So You’ve Got Their Attention — Now What?
How to Make the Most of Your Owned Digital Assets

This year Razorfish and Adobe conducted a study — the first of its kind — on how businesses use their owned properties to target consumers in a meaningful way. This Targeting Readiness Study was based on input from more than 120 U.S. marketing, technology and business executives, and a case study with Delta Air Lines Vice President of Marketing and Digital Commerce, Bob Kupbens. The results: an evaluation framework and recommendations for how to transform your owned properties into powerful channels that speak directly to your customers, and potentially realize triple digit ROI.

Marketers are focused on attracting as many customers as possible into their brand’s purchase funnel. But once a company has a customer’s attention, then what? Enter site-side and owned targeting — making the most out of the digital channels where your company has the most control.

To understand the opportunity to increase engagement and improve the customer experience on owned digital properties, Razorfish and Adobe conducted the first ever Targeting Readiness Study, based on conversations with more than 120 executives including CEOs, CIOs, CTOs and CMOs in the U.S.

By bringing platform, analytics, data activation and experience design together, big results for targeting are tangible for most marketers. This article will tell you how.

A case for change

Let’s start with a real-world example.

Gary fires up his browser and visits his favorite clothing retailer in search of that perfect shirt/pant/tie combo to wear to his first day at the new job. He’s what you might call a brand loyalist — he’s even got a branded platinum credit card.

Gary winces at some of the trendy clothes on display. The retailer is trying to sell him stuff he’ll never buy because he’s always been conservative when it comes to his wardrobe. He spends 20 minutes searching the areas of the site that carry the clothes he likes, finds the perfect outfit and three clicks later, is awaiting free delivery. Experience complete.

If we dissect this visit, it’s clear that Gary’s experience — that of a loyal customer — is undifferentiated. Gary isn’t being treated like a known customer. There’s no targeted experience at his fingertips. Why? Because even though he visits the site frequently and tells the retailer what’s important to him, the brand isn’t paying attention or learning from his previous visits. What does this mean? For Gary, it might not mean much — that is, until another company vies for his attention with an experience that shows they have been listening to him. For the brand, however, this means a lost opportunity for engagement and, maybe, lost revenue.

The Internet is awash with solid, yet untargeted, digital experiences, not unlike Gary’s. With digital advertising spend projected to grow from $32 to $62 billion over the next four years, and social media ad spend increasing to nearly $10 billion simultaneously, marketers are investing heavily in paid and earned marketing, chasing a nearly $330 billion multi-channel commerce prize.[1] Enter the role of site-side targeting on any owned digital asset, where you have direct influence over both content and user experience. Site-side targeting goes far beyond user authentication on your site or loyalty program subscription, although those are both important attributes of sound data collection. When we reference site-side targeting across owned digital channels, we mean listening to our customers and applying that feedback to future interactions. This is about knowing where a customer accesses the site, what they looked at during their last two visits, and predicting how to translate that information into a better experience by utilizing the most relevant content on their next visit.

The benefits?

By combining CRM loyalty data, Adobe SiteCatalyst, and ad-serving behavioral data with third-party audience data, we’ve seen Big Data-fueled targeting implementations yield triple-digit ROI increases for multiple clients.

To deliver these meaningful experiences in real time, businesses need to fully assess their business readiness — including customer strategy, technology, analytics and data-informed dynamic creative delivery.

2012 Razorfish/Adobe Targeting Readiness Study

So how to bring this all together and where to start? In order to answer these questions, we built a targeting readiness framework to assess a company’s ability to capture data (platform), analyze that data for insights (analytics) and empower the business to develop those insights into tailored content (activation) that is realized in a unique customer experience.

Razorfish and Adobe applied this framework to a survey comprised of 120 marketing, technology and business executives who are key decision makers of their owned properties at companies with revenues exceeding $500 million. We also interviewed Delta Air Lines Vice President of Marketing and Digital Commerce, Bob Kupbens, to help illuminate the framework and illustrate our findings. The goal: to determine whether or not a business has what it takes to succeed at each progressive stage of targeting across owned digital properties.

The study revealed that:

  • Business leaders are using traditional pre-digital methods of segmentation, relying largely on historic sales data and missing the opportunity to apply behavioral data learning — which is the core of meaningful digital experiences.
  • Employing traditional data has led to a status quo where acquiring customers is the primary goal. The creation of tailored experiences doesn’t get enough attention, resulting in lower conversion and wasted advertising dollars.
  • The landscape of digital is changing so fast that companies are struggling to determine which digital channels are in their control — often resulting in missed opportunities to create a holistic customer experience perspective.
  • Internal barriers, which include technology and organizational support costs, stop executives from further developing their customer targeting capabilities.

Issue 1. Targeting technology’s full potential is limited by reliance on basic segmentation

“The transactional data that we have today is a very narrow slice. We need to look at the digital footprint [to know] who somebody is and/or what they’re more likely to respond to. We’ve actually got to pull all that [behavioral and transactional data] together and have it be this defined — and I know it’s an overused term — but single view of who the customer is across all of our channels.”
– Bob Kupbens, Vice President, Marketing & Digital Commerce at Delta Air Lines

We expected to see more businesses demonstrating maturity with their site-side segmentation capabilities, especially since 49 percent of survey respondents consider themselves strong at targeting experiences to segmented groups of online audiences. Surprisingly, only 12 percent have implemented the ability to target a recognized segment and measure the results. Just 56 percent of companies said they were in the early stages of developing analytics capabilities, and less than 50 percent were able to recognize a returning/loyal customer versus a prospect. Another 64 percent of businesses are only in the early stages of developing a set of metrics to gauge targeting success, which means that even those who believe they have strong targeting capabilities may not be able to quantify that value.

When we looked at sophistication of data integration and analysis, we found only 15 percent of respondents are actually in the optimized position, and 62 percent rely solely on historic sales and customer profile data to drive segmentation and targeting activities. These brands are missing the human element of consumption — behavioral data – that is largely found through analysis of site-side digital measurement. At a basic level, Web metrics and more complex first- and third-party cookie level data are combined to tell the story of the entire customer experience.

We looked closely at organizations that rated themselves a four or five in their segmentation maturity (see graphic above), in order to understand their owned-asset targeting. Of that subset of respondents, there was a distinct divide — what we call the segmentation divide — with only 36 percent able to deliver a targeted experience to a recognized customer.

When we consider the technology these organizations are investigating or deploying, we see that many are investigating capabilities for site-side targeting, but few have actually implemented targeting capabilities beyond just insights and analytics.

Clearly, there’s a disconnect between what data is being used to develop what executives consider to be strong targeted experiences, and how that data is analyzed, segmented and delivered for targeting.

This lack of targeted experiences could be due to the fact that 58 percent of respondents have defined and implemented a strategy for creative/content development for dynamic reuse, and only 32 percent said their digital ecosystem could support dynamically delivered content across channels.

From this perspective, segmentation is being leveraged mainly for analysis in siloes, rather than for creating tailored experiences. How you use technology — not the technology itself — will define success.

Issue 2. Executives fail to prioritize targeting

“We have a vision of making travel better. With 30 million unique visitors a month coming to our site, the idea of not acknowledging that we have key segments and need to target our audience feels like we’d be really missing something.”
– Bob Kupbens, Vice President, Marketing & Digital Commerce at Delta Air Lines

When we asked executives to tell us how they prioritize their efforts to meet customer expectations, we found that in general, there was a strong focus on improving interactions between channels. Depending on the role within the organization, however, the executive priorities differed: CEOs focused on implementing real-time communication; CTOs tried to stay ahead of privacy concerns; CIOs and CMOs focused heavily on immediate responsiveness across channels. Surprisingly, our study revealed that personalization is lowest on the priority scale — personalization being a direct result of better-targeted content and experiences in owned channels.

This isn’t surprising, considering that 49 percent of respondents believe they are already providing a targeted experience to their customers on their owned properties. We also found that 59 percent believe they are using their data to target the segments that will provide the most value to their business, despite the fact that 56 percent are only in the early stages of developing their analytics capabilities, if at all.

This lack of prioritization is evident in the lack of maturity — or ability to target — since only 12 percent claim to have the ability to target a specific customer segment and measure the results for optimization.

The survey tells us that targeting uses traditional methods of segmentation analysis to fuel digital experiences. We see an executive disconnect between segmentation development and digital execution because 55 percent can’t use their data to tell which customers to grow, win back, retain, or acquire — and 52 percent believe they are in the early stages of recognizing a customer against their segmentation strategy and delivering a targeted experience.

Issue 3. Businesses must evolve paid, earned and owned assets to create cross-channel value

“Our product managers used to have the view that they were building something for the site and all the functionality should be oriented toward the site. We said, ‘No, no, no. Now you have to design for the site but also mobile and, oh by the way, for a couple other digital channels like social and in-flight entertainment’.”
– Bob Kupbens, Vice President, Marketing & Digital Commerce at Delta Air Lines

Our survey suggests that businesses still struggle to decipher which digital properties they own or control, and how to extract the most unified customer value from those channels.

It is only in the last two to three years that agencies and marketers have started talking about their marketing mix as paid, owned and earned. If you asked a marketer just five years ago what they considered their owned digital assets (providing they knew what that meant), they’d most likely say their Web site and email. However, marketers are now surrounded by customer touch points that they control directly.

Today’s reality is that .com may not be your primary owned channel, because the scope of what constitutes an “owned” channel is merging with other territories. Knowing that every interaction, regardless of channel, has the potential to create value, we need to rethink siloed ways of organizing experiences from paid, earned and owned, and start considering all channels’ opportunities to learn more about customers and deliver experiences that we can control.

While we expected that close to 100 percent of businesses would consider their .com site an owned property, there were much fewer. Results show that only 82 percent of these companies view .com as an owned channel, and 50 percent consider mobile part of their owned assets. They’re leaning toward mobile app creation versus mobile Web sites.

Noteworthy, however, is the shift in perception regarding social. Facebook actually trumped mobile, as 60 percent consider the social network an owned channel. The dynamics of the changes on these social sites — for instance, brand pages transitioning from the old Facebook layout to timeline — are making it clear why there is so much investment and focus on these channels. A company has to invest just to keep up.

We also asked executives to weigh in on one of the newest social phenomena: Pinterest, now the third-largest social media platform. Even with its rapid growth, we were still astonished to see that a full 10 percent of respondents now consider this part of their owned digital ecosystem.

Additionally, of the 18 percent of respondents who don’t consider .com an owned property, we found that 55 percent — just four points below email — consider Facebook to be owned.

Thanks to technology with predictive capabilities, we’ve discovered that this focus actually makes it more efficient for marketers to focus on their right/best customers, without undue burden.

This is achieved by:

  • Understanding what customers respond to and implementing technology to continuously test and understand customer preferences.
  • Building the content development team so they are less focused on trying to speak to a broad segment, and more focused on tailoring messaging to the micro-segment, which can be tested in small sample sizes for efficiency.
  • Creating content assets in parts that can be assembled dynamically through smart content management systems like Adobe CQ5. This way the same creative components can be reused, but served in a way that is more meaningful to a targeted group of consumers.

“Organizationally, we’ve addressed [this issue] by pulling within a single team all of the marketing, brand, CRM, and social teams, as well as all the ecommerce personalization work. We’ve put that together into one organization specifically for the purpose of not having separate data sources or separate teams that are accountable for managing and utilizing that separate data.”
– Bob Kupbens, Vice President, Marketing & Digital Commerce at Delta Air Lines

The opportunities we’ve articulated so far can only be realized if there’s business support and resources to make them happen. In our study, we found that the largest barriers to realizing greater site-side segmentation are costs associated with technology and people. Interestingly, most respondents didn’t consider low expected ROI as a barrier, and only 18 percent considered lack of clear value proposition a hindrance. So the case for site-side segmentation and targeting is understood, but is increasingly becoming a competing priority for limited business resources.

We are sensitive to these considerations, but also realize that investments in today’s technology actually work smarter to deliver value in months, rather than years. When you consider the expense of implementing technology like Adobe Test&Target, SiteCatalyst, and CQ5, compared to the major enterprise CRM implementations of the past, the cost pales in comparison and the ROI timeline is much shorter.

From an organizational standpoint, we also recognize that businesses are built over time, and that each area of the business tends to build infrastructure that supports their specific functions. The result is an organization that is siloed by data, as much as anything else.

Only 24 percent of companies have implemented a process for creative development so that content can be served dynamically and reused across segments. If you’re working with a forward-thinking agency, they should easily be able to accomplish this.

Considerations for the site-side targeting path ahead

1. Develop your blueprint for business readiness

We believe every business will be well served by a customer-targeting blueprint that focuses on how to improve site-side customer experiences. Based on this survey, Razorfish and Adobe developed a framework to assess your targeting readiness, and to compare it to a general and industry-specific benchmark.

The four dimensions of the model presented earlier in this article (platform, analytics, activation and experience), can help us quickly define areas where you can focus your business to improve your site-side segmentation capabilities. This becomes your site-side targeting blueprint. You can also review your company’s performance, as compared to your industry, to determine areas where you may achieve competitive advantage. Your unique roadmap will help siloed teams work toward programs that ensure you focus your funds efficiently, and guarantee that you are bringing customers into an experience that is optimized to meet their needs.

2. Determine your level of targeting sophistication

While you assess your business and develop your blueprint, we expect that you will also begin a process of constantly re-evaluating your performance across the platform, analytics, activation and experience dimensions. During this process, we typically see companies progress through the following levels of targeting sophistication:

  • Baseline) Start testing, start learning. If you are not using your digital channels as opportunities to learn the basics about your customers, you’re missing a great opportunity. You can always take single or a collection of data points — think geography, for instance — and test customized content. This approach may not produce triple-digit gains, but you will most likely see some immediate opportunities to improve conversion.
  • Level 1) Cross-channel insights. A unified, cross-channel view of your customer data means you can then conduct analysis and emerge with a single view of the customer that will fuel future experience and content development.
  • Level 2) Informed media. Data from owned properties, combined with enterprise transactional data, is integrated and used to control media bidding and re-messaging for off-network personalization, which opens the pathways for more efficient and qualified audience buys for the right kind of prospective customers.
  • Level 3) Dynamic targeting in a single channel. Data from cross-channel analysis focused on building experiences, measuring performance within single channels, and being aware that your blueprint will help keep you aligned to the ultimate goal of cross-channel targeting.
  • Level 4) Dynamic, omnichannel targeting. Strong technology platforms, advanced analytics, content creation strategy and organizational support translate into a seamless customer experience, regardless of online/offline, or which device the customer uses to engage.
  • Level 5) Omnichannel retail and service. Digital is optimized for targeting across all channels and now the focus is making in-person interactions as guided as digital, enabling the sales process, for instance, to start in-store and finish at home.

3. Drive collaboration among creative and technology teams

When your organization last developed its Web site, an app, or a social media program — or bought paid media, created retail experiences or started a customer service channel — how much effort was put into targeting concepts? We no longer need to limit our experiences. Empower technology like Adobe Test&Target 1:1 and Tumri to dynamically assemble content and visual elements. For full desktop, mobile, or application experiences, this can be much more wide-ranging, including the use of data to improve navigation and search — an intersection of paid and owned channels.

Any use of data targeting without a needs/expectations-based user experience will fall flat. That’s where Adobe’s vision of combining data-fueled insights with targeted content bridges the data/experience gap. With CQ5.5 (the latest version of CQ5, Adobe’s Web content management and optimization technology), we are able to directly tie creative visual and copy content with the targeting data we’ve captured through various customer touch points. In fact, at Razorfish creative teams can work in the Adobe Creative Suite (such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, etc.) and go directly into CQ5.5, where the new creative can be immediately served to targeted audiences. Marketing capabilities — from strategy through execution — are now essentially stitched together between the infinite ways we can target experiences using data, and the creative producers making the experience delightful.

4. Think about big technology vendors for complete solutions — but consider solution design expertise to accelerate benefits

As big technology vendors increasingly make fully integrated solutions possible, organizations who’ve bought a best-of-breed solution stack can gain a competitive edge and incremental benefits from partnering with expert solution designers. The difference in realizing those triple-digit percentage ROI benefits is in the way you piece it all together. Service-oriented technology partners add a unique mix of people and process to your existing teams — propelling technology transformation and innovation without requiring a major overhaul of your day-to-day operations.

By establishing cross-team leadership that includes your in-house teams, technology vendors and solution design partners, you can leverage existing tried-and-true capabilities, complemented by new technology and software as a service (SaaS) data integration offerings. The result will be faster returns from your technology investments.

This infusion of new thinking for problem solving can make all the difference when planning the roll out of a platform roadmap — taking into account your business objectives and readiness to support the delivery of new experiences. So if you’re looking to gain greater organizational investment, support and greater testing capability in the short term, Test&Target may be the right initial investment and starting point for you, given that it’s light weight, stand alone, quick to market and can be integrated with new or existing segmentation models.

5. Business strategy and measurement — don’t forget the basics

To establish a vision and maintain focus on targeting for big results, align targeting capabilities behind a single business strategy, a measurement plan and ongoing learning at the customer level. Integrating cross-channel insights and value management around the customer experience will clarify what activities and investments are required to satisfy your objectives.

“Let’s not go mine data and blast 1,000 different experiences for 1,000 different segments and then try to statistically figure out what works. Instead, let’s start with a business hypothesis that relates to what value we’re trying to create. Focus on what customer behavior you’re trying to incent and change. Then use your data and technology to enable these channels to do just that. If you don’t know what you want, you’re never going to get it.”
– Bob Kupbens, Vice President, Marketing & Digital Commerce at Delta Air Lines

Mr. Kupbens is absolutely right — we have to consider our business’ end goals. We have to envision the future engagement and interaction we want our customers to have with our brands. Then, using technology, dynamic creative and insights, we can go out and make it happen.

Learn more about how you can increase engagement and improve the customer experience on owned digital properties during a targeting webinar. Mark Taylor and Cory Cruser, from Razorfish’s Consumer Insights team, will cover highlights from the 2012 Razorfish/Adobe Targeting Readiness Study, and answer your questions. Email us to RSVP.



  1. ˆ “Comparative Insights: Online Advertising Spend (U.S.),”, accessed March 25, 2012.

Written By

Mark Taylor VP, Consumer Insights LinkedIn
Cory Cruser Director, Consumer Insights Twitter

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