Some new features for WHYanalytics – and a word of thanks to our 270 beta partners

I’m the lead product manager for the suite of WHY products, VisualDNA’s new audience visualisation tools for publishers, advertisers, e-commerce companies and agencies.

Since launching the first beta of WHYanalytics in June, we’ve made great progress in developing the tools with more than 270 companies currently signed-up and using the product: traditional news publishers, online retailers and services businesses large and small from across the globe.

In particular the response from retailers has been fantastic.  Since we have the technology to profile any site visitor in real-time, it’s possible for us to power an automated, personalised, shopping experience through our API.

For example, if you know any given visitor to your website is in-market for a holiday, and/or is a relatively conservative spender a retailer can give prominence to products that suit that individual.  We’re a way off being able to offer this as an off-the-shelf feature in WHYanalytics but we’re running some tests with a major UK supermarket retailer to see how this could work in practice.

As this is our first analytics product, we’ve experienced a very steep learning curve and while in many aspects we were technically ready to scale the beta programme, we have struggled to meet the increasing demand on the customer support front. As a result we’re currently expanding our team in order to streamline how we consolidate feedback and feed it into the product-development process. To those of you who have been involved, a big thanks.

The feedback we have received so far has been extremely valuable and is behind some of the key changes we’ve made to the product in recent weeks;

  • Segment reaches are a useful metric for seeing what the composition of your site is. We’ve now also introduced indices – metric highlighting uniqueness of a segment for a particular site or a section compared to a base – the entire universe of VisualDNA profiles.  Moving forwards, we’re planning to expand this functionality to allow website owners to choose a base of their liking whether it is a section of their site or an entire industry sector.
  • Another key change is a new look of the Snapshot view.  The ‘widgetised’ dashboard allows us to present more data points at glance (demographics, intent and brand preferences as well as our emotive segmentation). This was a very important first step in an attempt to make the page adaptable for various screen sizes but also in preparation for making it customisable on per user basis.
  • And finally, we’ve made the signup process much smoother; after completing a simple one-step registration process you can delve right into the tool – no need to go back to your email to click on a confirmation link. Yes, we hate those as well!

We’re big advocates of single login and hence anyone who has already signed up and deployed code for WHYanalytics will be able to use the same sign in to access WHYcampaigns – a new product coming soon that will allows advertisers and agencies to see who’s interacting with their campaign from the moment an ad is shown on the network through to conversion.

Another product – WHYplanner – also coming soon, will allows agencies and planners to browse and discover VisualDNA audience segments and combine these to create a target audience in an answer to a campaign brief. Since no code is required to use this product – that won’t require a sign in at all. Follow us on twitter or this blog using Feedburner RSS or email for updates.

Finally – thanks to all our beta partners for your ongoing support and for helping us to build a better product. If you’ve not yet signed up and want to try it out simply visit http://why.visualdna.com. It’s free.

Reaching beyond demographics

I joined VisualDNA earlier this year from Google to lead the media sales team – and after almost 10 years in the business the technological advances have been mind-blowing. Exciting as this is, the art of marketing, media-buying, timing and nuance is being replaced by machines. Define your audience, set your budget, input your criteria into your media exchange of choice and off you go. It’s a growing trend too, some 25% of all UK online ad spend in 2012 ran through RTB platforms and most experts expect that percentage to grow further and faster.

But as the ad world becomes more efficient and effective at trying to reach the right person with the right ad at the right time, it’s getting a bit soulless, disconnected from real human connection. For all the insights the internet can deliver, and disruption it’s caused to traditional mass media companies – advertisers still rely largely on demographics and mass when buying media online.

Demographics hail from the Mad Men age. It was the National Readership Survey (NRS) that first carved people into ABC1/ C2DE groups – classifications borne out of a regimented 1960s class system where your preferences were inferred from your buying power with the ‘professional or higher managerial’ upper middle-class grade A at the top to Grade Es ‘at the lowest level of subsistence’ – dependent on the State – at the bottom.

Simply put, demographics tell us little about ‘who’ our customers are – and even less about ‘why’ they are motivated to buy stuff. Kantar’s Target Group Index (TGI), Experian’s Mosaic and IPA Touchpoints all provide a more nuanced way for media owners, agencies and brands to segment and reach an audience, since they are enriched by multiple behavioural data sets (clicks, browsing, purchases and so on). which is great. But they still don’t get to the core of what makes people tick. It’s all too assumptive, ‘umbrella-level’ data…and lacks human feeling and ‘real’ insight.

We know smart brands want to understand people on a deeper, more emotional level, and this is the real opportunity for VisualDNA. No other adtech company, to my knowledge, goes anywhere near as far as we do to understand what actually makes people tick.

First, our in house team of psychologists, mathematicians and designers iterate  and refine our quizzes to an astonishing level of detail – this is why the data we collect and the profiles we can build on an individual are both rich, accurate and at mass-scale.

Second, we capture emotive data –  and we’re approaching a point where we can scale it too. Brands define their ideal customers by their emotive characteristics so it makes sense if they can buy media against those characteristics too.

And third, we’ve proven that our audience targeting technology actually performs. We match captured behavioural data from our network with that of our quizzed users, and we can match any custom campaign brief we receive. Our sales are growing at an incredible rate – which proves to me that the demand is out there for quality data. We are seeing a larger appetite from Media Agency data teams, wanting to take in our data, digest it, and supply out to their Advertisers as ‘portfolio management’ data. It’s great to be at the heart of this ‘real’ consumer insight and business intelligence.

Sitting behind this is a broader vision to humanise the web by helping businesses to truly understand why their customers behave in the way they do – and meet their needs in real time.

It’s a really exciting time, and while we’re not saying the end is nigh for demographics and mass media, there’s a real opportunity to do something different and we’re relishing the challenge.