This E-marketing Essentials Interview with Fred Bassett of digital strategy consulting strategy firm Blue Latitude outlines a structured approach to online marketplace analysis in order to inform digital marketing strategy.
Whether it's business strategy, marketing strategy or digital strategy, understanding your marketplace positioning is crucial. For traditional business or marketing strategy, environment mapping, situation analysis or marketplace analysis, call it what you will, is a well established approach.
But what is the best approach for online marketplace analysis? It seems to me that this core part of digital strategy is often neglected despite all the rich data available from web analytics and audience media consumption data from the likes of Hitwise and Comscore.
So I was delighted to be taken through a rigorous methodology for e-marketplace analysis and mapping by Fred Bassett of digital strategy consulting firm Blue Latitude (www.bluelatitude.net).
Q1. Fred, you say there is an increasing demand for e-marketplace analysis today. Why do you think this is, surely most companies already understand their marketplace?
The main driver is simply competitive pressure. Many companies have now optimized essential processes such as search marketing, email marketing and site conversion. This has led to many online markets becoming highly competitive environments in which improving performance is increasingly challenging.
Marketplace analysis helps identify opportunities for growth from discovering gaps in the market that competitors aren't exploiting. In strategic terms, situation analysis helps identify gaps where customer segments aren't well served by existing propositions.
At a more tactical level we also identify quick wins in terms of online media allocation, PR and partnership opportunities where media investments such as paid search or display ads could be better spent.
Q2. What process do you follow in your environment analysis and mapping?
We have developed a 5 stage situation analysis process. This starts with Business Insight analysis which aims to identify the current goals and the challenges of the business as highlighted by an Internet SWOT analysis.
Next is User Insight, since our approach is centred on the customer, we spend a lot of time understanding different customer clusters. We use existing research and data, or perform new qualitative and quantitative research to define segments and personas for different customer groups.
Then we turn to Competitive Insight where we analyse purchase behaviour in the context of the journeys web users take as they as they select products or seek information online and offline. For example, what sequence of search terms do they use as they visit different sites, which types of sites do they visit and how does the whole customer journey map out. The competitive insight analysis also involves benchmarking of the propositions of different competitors and sites.
We use a proprietary predictive modeling tool to assess which are the most influential types of site which make an impact on purchase. This could involve analysis of tens of thousands of user journeys.
For each persona, we then create a probability model which indicates the influencing effect of each type of site. This is validated against data available from web analytics.
The final output is an environment mapping for each persona which summarises the influence of different sites such as portals, blogs, social media sites, search engines, etc against their current and future potential value for the business in terms of opportunities for partnering, PR or media spend.
Q3. Wow, that must require integration of many data sources. Which data sources typically inform the predictive model?
Well, it will vary a fair bit between sectors, but there are certainly many sources we leverage over 20 in some cases.
Typical external data includes audience data from the likes of Hitwise and Comscore and keyword usage tools. This is blended with internal data such as historical search data, web analytics and purchase data. For customer insights within a sector we will also use analyst sources such as Forrester or Gartner.
One of benefits of using data in this way is that we can work in and compare a brands' online activities in different territories. We have performed situation analyses in over 22 territories across Europe, Asia, North and South America.
Q4. How is the output from the model used by businesses?
We find the environment map gives marketing directors the confidence to present a clear digital strategy based on evidence based insights. We use the environment map to help formulate a strategy with the client and then we map this strategy against different business objectives in areas of customer acquisition, conversion and retention.
Within each of these areas, tactics are developed which may cover a number of areas from targeting new audiences, refining customer propositions and content or developing long-term partnership arrangements.
The visual mapping we use makes it easier for others in the business to understand and buy-in to the approaches used.
Q5. Which types of sectors have you applied this model?
The model scales well across different markets. We have used this approach on markets as varied as retail, pharmaceutical, not-for-profit and financial services.