Focusing on Customer Insight

by Jessica Ramesh Exponential

TF_UK_Headshot-Saul-Stetson copy_230Saul Stetson


Saul Stetson, UK Client Strategy Manager at Tribal Fusion, an Exponential division, tells Figaro Digital about contextualised customer insight and shares some unusual discoveries about BMX fans and Australian kayakers

Marketers have always known that the more deeply you understand your audience, the better placed you are to serve them. Digital media hasn’t just increased the quantity of that information. It’s dramatically altered its quality. From broad patterns of consumer behaviour down to granular accounts of user activity, customer insight is now deeper and more focused than ever before.

Saul Stetson is UK Client Strategy Manager at Tribal Fusion, an online advertising provider that works with brands to help them reach audiences more effectively. Key to their work is contextualisation technology which enables them to categorise – in precise detail – specific areas of content with which users are engaging. “Clients can use that information to optimise campaigns and ensure they’re working efficiently,” says Stetson. So what sort of insights are marketers looking for, and how is that information put to practical use?

Tracking changes in user behaviour

“Imagine I’m a customer of a particular high street retailer,” says Stetson. “When I go on their website I’m tagged with an anonymous tracking pixel.” This, he explains, allows the ad server to track a campaign’s performance, and real-time optimisation technology can then shift ad impressions to the areas that are performing best.

“Then, as I move around the network, advertisers can see what sort of content I’m consuming. And I say ‘content’ as opposed to ‘websites’, because instead of just seeing that this person’s gone to look at a newspaper for example, we can contextualise each and every page under about 50,000 topics. What that means is we can look at that customer and understand their behaviour and the sorts of information they consume as they move around the web, which is, obviously, incredibly useful and often very interesting information.”

The point, of course, is that consumer behaviour doesn’t exist in isolation. Our browsing habits may demonstrate unanticipated blips and traits which other methods of observation might miss or not regard as relevant. As an example of how this information can be practically applied, Stetson cites some work Tribal Fusion undertook for an online recruitment agency.

“They wanted to understand why they were getting a lot of visitors to their website, including people signing up, but not that many people actually posting their CVs.”

With a pixel implanted on the site, says Stetson, it was possible to learn more about the behaviour of users who had – and just as significantly hadn’t – uploaded their CVs, and from that generate some informed insight into broader patterns of activity.

“We found that job-seekers working in sectors like engineering prefer things to be logical and don’t have much patience when it comes to inefficiency. They also tend not to have their own networks within the job sector. That meant engineering-types were more likely to use a recruitment site than someone in another sector who’s a bit more networked and might rely more on word-of-mouth when it comes to looking for a new role.” By sifting through detailed accounts of different types of behaviour – and examining that behaviour in context – advertisers and publishers can adjust their campaigns and content accordingly and then draw on that information to create more focused strategies in the future.

Game on for the Olympics

With UK businesses warming up for the London Olympics, Stetson has also been exploring the behaviour of potential visitors to the games. Among those insights is the discovery that Australian swimming fans are partial to a beer and American golf fans are likely to be searching for a steak. No great surprises there, perhaps. But dig a little deeper and less expected patterns emerge. BMX fans, for example, have a passion for science, gadgets and technology.

“As to why that is,” says Stetson, “it’s open to interpretation. It could be that BMX fans are, by their nature, a little more geeky or technically-minded. They might be on the Xbox rather than playing football. But the truth is, you find customers and behaviours in places you least expect. Indian volleyball fans are 23 times more likely to be interested in luxury watches. Nobody shops for kitchen appliances more than Australian kayakers. That’s the sort of granularity available to us now and it tells you a story about user behaviour. These are some mind-boggling stats out there! We recently did some research around a general online retailer and throughout the year the audience was predominantly male – users were looking at gadgets and so on. But in the run up to Christmas that changed to women – female heads of households and mums. Within the context of an ad network, once you identify certain behaviours that resound well with customers, you can then target those specific behaviours. Even off networks, you can find behaviour in your customers that you never knew existed and you can then target those offline.”

As in any commercial context, what all this reminds us is that users are people first and consumers second; understanding their behaviour in context may well be one of the single most valuable assets marketers have.
Article by Jon Fortgang