A Primer on Digital Marketing Platforms

Jeffrey Wu

Any business needs some sort of marketing system in place to draw in new customers. For businesses, this often takes shape as a sign posted in a window, handing out pamphlets, or setting up a company website. For large businesses, there can easily be several hundred different marketing programs running in parallel. A digital marketing platform consists of all the technologies necessary to plan, execute, monitor, and understand the effectivness of all these marketing campaigns running. The entire platform should be considered “production” as a failure of a part of the system will likely result in limiting the ability to market in a specific area or as a whole.

The Website

We need the ability to monitor the traffic of the entire website. This would allow us to get detailed reports in understanding how users navigate the website and identifying pain points quickly. In order to do so, the website needs to be tagged. Tagging involves marking each link with a unique identifier (most commonly by placing information after the ? in the URL. For example, look at the URL bar and notice the tag after the ?). There can be easily thousands of links for any given website. To help manage this, the following tools are generally used:

An All in One System

Standing up such a system is cost prohibitive for most companies. The necessary talent required is highly sought after by many technology companies and infrastructure costs can be substantial, though cloud costs continue to aggressively decline year over year. However, there are numerous vendors that will do the website traffic tracking, aggregation, and reporting all in one for a nominal cost (e.g. Google Analytics).

The Digital Marketing Network

The digital marketing network tracks digital advertisements across the web. This information would be used by marketing teams to monitor the effectiveness of various digital campaigns and make the necessary adjustments as needed (such as conducting continuous A/B tests). A digital marketing network can be categorized into three segments:

Advertisement Traffic Aggregator

There is a massive amount of ad traffic data being generated on the web, on the order of several billions of events in a typical day for just a single company. Most of the time, this data is quickly aggregated and then gone forever as it’s very expensive to save such voluminous data. Having an ad traffic aggregator allows companies to intercept the relevant ad traffic to their business and keep it for more detailed analytics. It should be important to note that not all the raw traffic information is available for all digital traffic sources.

In practice, the ad traffic aggregator will work with each of the individual ad networks and collect event information across all the ad networks. This allows for the generation of similar reports that each vendor provides, but collectively in one location and in one format. Additionally, since the raw event information is retained, companies are able to extract that information and do more sophisticated analysis such as fractional attribution or a full attribution model. Lastly, with the right tech, companies would be able to link a visitor’s origin of all the digital ads that they have seen and correlate that with the visitor’s behavior on the website. This is extremely hard to get right, but is an absolute necessity in a highly digital world!

The Trusty Email

With the direct to consumer models, email is going to be a primary means of communication between the customer and the company; covering things like account alerts, verification, and notices. Obviously, this system is very much integral part of the customer experience. As part of the marketing platform, emails can serve as newsletters, educational pieces, and promotion offers. Just like there can be dozens of marketing campaigns running simultaneously, there are likely just as many email campaigns. In many ways, emails are simply an extension of the website into a customer’s inbox.