It’s hard for online marketers to go five minutes these days without reading or hearing the phrase ‘match rates’. Just like the ‘engagement rate’ craze that came before it (and still very much remains in the marketers’ vernacular), match rates — i.e. the percentage of customers that can be targeted across multiple devices accurately — have become a key indicator of marketing success.
But there are those who adopt a more sceptical stance towards them. Terry Chen, product manager for Adobe Analytics Cloud, stated that match rates are not what they are cracked up to be, nor are they as valuable or accurate as many claim. “If you hear someone talking seriously about match rates,” Chen writes, “remind them: it’s just a number.”
We do understand where Chen is coming from — match rates can’t perform miracles. They can sometimes be inaccurate, especially if your data management platform is based around large audiences and relies on cookie-based matching to determine the final figures. They can also be ineffective if your overall online marketing strategy is not tailored to incorporate personalised targeting and messaging.
Having said all that, we can’t say we share Chen’s opinion. In fact, we believe quite the opposite: match rates are incredibly effective when used in the right way, and they’re central to what we do here at Relay 42.
As marketers continue to switch from mass communication methods to hyper-personalised targeting, match rates are essential in making sure those tailored messages are reaching the relevant individuals. By shooing them away or passing them off as irrelevant, businesses are opening themselves up to the possibility of the wrong messages being sent to the wrong people.
While the consequences of such glaring inconsistencies in isolation might be trivial — perhaps someone is sent a promotional email for a product they’re not really interested in — they can also be disastrous. For example, imagine if a long-time existing customer is sent an email with an exciting offer, only for them to open it and discover that the offer is only available to new customers. Not only is the existing customer receiving irrelevant emails, but they’re also likely to be annoyed that they can’t take advantage of the offer despite already being a valued customer. Depending on the context, customer indifference or ignorance can quickly lead to frustration and anger.
Match rates are of particular importance to companies that have high customer retention rates, such as banks or mobile phone providers. With more data to draw from and more opportunities for creative, personalised messaging, these relationships provide the perfect foundation from which marketers can start to engage with customers on a personal and human level. By taking match rates into account, these communications can be sustained across various different channels and cross-pollinated in a controlled setting across all business back-end systems. This equates to control and confidence from a marketer’s perspective, while customers benefit from relevant and consistent communications.
The way we see it, the whole point of marketing is to appear relevant to your target audience and to sell them things they find valuable and, without the effective use of match rates, this simply isn’t possible. Match rates might be ‘just a number’, but they’re numbers that can change the way marketers work for good, which in turn helps customers access the right product or service, at the right time, in the right context.
Simon Bloom is director of commercial operations UK at Relay 42.