Using Advanced Modeling to Segment, Build and Target Media Audiences

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Hitwise recently has put its clickstream, search, and survey-based data into one comprehensive dashboard that enables marketers to combine insights with advanced modeling to segment, build and target media audiences through its platform or their own DSP. We sat down with London-based Nigel Wilson, ‎Managing Director at Hitwise (pictured below), to learn more: 

Q: What do you see as the biggest challenge facing marketers today? 

A: While there is a huge amount of data available to help marketers understand potential customers and track their competition, everyone I talk to is struggling to understand that data. Clickstream data alone is insufficient, and traditional panel/survey-based data providers are slow, expensive, and don’t get at the specific nuances of our multichannel digital world. Plus there’s a ton of insights from valuable search data, but it often sits in silos. 

Q: There are lots of digital data providers out there now, what’s unique about Hitwise Data? 

A: Hitwise defines an audience based on a combination of search, visit and demographic data. What people are typing into their search engines, in some ways is the purest indicator of interest and intent. But as consumers move towards purchase they often visit many other sites to compare products and services, check recommendations, and read product reviews—all of which factor into their making a purchase.  So Hitwise in not just about what consumers are searching for, but how and why they’re visiting subsequent websites and web pages online. It’s about intent. And, nobody else in the industry is consistently capturing data across multiple web pages at such depth in the long tail. 

We combine that search and navigation behavior with data from Simmons Research on those consumer’s demographics, their lifestyle, and their attitudes. We use that unique combination of what people are searching for and where they’re visiting, along with consumer research data to paint a richer picture of who an audience actually is, what their motivations are, their lifestyle, and their attitudes. 

Then, we set up what we call conversion points, so we can track all the way through to when somebody goes to a checkout page, and their actions on that checkout page. We know when that particular person has moved from inquiry phase to the action phase, and has actually made that purchase. 

Q: So data from the big search engines is not sufficient to build audiences for marketers? 

A: Not really. What marketers really need to think about is that audiences reveal different traits at different parts of the customer journey, from that very early stage of interest and awareness, all the way through to final conversion.

The challenge is that audiences evolve, and the profile of those audiences, in terms of their behaviors and lifestyle, can change significantly from initial attention and interest to when they actually buy. If you only want to reach them on a search results page, you have what you need from that initial search term, but your approach has to be more nuanced if audiences don’t immediately make a purchase. And if that is the case, you’re not going to see how those same consumers are behaving on other websites—your competitor’s for example.

 Give me some real world examples of how brands have used Hitwise data.

A: As an example, an up-market travel operator selling expensive vacations packages historically marketed their Thailand destinations based on the resorts, and the islands that they went to. But our data indicated that this audience (the ones most interested in spending money of these types of vacations), were more interested Thailand’s beaches than resorts. 

It sounds like a really subtle change, but as soon as they began to optimize their content and search around beaches, not locations or islands, they actually had a noticeable change in both the quality of the audience they were attracting, the conversion rate of that audience, and sales.

Q: Hitwise is known for its ability to benchmark how brands or retailers are doing vs. their competitors on an hour-by-hour basis. Why is this important?

A: Whether you are an agency or a brand or a publisher you need to understand exactly what your audience is doing with your competition. Are your competitors winning the battle over valuable visitors to their pages, relative to you? Just how much time are they spending with your competition? What are they searching for there? How are they converting and spending money? And, how does your overall competitive set benchmark versus you?

Publishers and brand sites need to understand how audiences consume their content on an hourly basis. If they’re not engaged, how do sites change their content, even within the day, to react to where consumers are going online for the same information or offers?

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