Rowena Humby, Starcount: "Embrace the change"

“Embrace the change”

Change is coming – whether we want it or not. So much is clear. With 2023 right around the corner more companies are looking to find a solution that fits perfectly. And while some are looking to find the Holy Grail, others are actually embracing the change and supporting the decision of big tech companies such as Apple and Google to remove third-party cookies and focus more on consumer privacy and data security.

In the tenth episode of our Identity Architects podcast our Sales Director Jess Bradley sat down with Rowena Humby, CEO at Starcount, to discuss identity, the cookieless future, data collaborations, how data can be used to improve the customer experience, and more.

“Don’t be afraid, be excited. Embrace the change and adapt. Try new things, test and learn. […] And don’t give up on the first attempt because when something works it will be incredibly exciting and these big disruptions are when some of the most exciting innovations reveal themselves.”

It is so important to test and learn, try out different things because there are multiple solutions that can enable companies to thrive and overcome their current challenges. One of these solutions is to collaborate directly with other companies – media owners, data owners, agencies, and more – for example through data clean rooms. But there will also be those that choose to bury their heads in the sand until the change can no longer be ignored.

“It’s a complex shift because no one wants to pass on knowledge for the ad spend to go elsewhere. But ultimately if we all remember what we are trying to do, whether a brand or a media owner, we are trying to reach new and existing customers. We are trying to engage the people that care about our brand, and I think we will all succeed by creating a better experience for the customer by collaborating. Those that resist the change are ultimately going to lose out because they may not share their knowledge with other parties but all that means is they are not gaining the benefits of sharing across the board.” 

Historically companies don’t trust each other – especially with their data. That’s just the reality of it. With new solutions coming to market, such as data clean room solutions, we can now remove that need to share data and actually remove the need to trust each other with their data. This opens up so many collaborative opportunities that will benefit everyone. Companies prepared to embrace this way of working will not only enhance the customer experience but also see significant growth. Because after all, it’s all about the customer, optimizing their brand experience. 

First-party data is the obvious go-to to understand customers and it’s a good starting point but there is only a certain view you can get from your own first-party data based on how those individuals interact with your business. That data is valuable because there's no better way to model out a new audience than looking at the people that are already high-value customers or have already shown interest in your solution. With the obvious changes coming in 2023, what should companies do now to prepare?

“We can no longer track an individual around the internet as we’ve been able to do before but we can still understand their behaviors and we can still learn from each other and use those behaviors to enrich our understanding of who that person is in terms of the things they care about and what they read about, things that they buy. […] I think the starting point is always to understand your customers through behavior, through your own data and enrichment data sets help fill in the gaps. […] Understanding more about your customer groups – how they live their lives beyond shopping with you as a brand – so you can start to segment your audience understanding the different reasons that your customers connect with you as a brand and why they buy.”

One solution already mentioned to solve for a cookie-free world is data clean rooms, but there are more solutions the industry is embracing. 

“If you look at the three solutions that are being championed the most for the demise of the cookie. It's clean room technology such as InfoSum to facilitate data sharing and collaboration in knowledge. It's contextual audiences, no longer targeting people based on just ID behavior but the fact that they display the contextual behaviors that are important for that brand and that brand's proposition.

And I think the final one for me is the opportunity to focus more on creative in a digital environment. I think the work that goes into creative for some above-the-line marketing in TV ads and things like that. Digital has kind of become a lot more. It can be used as quite a transactional channel. And I think that it's an opportunity as a brand to start to say our customers shop with us for different reasons and if we tailor the creative to the right contextual audience through the knowledge shared in clean rooms that's going to be the full-house solution. In creating relevant marketing to the audiences that actually care and igniting them to engage with you as a brand.”

With that in mind, if we can get the creative right for each person we have an opportunity to not just have meaningful engagement with customers but also really enhance that engagement, nurture them and give them something they want rather than continuing with just throwing ads at people. That way we can overcome the advertising fatigue that a lot of customers are suffering from.

“Less is more. Being more relevant. And a lot of the work we do with our clients […] is to not bombard them with three emails a week but make it really relevant and focusing your efforts on personalizing the communication and spending the time to build those segments and tailor the creative. […] You’re going to see better response and you’re going to turn off less customers and less are going to unsubscribe.”

To summarize in one sentence, it is about quality instead of quantity, getting the right message to the right people at the right time.

“We only see what we want to see. Ultimately people don’t read ads, they read what interests them if you can get your ad in front of someone because it’s timely.”

Absolutely. And it all comes down to embracing the change and putting the customer first.

Thanks, Rowena Humby, for the chat.