By Allison Schiff
DTC ecommerce is booming – but measurement challenges are looming.
Or, rather, they’re already here, said Ron Jacobson, CEO and founder of Rockerbox, a marketing attribution startup that helps mainly direct-to-consumer brands measure the performance of their marketing campaigns and test into new channels.
“There’s a lot happening that’s making it harder to measure,” Jacobson said. “But marketers also want to spend their dollars on more channels than ever.”
Wearable-tech company Oura, which produces smart rings that help people monitor the quality of their sleep, is a little less affected than most marketers from a targeting perspective by cookie changes and restricted access to mobile device IDs, said Manbir Sodhia, the company’s VP of growth.
Oura purposely goes wide with its targeting strategy. While the company has raised nearly $150 million since 2015, including a $100 million Series C round last May – and just recently sold its millionth ring – the smart ring category overall is still in growth mode, and there’s a need to spread general awareness.
“We don’t limit our audience targeting to any particular group,” Sodhia said. “Our mission is to say, hey, our product is for every person, so we want to reach really broad audiences.”
Because Oura is trying to reach as many people as possible, it needs to test as many new channels as possible. “And it’s really important for us to understand the impact of those channels,” Sodhia said.
Like most DTC companies, Oura spends a lot of money on paid social, but it’s also been boosting its organic marketing efforts and experimenting with search and linear television.
Last year, Oura started working with Rockerbox to validate its investment choices.
A look inside
Rockerbox centralizes all of a brand’s marketing spend and campaign data in one spot, including paid, organic, digital and offline, and it creates deduplicated identity graphs to get a sense of the customer journey.
It’s got an API to ingest spend information from around 200 platforms, including Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Shopify, Hulu, Tatari, Pandora, Branch, MailChimp, Criteo, RTB House, The Trade Desk and Snowflake.
Rather than third-party cookies, Rockerbox uses what it called custom tracking domains. When someone clicks on an ad or visits a page, Rockerbox trackers and pixels are loaded in a first-party context, as in from the advertiser’s own website domain rather than the Rockerbox domain. In this way, identifiers have a somewhat longer shelf life and don’t get blocked as quickly by Safari and Firefox, both of which are already third-party-tracker-free environments.
(You can think of it as a spin on first-party attribution.)
Rockerbox also relies on a mixture of first-party data signals and deterministic identifiers, such as email addresses and phone numbers, to help with identity resolution.
TV enters the ring
When Oura decided to start investing more into upper-funnel media channels, it needed “confidence” that it was making the right bet, Sodhia said. “We didn’t want to go straight into testing or spending a lot with linear TV until we had some kind of multi-channel attribution system in place,” he said.
Oura worked with Rockerbox to import all of its data into its own data warehouse so that the marketing team could create visualizations of campaign performance in Tableau.
“Confidence comes through learning about patterns,” Sodhia said.
If a campaign isn’t performing as expected, for example, is it because the creative wasn’t effective, or was it due to some sort of macroeconomic factor outside the brand’s control?
With a clearer sense of the baseline performance across all of its marketing efforts, Oura could start optimizing spend across those channels. Lots of questions pop up at that point: Is there room to scale? Is there a reason to pull back? Is the amount of spend appropriate compared to results on a daily or weekly basis?
Measurement is an exercise in perpetual motion.
Oura’s media, marketing and analytics teams frequently meet to look at – and question – this data together. “There’s this constant research mode happening,” Sodhia said. “Our job is to challenge things, make sure there’s a healthy mix and that channels are performing as expected.”
That mix of measurable channels increasingly includes linear TV. “What’s old is new again when it comes to TV and offline channels,” Sodhia said.
When Oura launched the third generation of its smart ring last fall, investing in TV made sense as a way to broaden its audience and introduce its brand to more people, especially in light of growing concerns about digital performance.
Cross-channel attribution helps give Oura insight into whether its TV creative is generating lift and driving impact across other channels, such as brand search.
“TV is a channel we’ve been able to validate over the past six months or so,” Sodhia said. “And it’s an independent view, because we’re not just relying on what we see internally in our own siloes.”
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