Sunday, November 18, 2018

Audience Manager Segmentation Strategy

Organizations spend millions of dollars collecting data about its customers but is that enough? No it's not, because data is stored in raw format in enterprise level solutions such as Adobe Analytics and Adobe Audience Manager and unless this data is made actionable, there's no real value in collecting it. Decision makers in any organization are tasked with either selling more products, creating awareness or growing their customers and want concise data to gauge where prospective customers are and how they're engaging with their brand. How do we help them make all this data actionable and easy to digest?

It's done by slicing and dicing the data into meaningful and digestible chunks which is achieved by segmentation. Segmentation and activation is one of the core components of Audience Manager or any Data Management Platform for that matter. Let's dive into the various steps I recommend that you can take to leverage segmentation efficiently in AAM. 

Define your Goals

It's very easy to go crazy while creating segments and this is where they can spiral out of control and you can end up with hundreds of meaningless segments. To avoid this, it's always a good idea to take a step back and figure what do we actually want to do with this data and leverage the platform efficiently. Knowing what kind of data you want to bring into AAM is one thing but creating actionable segments is another. No analysis can be complete without knowing what the final objective is so it's imperative for you to define your goals keeping in mind the DMP.

Build a Governance Plan

I cannot stress how important it is to control who has access to the platform. I've seen too many implementations where access is given to external agencies who either are not aware of existing guidelines around trait/segment structure and either create new or delete existing segments that they're not supposed to. It often makes sense to first keep segment creation in-house and then slowly bring in other agencies who need to be made aware of your DMP's nomenclature and taxonomy guidelines. A good to way to enforce governance in Audience Manager is by leveraging Role Based Access Controls that allows you to provide read/write access only to specific types of audiences.

Create Incoming Signals using Data Explorer

Audience Manager segments are created using traits which are raw signals that capture different types of data and no segmentation strategy can even begin without knowing what traits we want to capture and how to leverage them. Even though we are discussing segments, our segment strategy needs to be aligned with traits as they both have to go hand in hand with each other. So, the first step is to identify traits that we need to create which will eventually be used in your segments. We can easily do that by leveraging Data Explorer (see screenshot) which is a newly added feature in Audience Manager. I'm already a fan of this feature and highly recommend that you use this to create traits.

Folder Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Once relevant traits have been built and identified, it makes a ton of sense to have a consistent and scalable folder taxonomy and nomenclature. In my experience, having some level of granularity in the trait/segment name has worked out well. As an example for a large enterprise client, we followed a strict nomenclature that mirrored the folder structure along with the right amount of granularity to make sense as well as be concise. Below is a sample folder structure and taxonomy that I usually go with but it may or may not work for everyone so it's important to define it based on your business. The most important thing is to get buy-in from everyone and then follow this consistently in the platform.

Build Segments

Segments are primarily broken in four parts (and others) which are as follows and these can be built directly in Audience Manager: 

  1. Geographical: These can be built in Audience Manager using traits created based on the 'd_' platform level variables such as d_country, d_city etc.
  2. Demographic: These are built from on-boarded traits that are typically created using CRM data. I wrote about how to bring this type of data into AAM and create traits.
  3. Online Behavior: This is usually online web data captured using Adobe Analytics or media data tied to digital advertising on other sites.
  4. Psychographic: These can be built using a variety of third party segments that are tied to lifestyle, income, hobbies etc. and are easily accessible via the AAM Marketplace

Earlier this year, I wrote in detail about the types of segments (use cases) we can build using a DMP. Let's take a look at a segment that leverages both 1st party media data with instant suppression built-in for frequency capping and third party marketplace traits. Note that you can click on the 'Calculate Estimates' button to see potential reach before saving it.

Even though 90% of your segmentation needs can be met directly in Audience Manager, below are some cases where you'll have to share segments from Adobe Analytics to AAM as the DMP doesn't really have the same tracking mechanism as other analytics solution. I wrote about it in detail earlier.

  • Visit based segments tied to visit number
  • Time based segments such as time spent on page/site or time parting
  • Mobile metrics such as upgrades and launches
  • Survey data or some online other data not captured in AAM
  • Revenue related segments from Analytics

One thing to avoid is to NOT share segments unnecessarily from Analytics if they can be created in AAM as there is a limit of only 20 segments that can be shared via the Experience Cloud. If you need more segments, you can leverage Audience Library. This is one of the most common mistakes I've seen clients make where they'll simply share segments from Analytics to AAM when they could've just created them in AAM.

Segment Mapping and Activation 

Now that you've built your segments, you would want to share those with various Demand Side Platform or others tools for marketing activation. One easy thing to do while mapping AAM segments to external destinations is to set an expiration date to avoid continuously sending data after a campaign or initiative is over (shown below). 

Segment Traffic Monitoring and Cleanup

Finally, I'd suggest that you add some kind of process around looking at your existing segments to see if there are any segments that haven't been receiving any traffic for the last 60-90 days and it might sense to archive them (separate folder) if there's no data being captured. You can leverage General Reports in AAM to do that. In the folder taxonomy section, I included the year as an attribute in the segment name so, if you have segments that were used the prior year that are no longer being used now, it'll make sense to archive them. This recommendation wouldn't really apply directly to traits unless those traits were used in a media campaign launched in the past as traits can be reused in different segments.

Now that we've gone through the various steps that I recommend as part of a segmentation strategy in AAM, I'm sure I've missed a few that you might be using in your organization. What kind of segmentation strategy have you defined for your DMP?