Q&A With Omniture’s CEO

My last column discussed Omniture’s acquisition of Touch Clarity and what it might mean for the market as a whole. My comments focused on the challenges ahead for the two companies as they integrate their offerings and deliver even more value to customers. Response to the column was incredible. I received a considerable amount of feedback from marketers supporting my position and quite a bit of skepticism about technology automating marketing.

I fundamentally believe convergence in the vendor space will be good for customers and that technologies like Touch Clarity help drive marketers to take real action based on their Web analytics. So I had some questions for Omniture’s CEO Josh James about the acquisition, and he was kind enough to send over his responses.

Shane Atchison: Why did Omniture purchase Touch Clarity versus other behavioral targeting or optimization companies?

Josh James: The simple answer is that Touch Clarity is the best targeting technology in the market and is years ahead of the others. I know that might sound self-serving, but it’s an objective conclusion we made after months of due diligence and looking at everyone in the market. We have a great number of the most sophisticated marketing organizations in the world using our online optimization solutions, and we had to find the absolute best technology out there to complement what we’ve painstakingly built and refined with their feedback.

There are two main considerations when learning about this space that matter to marketing executives. The first is the ability of a solution to generate ongoing measurable uplift, and the second is the amount of automation built into the solution to achieve that uplift by targeting at an individual visitor level. Rules-based solutions and segment-based solutions don’t have nearly the same level of automation as Touch Clarity does with its continuous self-learning algorithms, nor do they target with the same level of precision. Other technologies in the market either target at segmented buckets of visitors or use a fairly “simple to create but difficult to actually manage” set of business rules which are effectively hardwired into a site. Neither of these approaches has the ease of use that marketers need nor the high level of uplift Touch Clarity brings that online businesses now demand.

SA: How can it be possible that Touch Clarity delivers “automated revenue and profit uplift”?

JJ: I understand your initial skepticism. I was skeptical, too, until I saw how it worked and the results it delivers to customers. Touch Clarity’s roots are in complex mathematical algorithms, rigorous direct marketing, and automated machine learning. In fact, it has an elite academic advisor community behind it and prestigious awards to its credit. The Touch Clarity Targeting solution was very thoughtfully and diligently designed using real customers over the past six years to maximize the automation of delivering the right content to each visitor and measuring its own effectiveness in doing so. It’s important to state that the automation factor within the solution doesn’t eliminate the need for marketing professionals or agencies. In fact, what it creates is a scenario where marketers get to focus less on technology and more on real marketing again, such as strategy, creative design, developing compelling offers and copy, etcetera. We absolutely see a key role for our agency and marketing consulting partners in helping our customers enhance their creative content for their campaigns.

Now, marketers and their agencies can focus on strategic marketing issues, and design and test a more robust range of content from extremely creative and risk-taking to more predictable and safe, and the Touch Clarity solution will automatically learn which’s most effective, and for which visitors, and manage the complexity of that decision. So, in effect, what you have is a solution where individual customers determine what the most relevant content is for themselves by their level of engagement. Meanwhile, marketers can focus on building the next brilliant campaign and creative options, which is much more exciting work than managing business rules or agonizing over the data to determine a universal clear winner for the typical visitor. As a CEO, that’s precisely what I want my marketing team spending their time on.

[I can’t argue with Josh about that final point. Marketing teams can become too focused on the data and lose sight of their unique value in the enterprise.]

SA: How much uplift should a customer expect, and how long will it take to achieve that?

JJ: There are several factors that ultimately determine the level of uplift, but in general the ones that make the biggest differences are the amount of traffic a site gets today, the content or real estate enabled for targeting, and the diversity of content used to target to each visitor.

Touch Clarity customers have typically seen 20 to 200 percent uplift for targeted content areas on their sites, and they start to see their conversion and revenue metrics increasing within the first month, which is truly instant gratification.

SA: How does a customer know precisely which uplift to attribute to Touch Clarity targeting?

JJ: Touch Clarity has always been its own toughest grader in determining its impact on customer results. They have built a solution that precisely calculates the uplift in conversion, revenue and profit by targeting using a concurrent control group which allows the customer to log into the reporting system and see exactly the uplift versus the content they would otherwise have served. It’s another big differentiator. By offering complete transparency, the Touch Clarity folks have seen phenomenal customer expansion opportunities and renewal rates.

SA: Does Touch Clarity help increase conversion rates from search-driven traffic?

JJ: Yes, and this is a very important area for marketers. Touch Clarity analyzes hundreds of variables in determining which content to serve for each visitor. As you can imagine, the keywords used at search engines to reach a site are extremely predictive. For organic search, Touch Clarity customers can very cleverly place targeting containers on pages that rank highly in organic, or natural, searches, then leverage the targeting system to serve content that relates directly to that search keyword or phrase. This allows sites with a highly ranked home page that displays a very broad message and set of products to all visitors to be significantly more targeted based on what that visitor has stated they’re interested in on the search engine. Of course, this practice is used commonly for PPC campaigns to control integrated landing pages, but now marketers have that same ability in organic searches, which still represents a substantial share of search referrals.

SA: When will Touch Clarity be integrated with other Omniture solutions?

JJ: The products are already integrated via the Omniture Universal Tag. Touch Clarity was an accredited integration partner at the December launch of our plug-and-play online marketing solution called Genesis. This is great news for our customers since they’re already tagged to implement Touch Clarity. With this head start, we’re that much more excited that we can provide an integrated solution right now.

Conclusion

This is a great first step in integration. Using plug-and-play technology, Web services, open APIs (define), and so on is a great way to get multiple products to work together, but it’s not true integration. To me, and to many of our clients, integration means there’s a clear and unified roadmap for technology and products, there are benefits from integration on the back end that can’t be achieved through a best-of-breed combination, and customers can invest in a platform instead of just products. Hopefully, this is where Omniture and Touch Clarity are headed.

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