for instance, runs $55,000. Those costs aren’t going down – and, in the long run, may further prod the adoption of innovative, performance-based online-marketing tools from the next generation of marketing-technology providers.