Leveraging the latest tech for digital customer acquisition The digital marketing world evolves at a fantastic rate with new concepts and ideas appearing every month from established players and start-ups. The proliferation of software as a service (SAAS) tooling has enabled non-technical staff to quickly establish live digital campaigns and acquire customers for your business – but this only touches the surface of what is possible. The evolution of SAAS For, behind the scenes, the world of technical development is also changing just as rapidly. There has been a gradual split in recent years with large tech-focused corporates like IBM, Microsoft, Google et al. accelerating away from the rest of the field in terms of newer technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence etc. Smaller companies could never hope to keep up with the levels of focused resource these businesses are able to throw at such major challenges. But do they need to? The mighty tech giants provide access to all this technology via APIs, with microservices providing specific elements ready for the developer to build with. This is the evolution of SAAS in that rather than taking a fixed system as a service, developers can take every micro-function as a service and simply pay as they go for what they consume. Combining the building blocks This approach spans across a range of fields so includes future giants like Twilio who provide use of multichannel contact functionality via API. As a developer, you can now quickly create a system that takes in a message from phone, SMS, Facebook messenger and so on, understands the semantics of that message using AI natural language processing engines and then elicits a response based upon your own business logic. Just for good measure, you could throw in calls to a machine learning service to have the system learn how to do a better job next time around! So, developers are being provided with ever more complex building blocks and their job is to combine these in unique ways with their own business specific code to create something new. This evolution has been ongoing for many years, starting with development of reusable components then through a proliferation of more complete development frameworks, which saved ‘rebuilding the wheel’ and allowed more focus on bespoke elements. These more recent and highly-advanced service-based components are a game changer though, providing access to highly complex functionality your average developer or dev team could never build. Advancing targeting intelligence These advances break down barriers and create massive opportunity for those that have development resource that can make use of them. At the Lead Agency, we are focused on just this and have a long list of R&D projects continuously running alongside the ‘business as usual’ to look at how we can adapt such advances into our world. It is such projects that give us the edge in digital customer acquisition. They allow us to target consumers in ever more intelligent ways, ensuring we present them with the right message at the right time in their buying journey. They help us find consumers in places others might not select for targeting and then change the ways we engage with them. It is the use and shaping of such technology that provides us with the ability to create campaigns you can’t run through ‘off-the-shelf’ marketing tools. Evolution of customer acquisition There are numerous examples of TLA projects run over the past 12 months that have utilised these technological advances to change the way we work. We’ve always run our own independent websites which allow us to target and attract in-market consumers using a variety of approaches. This year saw a significant addition to our capability with the launch of our publisher performance marketing system – a tool that enables us to run our performance-based marketing campaigns on third-party publisher websites, bringing a new revenue stream to them and allowing us to increase our consumer reach. Our technology captures page context and, using our specific vertical knowledge, converts this into product data, thereby gaining product-based page context rather than simply keyword level data. With this level of understanding we can then utilise both our own and additional datasets to understand the type of consumer we are dealing with, the competitor model set, product options and current sales trends. We then anonymously attempt to track the consumer across website pages, building a picture of their product interest which we use to determine buying cycle stage. For instance, in the automotive space, if a consumer is reading reviews on a range of vehicles within the same sector, we will most likely consider them to be early in the buying cycle and therefore most likely to engage with a car brochure call to action. As they progress on their journey, the range of vehicles would be expected to decrease and this information can determine when best to target them with test drives or price-based adverts. The ultimate aim is to ensure we present a consumer with the right message at the right time, adapting the wording and approach based on the consumer, website they are visiting and product of interest. Working across a network of mainstream publishers, we are able to reach more consumers and, combined with intelligent targeting, generate incremental consumer enquiries. Our internal validation and qualification processes then convert the most relevant consumer enquiries into sales leads for our clients. This system currently uses a range of API-based software products to enhance its function and we are currently setting up a project with a technology-focused University to advance the machine learning aspect within it. Bots and further automation Another technology we’ve invested in is automated bots; our hypothesis being that if we can engage consumers in online conversation, we believe we can do a better job of converting them into an enquiry. It is still early days for bot technology and we’re not quite at the point of allowing free-flow conversation, but the bot approach does open up opportunities and leads us towards speech-based interaction in future. Our existing bots are powered with vehicle, pricing and dealership datasets and able to offer a range of services to our consumers using a more engaging approach. Again, these rely on AI natural language processing (NLP) services provided by the likes of Microsoft and IBM. We also utilise third-party software services within internal and client facing systems, whether for data validation, provision of our contact centre technology or even our client facing systems that provide real-time data insights and lead audit capability – all part of our customer acquisition platform. So, what’s next? Well, for The Lead Agency and other tech-focused businesses: fantastic opportunities to combine the latest building blocks with business specific expertise and data to create more industry leading technology. Welcome to the world of XAAS (Everything as a service)! Written by Ed Clark, chief technology officer at The Lead Agency Contact us to discuss how your customer acquisition campaigns can benefit from new technology.