How to drive measurement forward in a privacy-centric world

Andrew Hopkins, senior VP of customer acquisition and global products at Discover Financial Services, shares his advice for brands wanting to start the journey to better measurement today.

Discover has operated in the consumer lending space for nearly 35 years. Over that time, we’ve seen many changes to the financial services industry — to legislation, regulation, consumer behavior, products, and services, just to name a few.

But perhaps the biggest change of all — to data privacy and online security, especially affecting measurement — is underway right now. It’s a challenge that marketers everywhere will have to grapple with, no matter the industry. And while the existing and impending regulations are unprecedented in scope, consumer privacy has been top of mind in industries like financial services, health care, and others for decades.

The age of the “cookie,” for customizing marketing and measurement, is coming to an end. But measurement is not dead. If we can make progress toward better measurement in one of the most regulated industries, so can you. Here are some thoughts to help you get started.

If customers lose confidence in your commitment to data privacy and security, competitors will happily step in to offer your customers alternatives.

Consolidate your data to reach customer-centric goals

Trust is foundational to the success of any financial services brand. But no matter what your industry, if customers lose confidence in your commitment to data privacy and security, competitors will happily step in to offer your customers alternatives. That’s why, when we started our measurement journey, we looked to our customers for inspiration.

We realized that our products and services were creating fragmented experiences for customers. They’d get uncoordinated messages, product suggestions, or promotions on different channels. This wasn’t the customer experience we set out to deliver, but it was hardly surprising, given our complex internal structures of data sources, measurement tools, and reporting lines.

So, as a first step toward a customer-centric approach, we consolidated all our first-party data into a central data management platform (DMP). We’re now able to securely store and curate our first-party data across channels, from email to direct mail to online, in a single ecosystem for both existing and prospective customers. As we move forward, our DMP will continue to serve as the foundation on which we build more customer-centric goals and optimizations.

The speed of the customer is as important as the speed of data.

Optimize for greater consistency across all channels

Our next step was to reevaluate how we measured media activations. We worked with partners, including Google, to set up a number of application programming interfaces (API) that delivered real-time data back to our marketing platforms so we could continuously optimize the messaging, cadence, and capping tactics on our live campaigns. We saw an immediate lift in marketing performance and efficiency, and increased our investments in the best performing channels.

We also learned that the speed of the customer is as important as the speed of data. As we automated and optimized, we discovered that our approach was being distorted by recency bias. We were rewarding channels that moved quickly to conversion. Slower channels may need additional time for underwriting or identity verification, but they can still lead to profitable conversions with ROIs equal to or greater than faster channels. To address this, we extended the time frames and brought in additional data to remove recency bias. The result was better, more consistent optimization across all channels, fast and slow.

Invest in a universal, companywide approach

Setting up the DMP and gaining the ability to work with real-time data were big wins for us. But having a single platform only highlighted the data, talent, and product silos that still divided our organization. To get everyone consistently measuring progress to comparable goals, we needed a uniform measurement framework.

The majority of our digital insights are collected in a uniform way, so we can work toward the same goals using the same information.

So we set out to create companywide buy-in for a universal approach, and convened, cajoled, and coerced internal stakeholders until we got everyone to agree to standard, sitewide tagging and data-collection practices. Now our marketers can see the whole consumer journey across products and websites. We have better audience segmentation and business reporting, and it’s easier for teams (like strategy, execution, and creative) to work together, deliver campaigns, and optimize spend. The majority of our digital insights are collected in a uniform way, so we can work toward the same goals using the same information.

Adjust for progress along the way

We’re now about two years along our journey to better measurement. We know there’s no such thing as “perfect measurement,” so we’re focused on solidifying the relationships with our partners so we can continue to innovate and grow in a way that’s compliant with evolving data privacy and security regulations. Because the only way we can continue to deliver exceptional customer experiences and success for our brand is through constant progress on our never-ending measurement journey.

Data from: If measurement isn’t your top priority, here’s why it should be