"Digital is one of the most powerful tools for pharma marketers, and we all know the buzzwords: multichannel, omnipresent, automation, authentication. But there’s a devastatingly simple piece of data that’s always been missing: Do you really know who’s coming to your website?" asked Frank Lin, Chief Technology Officer at DMD at the ePharma Summit in New York.
Most pharma marketing departments are busy using Hubspot or other CRM systems, and measuring the effectiveness of their campaigns with Google Analytics and other measurement efforts. While those tools are effective at the aggregate level, gleaning more specific information is another story. Being able to identify your website visitors has remained a daydream for marketers until recently. Having that ability, however, would make it possible to truly personalize the content experience that you offer. But is it still only a dream?
In his presentation, titled "Identifying HCPs Online: The Failure of Cookie-Based Approaches," Lin told the ePharma audience that his experience with increasingly sophisticated methods of identification technology was a bumpy journey.
"The overall challenge has always been identifying HCPs online precisely, across devices," Lin explained. He outlined the various possibilities available, classifying the two primary methods for audience identification: probabilistic and deterministic.
Probabilistic data, as the name suggests, is using likelihoods and probabilities to profile an audience. Probabilistic data has its roots in a subset of data (or audience members) that can then be a model for a larger group of that audience. This data is obtained by observing patterns and characteristics and then applying those same patterns and characteristics to the larger group.
"Probabilistic data can pose problems, however," Lin noted. "They are often dependent upon IP addresses. Since more than one device can be within an IP address, this can lead to inexact information. Moreover, since one person can use multiple devices, and move from IP address to IP address, further inaccuracies can be introduced. There's no way to be certain that an IP address corresponds to a specific individual," he said. Some argue that geofencing narrows down IP address locations, but this is not always available. And while, in some cases, device profiles can be used, this data, too, is imperfect and inexact.
"Another problem with deterministic data is that it relies on cookies," Lin continued, "And, as the saying goes, cookies crumble."
Deterministic data, on the other hand, matches data sets 1:1 based on unique identifiers. According to Dun & Bradstreet, "deterministic data is highly valuable because of its accuracy." That is, deterministic data is anchored in truth, not generalizations. This means users input their own information, such as signing up for a newsletter with their email address. Companies then match cookies or mobile IDs to commonly used identifiers such as names, email addresses, birth dates or phone numbers to then build audience targeting data.
Until recently, the primary hurdle with deterministic data is registration itself. As all digital consumers know, registration is often a barrier that we don’t choose to pass through. As a result, requiring a log-in, or using a single sign-on, can create a "private garden" effect, as Lin explained. "You know what’s going on, but only with those who’ve registered," he noted. "You may assume that this group is your most valuable visitors, but you may missing a good chunk of your audience."
True and Verified Data without a Login
Lin explained that logins have not proven to be an effective technology for identifying HCPs. "Physicians don’t have an interest in signing up for a service or want to log in," he said. "Add to that the existence of fraudulent bots and 'zombie cookies' that can skew data, along with the fact that companies can simply buy traffic that simulates physicians coming to your website, and it can be impossible to know whether physicians are really visiting."
Lin's presentation outlined his journey through these various technologies, all attempting to identify audiences, and explained how they led him and his team at DMD team to their work developing Audience Identity Manager (AIM). "We learned a lot by figuring out what other technologies couldn’t do," he said.
Rather than forcing marketers to rely on IP addresses or follow cookies, AIM technology allows users to understand their HCP targets with unprecedented ease and precision.
"Clients tell us they’re constantly surprised to learn exactly who is really visiting their website," Lin said, "and they’re evolving their marketing campaigns to better reach those physicians."