Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Visual IQ Measures Impact of Online Campaigns

Visual IQ promises to “solve your dilemma of capturing, integrating, analyzing and understanding your marketing performance data.” Word choice aside*, this promises exactly what I want from a marketing measurement system. Within limits, Visual IQ appears to deliver.

First a bit of background. Visual IQ is the name adopted in February 2008 by Connexion.a, a firm founded in 2005 with roots in online marketing measurement. The goal was (and is) to help marketers do a better job of allocating their budgets by comparing results across channels. The particular focus has been digital channels—display ads, paid search, organic search, affiliate programs, mobile, etc.—although the company can analyze data from conventional channels as well. The core technology is an “Online Intelligence Platform” that integrates data from all sources and presents it in a way that shows the value of each campaign. This happens in three system modules, each representing a higher level of sophistication.

  • IQ Reporter accepts campaign-level inputs and presents campaign-level results. These can be from one or multiple channels and incorporate plan, actual and syndicated competitive information. The value is being able to view data from different sources and multiple channels in a single reporting system. Visual IQ has developed some attractive tools for reporting and analysis. Technically these are quite impressive, using Adobe Flex technology to deliver rich interactive analytics through a browser.

  • IQ Envoy steps up to individual-level data from cookies, transactions and other sources. It consolidates this by customer to view contacts across campaigns. Since individual-level data involves much more volume than campaign statistics, Visual IQ extracts selected attributes from each channel’s inputs and loading them into a proprietary database. This compresses the data for storage and decompresses it for analysis. The system can automatically poll for new data on what the company calls a “near real time” basis, which is usually daily but can be more often if appropriate. The attributes extracted for each channel are defined in a standard data model, which makes it easier to set up new clients and add new channels to existing clients.

    Managing data at the customer level lets the system look across campaigns to find all contacts leading up to an interaction such as a purchase. This lets Visual IQ apply statistical methods to estimate the contribution that each contact made to the final result. These models can look across contact attributes, such as campaigns, web sites, keywords, creative treatments, and dates, to better understand the exact elements that are driving response. Such information lets marketers allocate funds to the most effective treatments--a major step towards true marketing optimization.

    The challenge here is the scope of information available to analyze. Visual IQ relies primarily on ad server cookies to track the messages received by each individual. This automatically creates a history of ads served by the ad network itself. But it requires additional coordination for the ad server to track organic search, paid search and affiliate campaigns. Information other channels, both online and offline, requires additional identifiers. Typically it would depend on establishing the actual user identity at the time of a transaction, and then linking this to identifiers in other channels. For example, an online purchase might capture an email address that could be linked to an email account, and capture an actual name and postal address that could be linked to a mailing list or regional media market. Exactly how much information will be available will depend on the situation and has little to do with Visual IQ itself. (Of course, you could argue that having Visual IQ available to analyze the data gives marketers a stronger reason to take the effort to gather it.)

    Just to be clear: cookies are inherently anonymous. Tying them to individuals requires information from an external source. Visual IQ can effectively analyze contact history of a given cookie without knowing the identity of its owner.

  • IQ Sage uses the individual information to build customer profiles and to model the paths followed by customers as they head towards a purchase. These models can simulate the impact of changes in marketing programs, such as increasing spending on programs to move customers from one stage of the purchase cycle to the next, or switching funds to programs that attract different types of customers. Optimization can recommend changes that would produce the best over-all results.

Visual IQ offers its products as a hosted service with monthly fees ranging from $7,500 to $25,000. Cost depends largely on which components are used, with some additional fees for data storage. The company may adopt volume-based pricing in the future. Visual IQ has 14 clients, including very large advertisers, agencies and Web publishers. Although a majority of its clients use the system only for campaign-level reporting, about one-third work with cookie-level data.

*The primary definition of “dilemma” is “a situation requiring a choice between equally undesirable alternatives.” (Dictionary.com) I don’t think that really applies here. Presumably Visual IQ has in mind the secondary meaning of “any difficult or perplexing situation or problem.”

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