Five minutes with James Green, CEO of Magnetic

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Executive discusses data and how to understand the customer journey

As CEO of Magnetic Media, the developer of search-retargeting software that gathers e-commerce information to target advertising, James Green spends a lot of time trying to understand the customer journey — including what advertisers don't understand about it. We talked to him about his own journey and how Magnetic is using data to help clients get smarter. 

What are your biggest opportunities and challenges for the next 12 to 24 months?
Outside of a handful of enormous tech giants, we're lucky to be one of the few companies that has a data pool to allow us to really understand people's needs and desires. We are working on an exciting project to show this data graphically and allow our clients to model how their customers are different from the norms — not only for advertising purposes but for literally any purpose, including product design, company direction, or competitive analysis.

Making such a diverse set of data understandable graphically is absolutely our No. 1 opportunity, but also our biggest challenge.

What are some unmet needs in the marketing technology landscape?
Everyone is trying desperately to understand the "customer journey." You see some big companies that offer their clients products that claim to show this journey, but it only includes the client's own data. The only company that has some percentage of their customers using their site only for research purposes is Amazon.

The truth about a customer's journey is that they are jumping around all over the place. This includes the site where they eventually purchase, but also when they're doing research in other locations and looking at competitive alternatives. Capturing all of that information so that it can be used for marketing and advertising is the Holy Grail.

What's the hardest thing to educate clients about?
For us, the hardest thing is helping them understand the difference between prospecting and remarketing and why you need to pay more for one than the other. Intuitively everyone understands that it's more expensive to persuade someone who has never bought from you to purchase something than it is to persuade an existing customer to buy again.

But once campaigns are running and the rubber hits the road, we hear again and again that the metrics used for remarketing should be the same as prospecting. The companies who get it right are those who split their marketing budgets into separate buckets with separate metrics — not just on what it will cost to convert, but allowing for view through credit (ads that are seen but not interacted with) and testing awareness lift.

Why is there a gap between consumers' expectations and retailers' marketing realities? Why are marketers missing the mark?
The fundamental imbalance between consumers and marketers is the classic imbalance between buyers and sellers whenever sellers outnumber buyers — which is the case in most retail or retail-like experiences. In this case, you'll always get some sellers that are screaming and yelling to be heard above the din. But no one likes to be screamed at, yelled at, or followed when they've said no. I'm doubtful that we'll ever be able to completely get rid of it because of the deep rooted desire and need for marketers to make money and sell stuff. The more up-market you go, the fewer sellers there are, the less imbalance, and the better the buying experiences. This will probably always be true.

As consumers are increasingly looking for more personalized experiences, what barriers are there in delivering this across channels and devices?
There's a massive disconnect in the market between consumers desire for privacy and their desire to have a personalized experience. These two forces work exactly opposite one another. The only way to have a personalized experience across the mobile web, apps, desktops and every other electronic device is for the person delivering the service to you to know that each of these devices are you.

And if we know that you own all of these devices, then we'll always know what you visit and what you buy. Most people understand this, but there will always be a vocal minority that think it's abhorrent. Solving the identity problem across devices is the number one hurdle, but Magnetic along with a range of other companies is working on a solution.

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