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Tech Guest Viewpoint: Tracking Consumer Behavior like the Weather


I know what you’re thinking … another article about programmatic. But given the rapid pace of advancements in the programmatic space, we’ve entered a time when advertisers and retailers are forced to reexamine their strategy, take a closer look at what programmatic means to their business, and prioritize the pieces of the puzzle they should be employing to reap the greatest benefits.

This is an important time for retailers to consider the tremendous value of examining the changing costs of audiences purchased through real-time bidding. Brands must not settle with the knowledge that programmatic systems incorporate audience data in real-time or that machine learning automatically determines bid values for each impression. Pricing awareness gives advertisers an understanding of the longer-term trends that grip the programmatic advertising market. These trends can help advertisers to gauge which third-party consumer segments will be more cost-effective than others.

In order to see better results, advertisers should keep these considerations in mind:

Always be evaluating and adjusting

While it might be automated, programmatic is far from “set it and forget it” technology. Factors like current events and shifting trends require savvy advertisers to remain in a constant state of observance and advancement – constantly evaluating and adjusting their partners over time based on what they’re seeing in the data. For example, tools that track regular changes in advertising costs can provide advertisers with greater insight into the behaviors and preferences of consumers – something that changes constantly based on a number of factors.

From these figures, advertisers are able to draw unique insights to adjust their strategy. As the upward trend in RTB prices continues, advertisers should be thinking about shifting away from partners who focus on price advantages toward partners who focus on extracting value from each impression purchased.

Stay aware of current events and trends

Seasonal trends and national news are great ammunition for advertisers’ programmatic campaigns. Key markets can become bloated with consumers who are simply interested in related news, rather than products or services advertisers are offering.

For example, the general health segment rose in cost when the Ice Bucket Challenge went viral in August 2014 with the goal of raising awareness for ALS, and then the Ebola virus raised national health concerns in October 2014. In both of these cases, the consumers who were categorized into these third-party data segments – general health advocates – were misplaced due to their Internet searches on the topic.

In this situation, targeting segments with relevant descriptors became less effective than they usually are while machine learning adapted to the anomaly and avoided the waste.

Stop relying on manual targeting

Changes in segment costs tend to align in obvious ways with digital advertising trends for related brands and products (i.e. the Caribbean travel segment rises in cost during months when cruise brands run national campaigns).

Even though the benefits of optimization are touted throughout the industry, the data shows that manual targeting remains the common practice over advanced machine-learning practices. Brands with teams of campaign managers who pre-set targeting through DSPs lack the added benefit of automated optimization. They should find a partner that can offer this layer of optimization into their current strategy instead of relying solely on a self-service user interface.

As advertisers move over to advanced optimization systems, they will discover more data-driven but less intuitive correlations between segments and offers. For example, Caribbean vacationers skew toward shoe shoppers and wine aficionados.

While programmatic systems are able to execute campaigns efficiently and cost effectively, automation only taps a fragment of programmatic’s full potential. Among the many capabilities involved in advanced optimization, retailers employing programmatic strategies should engage platforms and partners that are able to discern the effects of current events on their target consumer segments, and identify imposters within potential consumer segments.

True optimization is as much about who you don’t target as it is about who you do target; and leveraging systems that learn from data will help brand marketers to adjust their strategies in real-time to find and engage the right consumers.

Eric Bosco is CEO of ChoiceStream.

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