Triple Your Digital Research Budget Now: How to Leverage That Investment

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In two recent columns we discussed the implications of upcoming changes in Identity Resolution and made a case for robust immediate research investment to offset the inevitable financial losses. (You can read them here and here.)

There are ways to soften the blow of the Apple/Google one-two punch to person-based marketing and measurement. On the measurement front, take the gold standard measurement today, the relatively clean randomized control/exposed experiments we've been performing online for two-plus decades. Consider it might not be available soon. Try new techniques in a side-by-side with the gold standard now so you can ground truth to the new probabilistic approaches.

Ask the right questions

Good learning agendas begin with a series of questions that lay out the fundamental challenges. In this, marketers will have diverse challenge questions across activation, insight and messaging.

If you do journey mapping, will you get similar insights and conclusions when only a fraction of the people opt-in for measurement? Try a parallel test to find out! Simulate the opt-in question, take those who say yes and compare to those that don't.

Absent digitally tracked view-through, marketers can use Design of Experiments at the cohort or regional level to determine advertising contribution. Media spend must vary over time to statistically analyze the relationship of advertising and conversion. 

Some advertisers can use panels. Will panels give you what you need to replace what you are losing with identity? Will Unified ID Cooperatives work well enough? Is FLoC "good enough" for your needs? Not sure? Few people are. You've got to do the work now so you can be sure. The clock is ticking.

Will new techniques work predictably across time and place? Most consumer products and services have dynamics of seasonality and geography that impact response. These products need a full year baseline, then year-over-year lift benchmarks to be fully informed of the long-range impact in this new world.

Don't put yourself in a could have, would have, should have situation, wishing you could go back in time to see how the new world of measurement compares to the old. Do that testing now, while you still have access to the old world. Parallel studies will help build a bridge to the future through concrete data on the differences between old and new measurement, allowing you to find calibration techniques. Calibration and weighting may be critical to ensure this more limited world of digital measurement doesn't cause harm to your business.

There are ways to offset the loss of identity by developing alternative analytics, and reconsidering marketing priorities.

1. Take stock of how much of your marketing communications and research depend on identity, classify which are at risk and which are relatively safe because you have a first-party relationship.

2. For the elements that are at risk, begin a series of research efforts to migrate to your next best alternative.

3. Take a step back and ask: "If I were to design marketing from a blank page, what would I include today (and for the identity light future) that would increase my ROI? If you aren't taking advantage of AI Personalization in your e-mail, make it a test and learn priority to get some direct experience through a few pilots.

4. Create an ROI baseline and challenge yourself and partners to improve it in spite of the identity changes. Bonus your team and partners if they achieve your improvement goal.

5. Design side-by-side efforts with the current identity rich approaches versus the soon-to-be identity constrained capabilities. Yes, you are paying twice for almost the same thing, but you must know how different your output will be so you can calibrate accordingly. Just like benchmarking ROI, you must benchmark reporting and insights in a pre- and post-identity rich world. For example, perhaps you conduct an A/B split test, and run it two ways. One with the current gold standard of creating segments and keeping them separate with a cookie identifier, and another test without. Perhaps you use a panel instead. Perhaps you deliver only a single impression and measure immediately. How different are your results? Would you make different decisions based on those results?

Find money, even if it hurts

The common lament is, "I know it's important, but I just don't have the money." All available funds are tucked away in their respective financial line item with different budget owners, and we can't take money from "working" media into "non-working" because we would then have to adjust projections. As holistic marketing effectiveness experts, we advocate that there are times when reducing "working" in the name of effectiveness makes the remaining funds work that much harder. This is one of those times.

If there are no incremental funds to be had and no priorities that can be delayed within the research/insight budget, take the money from working media temporarily. And then put it back. It's political but it can be done! Identify the least productive current tactics; the effectiveness reduction is likely be less than half the budget reduction. Restore funding once your plan is validated and the entire budget will pay back far beyond the loss.

This is your next CMO meeting agenda

Each marketer needs a unique learning agenda and financial plan to prepare for the future; we are providing here just a starting point to help you ask the right questions as you look for answers. If you haven't done so already, now is the time to align with the boss that time and resources must be dedicated to managing this seismic change. In addition to what you and your team can do individually to prepare for these identity changes, consider participating in MMAGlobal's think tanks on Data in Marketing.

Don't be the ones caught on your heels. Be the one that figured it out and takes share from your competitors.

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