What is the future of brands within closed ecosystems?

Consumers are becoming increasingly suspicious of how brands are using their identities – and rightly so

With so many consumers using services with walled gardens – also known as closed ecosystems – it’s unsurprising that consumer expectations have shifted to demand the same seamless digital experience across industries, according to 4C Insights VP revenue, Karl Knights.

Speaking during The Drum Digital Transformation Festival during a panel discussion about how brands are bridging walled gardens to achieve cross-channel consistency, and the technologies needed to do just that, Knights said that closed ecosystems are useful for collating information relevant to the brand’s targeted user, but that brands should have a clear idea of exactly who their target audience is and understand the importance of protecting their privacy.

Watch the full session here.

“I was at a LinkedIn conference recently where I heard about how the service for assembling a mortgage shouldn't be dissimilar to assembling a playlist on Spotify; it's platforms like these that are really setting our expectations,” he added.

Customer experience remains top priority

Consumers are becoming increasingly suspicious of how brands are using their identities – and rightly so. “We owe it to our users to ensure that their private and obviously sensitive information is kept very, very secure,” according to Snap head of international marketing science, Andy Pang. Brands need to think carefully about how they can protect consumer privacy – something that can be much more easily managed and guaranteed in a login environment like closed ecosytems. But rather than feel daunted by the idea of collapsing the walled garden, Performics chief executive officer UK and head of product EMEA, Mykim Chikli, suggests that progressive agencies and advertisers can be more innovative when seeking out the results they want and asks them to consider brand partnerships.

Knights agrees: “It's about recognising the true value that's brought to that partnership.” He feels that so long as there is a mutual benefit for both parties such as the brand gaining unbiased and valuable insight on their customers, it can help to enhance the customer’s experience and allow the brand to build a more personalised consumer relationship.

Chikli added that platforms such as Facebook, Google and Snap are doing a good job of connecting consumers to advertisers within their closed ecosystems. “They are proactively protecting their consumers,” she says. “As a performance marketing agency, we're actually putting the advertiser and the consumer in touch with each other and making sure that their demands match” which, she went on to add, helps with tracking measurement.

Measurement is everything

“How we evaluate the effectiveness of our media channel in delivering business results is obviously one of the most important things that advertisers will try to understand when it comes to media investment,” says Pang.

“Partnerships are key because obviously, there are certain levels of outcomes that Snap cannot see, such as a transaction in a retail or offline environment rather than what it tracks online.” He adds that it can be challenging tracking the entire purchase journey, especially if it leads to an offline purchase, which is why he suggests using third party data to allow for that form of measurement, without infringing on customer privacy or security. “We're really facing a situation where ultimately we would prefer to use our first party data however, the industry doesn't want media platforms to mark their own homework,” says Pang. “So there needs to be some type of third party independence involved.”

According to Knights, this is the role 4C plays as the connective thread across multiple closed ecosystems. The company’s Scope platform plugs into Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snap, and Twitter. Beyond measurement, brands and agencies can use the self-service software to gain audience intelligence, manage creative assets, activate campaigns and optimise for business goals. And because all the activity takes place within closed ecosystems, consumer privacy is protected and the customer experience is prioritised.

Watch the full Digital Transformation Festival session here.

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