Cookies To Humans: Implications Of Identity Systems On Incentives!

GreenA story where data is the hero, followed by two mind-challenging business-shifting ideas.

At a previous employer customer service on the phone was a huge part of the operation. Qualitative surveys were giving the company a read that customers were unhappy with the service being provided. As bad customer service is a massive long-term cost – and short-term pain –, it was decided that the company would undertake a serious re-training effort for all the customer service reps and with that problems would get solved faster. To ensure customer delight was delivered in a timely manner, it was also decided that Average Call Time (ACT) would now be The success metric. It would even be tied to a customer service rep’s compensation creating an overlap between their personal success and the company’s success.

What do you think happened?

There is such a thing as employees that don’t really give a frek about their job or company, they just come to work. You’ll be surprised how small that number is. (Likewise, the number of employees that go well above the call of duty, look to constantly push personal and company boundaries is also quite small.) Most employees work diligently to deliver against set expectations.

Reflecting that, in our story, most customer service reps, re-trained, took the phone calls with the goal of driving down Average Call Time. They worked as quick as they could to resolve issues. But, pretty quickly customers with painful problems became a personally painful problem for an individual customer service rep. They hurt ACT, and comp. Solution? If the rep felt the call was going too long, self-preservation kicked in and they would hang up on the customer. Another issue. If towards the end of the week/month your ACT was going to look terrible on your Manager’s dashboard, calls were picked up and hung up right away.


The success metric, ACT, did go down. The qualitative surveys measuring unhappiness went down even more than before. Likelihood to repurchase, took a painful hit.

What you deem as success creates an incentive for an individual employee, the group/division, your company’s partners, to behave in a certain way. When you choose unwisely, the long-term consequences can be dramatic.

Epilogue: There were lots of reasons for the fiasco above. ACT goals were set imprecisely. Too much emphasis was on Averages (remember averages suck, distributions are better). Reporting/dashboards were terribly created (CDPs anyone?).  That ACT was an activity metric, if you have just one Gold success metric it should always be an outcome metric. The closed loop with customer was too slow and loopy resulting in a slower understanding of impact. And, you can’t discount a contribution the quality of leaders. Company did recover, their stock is doing fine. Now.

Humans are pavlovian. Incentives matter. Metrics matter. A Key Performance Indicator (KPI), our industry’s lingo for what becomes The metric, has massive influence.

Let me share a real-world story with you about this phenomenon, how I end up simply framing the problem above, and the solution for my clients.

An amazing blessing of my professional life is the opportunity to work with influential companies around the world. At one such recent opportunity, I wanted to communicate two simple but powerful elements.

1. You are what you measure.

Set better incentives for the org, see above life-lesson. Additionally, I passionately believe that optimal metrics help solve for more than an individual’s behavior. They help incentivize the elimination of siloed thinking amongst teams/divisions, politics, and self-serving execution that naturally creeps into every organization of every size.

If you pick the right metric, you can get people to care about the goals of their neighboring team/division. You can even get them to care about the long-term interests of the company.

2. Obsess about individual humans.

Zeroing in on digital specifically I wanted to create an north-star for brilliance to emanate through solving of tough problems over time.

My solution was two fold: Bring two lovely things into the equation: Profit & Humans!

I encouraged a ladder of awesomeness type shift from third-party cookies to first-party cookies to browser based persistent-id systems (in place today) to cross-device digital ids to a unified online and offline id (I call it nonline id) to finally a named human id pan-all-existences. Truly omg coolness.

Identity is key because currently targeting capabilities far out-strip any organization's ability to take advantage of it. Throw in Machine Learning and I weep at how many glorious sales, marketing, deep relationships initiatives are impossible because companies have not solved identity. (You, I’m talking about you!)

It is not easy. But, it is solvable. See where you are, go up one step. Then one more, then one more. Obsess about identity.

Great ideas are nice. Being able to communicate them simply is hard. As you’ve read in the Forbes article, I love storytelling.

I attempted to communicate the complexity above in a single picture.

Here's what came out of my doodling with crayons…


Like perhaps most large organizations, this one was a bit more focused on Cost. While not optimal, it was understandable given the evolutionary stage they were at.

I tried to incorporate their reality, and my picture starts with the metric they used to measure success and quickly moves to the right to metrics I believe are more impactful to the one on the very right that is an impossible dream at the moment (the north star).

Here are the definitions…

Cost Per Impression. An almost, if not entirely, useless metric no matter where it is applied. No one should use this for anything ever. World peace will be hastened by a millennia.

Click-Thru Rate. A little more interesting. Helps shine a light on the ability to do clever targeting, the content in the messages/ads, and smartness in bidding strategies. Good tactical wholesomeness.

Cost Per Lead. An outcome! Yes. In this case this was technically a micro-outcome in this case (conversion is offline). Still, very nice.

Cost Per Human. See the pivot? Per Human. In my definition, this is also online to offline, offline to online or whatever the heck to whatever the heck. It is very hard to do, you have to solve so many tough problems. It also has massively delicious implications in your data, acquisition and retention strategies (ignoring the sweet, heavenly, implications on your customers).

I realize that between CPL and CPH you go from crawling to flying. But, that is what north stars are all about.

Profit Per Human. What every company and non-profit really, really, really need. Why care about something as lame as cost? The only thing that matters is profit. Per. Human.

[Bonus: Remember, you can measure profit everyday in Google Analytics!]

An incredibly complex story, with implications up and down the organization, with smarter tactical and strategic choices, and a long-term hard problem to solve, all wrapped into one simple slide. When you communicate, that is all you need, after all you are the story and not the thing on the screen.

I of course built the story out piece-by-piece, when I was done, this is how it looked…


Imagine for a moment the behavior of your Acquisition team (call it Sales, call it Marketing, call it Tony), if you measure them based on CPM or CPL. Each incentivizes such a different behavior, right?

Applying it to digital advertising…

Shove ads up people’s faces like crazy, who cares if there are 300 words of content surrounded by 18 ads? CPM baby! These Marketers write articles and give conference keynotes that obsess about “viewable above-the-fold ads.” A heartbreaking obsession, but remember it is what they are being incentivized to care about.

Or, worry a ton about the three ad levers you can pull, Content, Targeting, Bids, to ensure you are optimizing for the max leads you can get. Will this marketer give two hoots about “viewable above-the-fold ads”? Only to the extent that their three levers might be influencing less clicks. Instead, they shift that problem to the ad-network (yes!). Let them ensure the ads are showing up in non-crappy-more-relevant sites/apps where the Content and Targeting results in a click to a lead. Good behavior shift.

Extend the above incentive purification and imagine the day-to-day behavior of your Acquisition team if you measure them based on CPH. Or… PPH. See, how dramatically different their execution strategy, their obsessions will be?

Can you imagine why I say team and organization and online-offline silos will be broken as you go further to the right? No one person can succeed without active collaboration, and empathy, with rest of the teams!

That's what you want for yourself or teams that you lead. PPH.

One more thing.

Taking this out of the confines that define the reality of the client, you know that I don’t obsess about Cost this much. It tends to have other unintended consequences (especially lower down in organizations).

Hence.. Here’s an important switch to one of the five metrics to better reflect my worldview…


Revenue Per Human.

Subtle change. But, you want people to obsess about Revenue and not Cost. Else people do frustratingly short-sighted things. This is real, from last week: "Our 2017 goal is to reduce the cost of your display campaigns by 20%."

I wanted to die.

Who gives a small kiwi if costs are down by 20% or up by 40%? Are you making more money every day? Are you taking advantage of the complete opportunity to win in the market? Is your competition stealing share by the bucket load while you obsess about cost?

If 10xing your revenue requires that you quadruple your costs, what's the problem?

Remember, we still have PPH to ensure that the revenue we are driving is driving a positive influence on the bottom-line of the company.

Yet, most senior executives in the world incentivize their organizations to solve for cost. Then, they are surprised that they are losing market share or a new competitor crushes them. Hey, costs are lower this year! #winning #not 

But wait, there’s more!

Since I’m now solving for all of you, one more critical evolution to bring this baby home.

If you have read anything I've ever written, you know that I obsess about ensuring every view I have, every portfolio of segments I have, every dashboard I create, every incentive-structure conversation I lead, every business strategy I help craft has to have the three elements that form an end-to-end view: Acquisition, Behavior, Outcomes.

In the picture above, you'll notice I have Acquisition metrics, Outcome metrics, but no behavior metrics.

Not nice. Let's fix that.

There are many candidates, I wanted to have something that _flows_ with the story I was trying to tell… Something that would still incentivize optimal behavior… Something a little unorthodox to push your thinking… Here's my recommendation…


Cost Per (unique) Page View.

I said unorthodox, did I not. :)

Measure what it cost you to drive every page view (unique). It gives you a sense for content consumption. It will include all the bounced sessions (pain). It will get you to dive deeper into what site/app sections people visit, what they are not reading, what they do read, how many unique page views does it take to get a Lead, what about freshness of content, anything about layout and experimentation, so on and so forth.

Not quite perfect, but an unorthodox start to demonstrate the creativity you can bring to this.

Regardless of the version of the story you use, it is important to create an end-to-end picture for your own company, your own work.

You will matter more to your company as you personally shoot for the right side of the picture. It will be simply because you are solving for a KPI that actually matters when it comes to the fundamental existence of your company.

Got PPH?

Inspiration: The Identity Spectrum, Ideal Solution.

So much of my solution for your huge success (imagine that being said as: yuge success ;) is dependent on identity. That last bit I added above, Human, has meant many different things over the evolution of the web. There are so many different identity mechanisms out there.

To help you traverse through them, and to get you to Human as in an individual warm body, here’s the identity spectrum we have access to today…

Cookies 3rd.

Most advertising networks use third-party cookies (cookies they set inside mobile and desktop browsers on your behalf – but not as you). These cookies tend to be fragile as they are not accepted in many browsers and are more often deleted – by choice or default. In the past they were roughly equivalent to a person as we all had one computer with one browser. They are not the most primitive form of any measurement (though if you only rely on your ad-network for success metrics of any type then you don’t have a choice, you are stuck with this fragile thing, and I offer a heartfelt sorry that your world is sad).

Here’s one metric you might have heard of that relies on 3rd party cookies: View-Thru Conversions. (Cue sad music.)

What can yo do with third-party cookies? Hold yourself, your ad networks, accountable in a narrow silo.

Cookies 1st.

These are set by existences you own. You’ll recognize these most commonly as being set by Adobe or Google Analytics on your site to better track metrics like Sessions and Users. They tend to be a lot less fragile because most personalization and authorizations except this capability. There is still a decay, if you want to get a sense for it checkout the Recency reports in your analytics tool. They are terrible at identity now as we all use multiple browsers on the same machine, and of course we use laptops, desktops, tablets, and phones (sometimes all at the same time with the same digital company!). It is imperative that you get off it as soon as you can.

Pretty much every metric in your Google Analytics reports uses first-party cookies as the identity mechanism. Conversion Rate. Bounce Rate. Visits to Purchase. Pageviews Per User.

What can you do with first-party cookies? Create better experiences in individual browser (as in Chrome) silos. Leverage advertising solutions like RLSA.

Login-ID 1st.

I’m a paying subscriber to my beloved New Yorker magazine. I’m logged into it’s site on my desktop, laptop, tablet, and phone. I’m logged into the browsers and the mobile application. This empowers the people at Condé Nast to dump cookies and use any digital analytics platform to rely on my login-id as identity to stitch my experiences and truly understand my Acquisition, Behavior and Outcome touch-points.

Login-ID is not fragile (for me the site/apps won’t even work without it). For The New Yorker they can easily tie to my name, address, credit card and a more. I know Condé Nast does not  leverage any of this because none of their platforms show any level of personalization, none of their offers for upping the subscription, none of their ads I see anywhere around the web, etc. show any intelligence related to me as a person. Sad. But. At least the possibility exists, and hope that Condé Nast will wakeup one day to the deeper loyalty and delight they could create using this identity.

For most of you, Login-ID might just be an account someone created on the web or a email address that someone used to sign up for your mailing list. In these cases of Login-ID you don’t have the tie to a human like above, but it is still better than cookies! Switch to 1. using an identity system that relies on Login-ID and 2. create meaningful incentives for people to login to their account.

Cookies as an identity are now only for those who don’t care about their digital business. Login-ID (the New Yorker variety or the signed up for an account) should be default.

For the most glamorous amongst you (I of course mean all of you!), you can stitch the third-party and first-party cookies littered around for your individual Login-IDs and paint an even more robust picture. I recommend this not as the default (because it is a lot of work), but rather as something you can do when *all* other business problems have been solved.

[Bonus: Here’s how to use Universal Analytics to implement Login-ID identity on your digital existences.]

What can you do with Login-ID identity? See above New Yorker example. Summary:  Personalized experiences via intent inferred from expressed behavior. Smarter Search, Display. More interesting understanding of Profitability (it will blow what you do with default first-party cookies with Adobe/Analytics out of the water on day one!).

Login-ID 3rd.

For people who can’t do above sometimes tend to rent an identity system from a third-party. This would be you implementing the Facebook identity system on your site, or one from Google or someone else who currently has most of the internet as it’s User.

So, people can log into your website using the Facebook identity system. With it comes the reduction of the pain of getting people to signup, and also additional behavioral data that the identity platform (say Facebook) would like to share. With it also come limitations related to how much of the customer data and relationship with the customer you own, as well as how much of this can you tie to your online, offline systems.

If you simply can’t do Login-ID on your own for any reason, this is a compromise is less worse than simply relying on cookies.


Nonline Customer-ID.

An improved variation of Login-ID 1st strategy. Most companies (think any retailer for example) still operate their identities in a silo. There is one for online (the one above), there will be another when you call on the phone (it might be your registered phone number), there will be a different one for when you walk into the store, and depending on if they own the store or if it is a channel for them, there might be one more.

Nonline Customer-ID is an identity platform that allows you to tie all of the above experiences down to one.

It could very well be my phone number. If I’m on your website, mobile app, call your phone center, walk into your store, or anything else, you use my phone number to know it is an individual. In this case, you come very, very close to Human.

Soon it could also be a BLE device implanted in my body that, in close quarters only, allows you to identify me when I am on your site (using a reader on my laptop), in your app (reader on the phone), in your store (readers in your ceilings) and so on and so forth.

It could be other things. I’m not opining on the pros and cons of doing this, I’m leaving out how you feel about this. That is for governments, companies and you to decide.

What can you do with Nonline Customer-ID identity? The ultimate deep level of understanding of customer behavior (as in customer), effectiveness of your marketing and service strategies, profitability, and everything else. If you want to imagine how insightful this can be, close your eyes, think of your business, imagine you have a Nonline Customer-ID platform, think of your current marketing data-driven attribution report. You realize how much this current holy grail sucks, right? That’s what I mean. Times 1000.

Nonline Customer-Id is an identity system will finally allow you to behave as one company and understand one person. B2B. B2C. A2P. DJT.

Nonline Customer-Name-ID.

This won’t apply to all companies, but as I’m deeply passionate about delighting every single individual human I wanted to share this purer version of Nonline Customer-ID.

Let’s take the most famous example: Amazon.

Today, Amazon is as close to Nonline Customer-ID as an identity system as you can get. Every touch point from site experience to mobile app to chat to phone (yes, they have that!) etc. play off the same identity.

But, in my family, like perhaps yours, my spouse and I both use the same identity (and both buy and ship things under my name to our home).

Amazon does not understand us individually though. From the recommendations it gives us to greeting her with my name everywhere, it is stuck with just Nonline Customer-ID identity.

But. Amazon has cookies. It has access to device-ids for mobile. It has access to pages viewed. It has access to products shopped from various browser IDs. And more.

They can easily use two or more of those to assign a Nonline Customer-Name-ID to my wife and to me. In one amazing instant, it would understand us individually and be able uniquely deliver deeper personalization, offers, support, and more.

It won’t be perfect. Perhaps it is off by 5%. But, it would be exponentially better than what exists today (which honestly is already better than 90% of the companies on the planet). And, Amazon needs it’s customers to do nothing new.

Additionally, Amazon could understand Home and understand Avinash and Jennie. Imagine all the possibilities that that unlocks.

What can Nonline Customer-Name-ID do for you? Cross-device intent customized smarter experiences that power relationships and not just shopping. Nirvana.

Now you know what it takes to truly get to Human. To real PPH. The only metric that matters (even for a non-profit). And, we’re not just talking about digital.

Got Human?

As always, it is your turn now.

Considering our metrics incentive spectrum pictures above, where is your company in terms of incentives for it’s employees? Are your little team, or your giant division, solving for the global maxima? If you are a leader, what incentives have you created for people who work for you? What element represents your company’s current identity system? What roadblocks do you see in front of you to get to Nonline Customer-Name-ID?

Please share your ideas, struggles, criticism of my ideas, worries and joy via comments below. I’ll be most grateful for the conversation.

Thank you.


  1. 1

    Great, thought provoking post as always Avinash.

    I agree that obsessing about reducing costs can create 'silos' in the organisation and be counter productive for company growth (we've all seen it), but surely a part of increasing profit is to reduce costs? Surely there is no getting away from this?

    • 2

      Murray: Yes, of course!

      Eric Schmidt says something I absolutely love: "More revenue solves all known problems."

      : )

      I've been laid off twice in my life. Both times, when each company got into trouble it focussed on cutting costs rather than solving for more revenue (through innovation, customer focus, creative marketing, and more). I've hence become very allergic to people and companies that put costs first, or even in the top five areas of focus.

      Now, let's be clear. Rampant rising costs will bring down any company. I am very aware of this. I'm assuming that complete stupidity will not reign supreme!


  2. 3

    Outstanding insight on using the correct metrics to measure success – I experience situations like this regularly when discussing social metrics with other members of the team I work on.

    I love how relatable these articles are, as well as your TMAI newsletters.

    I'm really interested in first-party cookies – any chance you could give more examples of how you have used them in the past?

  3. 5

    This post is just overwhelmingly impressive. Wow PPH, this is out of the world, totally rare.

    Apart from this, I love how always Avinash put very things into basics – putting everything into Acquisition, Behaviour, and Outcome bucket. Love it totally.

    One of his best article. You deserve a bow Avinash. I totally mean it.

    Thanks for making our life better and taking us out of the mediocrity.

  4. 6
    Jessica says

    So much insightful goodness here! I love the idea of aligning everyone's goals and breaking down the silos. (I REALLY love the CPV metric. I'll be taking that to my manager!)

    My company does something similar to this. Our annual bonus is based on 8-10 business KPIs (new contracts, product quality, NPS survey results, etc.) It doesn't matter if I increase organic traffic by 15%. But if I attract more market-qualified leads (so Sales closes more contracts) and improve customer communication (so our NPS goes up), that puts money in my pocket. Our system lacks the beautiful simplicity of PPH, but it gives everyone shared, "big picture" objectives, and I like that.

    How would you calculate CP[anything] for sources without obvious costs? Most of our leads come from organic traffic, direct traffic, and company newsletter. Paid ads are rarely associated (even in multi-channel attribution). Trying to justify our ad spend is giving me fits. :)

    • 7

      Jessica: I am thrilled that your company has 8 – 10 business KPIs that you are tying performance to. As you mention, it could possibly be trimmed but you are unquestionably better than most companies. So nice.

      I'm not sure I completely understand your question. But, let me try.

      Include all the costs as best as you can. So, for Organic Traffic is is your salary as the SEO, your Agency fees (if you have an agency), the slice of IT team that is implementing, the tools you have purchased to measure SEO effectiveness etc.

      Re your paid ads… Please look at your multi-channel attribution reports and ensure that your paid ads are tracked properly (with 100% tracking parameters, landing traffic on pages that have the analytics code). After this review, if paid ads show no effectiveness on your Macro and Micro-Outcomes, you don't invest in those strategies.


  5. 8

    This post is just awesome and all the tips are converted into basics. This post is very easy to understand and very well impressive as others.

    Good luck Avinash and keep posting for us with basics.

    Thanks once again for the post.

  6. 9

    Hi Avinash,

    The challenge I think we have in the industry is that people don't want to create an account with a username and password for multiple sites. In fact, I feel creating a password in fact creates some friction. I wish there was a simpler way for people to create an account, and still incentivize them with the benefits.

    For example. Sign up so we can provide a better shopping experience while you shop across mobile and desktop sites.

    Username: bobby1235
    Secret Code: What is your favorite Color?

    I think if the industry made it less like you were logging into a bank account to access a certain level of benefits than more people would be willing to sign up today.


    • 10

      Bobby: A very small quibble first. Every single website who exchanges value for your login has managed to get you to create a login and persist it across every existence they have (mobile, digital, offline).

      That said… You are absolutely right. In a world filled with non-imagination or selfishness by companies, perhaps more people would create accounts if it were easier. Where a lot of personal stuff is not at stake, sign-up rates with the FB login for example is much higher.

      I've had the privilege of observing new and interesting authentication innovation. Hence, I believe the current pain is temporary.

      [Just five minutes ago Toyota.Com asked me choose the answer to this as my secret question: "What was your home's street name in third grade?" I wanted to die of shame on Toyota's behalf.]


  7. 11
    James Rowe says

    I've read and re-read this post. Then I read TMAI#64. Astounding. I believe geekweek called it "the biggest speech in 20 years.."

    The CMO is solving for pay and spray in the digital world. If this is what the big boys are doing then it's going to be a bumpy road for the industry. Next recession and throats slashed. Acid test. Go to a SMB, especially small. Sell them on these wonderful metrics that tie into? See how long you last.

    What I'm saying is that digital appears necessary but to some will become an extravagance. Might not for the fortune 500 side but for everyone else most likely.

    Thanks for the insights and passion to get practitioners out of cookie cutter thinking and into grasping what the new possibilities of what digital brings .

    • 12

      James: Like all marketing strategies, some of digital will be necessary, some extravagant and some of it a competitive differentiator.

      I believe this will be true for a company of any size. At the moment, larger (older) companies are still solving for what used to work for them in the past (ex: Mr. Marc Pritchard is solving for the tactical optimization of the spray and pray, TMAI #64) and not focussed on the necessary or innovation required for competitive differentiation. Also at the moment, smaller companies, if for no other reason than survivability, are solving for both necessary and competitive differentiation. This makes me happy! :)


  8. 13

    Great post!

    I did not realize the depth-breadth with which I need to reimagine my company's measurement platform. Your framing of identity is truly incredible.

    Thanks for giving us another ladder of awesomeness to climb.

  9. 14

    This kind of (awesome) stuff make me think that, small business has very low chances to survive in the near future because of their lack of a professional marketing team.

    What´s your opinion?

    • 15

      Pablo: It will be hard for a small business to get to the outer edges, it is a little expensive. But, for the rest of it I believe you are at an advantage as a SMB.

      PPH is not a big deal for an SMB (computationally or people-wise). On identity, getting to Login-ID 1st is much easier for an SMB, perhaps even Nonline-C-ID.

      Don't forget this: An SMB can move a million times faster at this than any big company. Take advantage of that!


  10. 16
    Oremo Ochillo says

    Wow this is good stuff. I can tell you really put some though into this.

    One thing that was not mentioned in the Nonline Customer-Name ID discussion is the idea of it being the holy grail to calculate true customer lifetime value.

    A world where you could see at an individual customer level how profitable advertising is and how much profit that person brings you after subtracting out advertising and support costs. That would certainly be a game changer.

    • 17

      Oremo: You are indeed correct! Amongst the many benefits we'll get with Nonline Customer-Name ID is a truly deep understanding of the value of each human to our business.

      We can even extend the benefits out into the near-future. Artificial Intelligence is transforming customer engagements, products, platforms, customizing everything to deliver meaning to very touchpoint – imagine how much better all this would be if we had the id above. :)

      Thank you.


  11. 18


    As always thank you for providing a viewpoint focused on improving all our experiences'.

    I am an intranet and digital workplace consultant. Larger organisations have something between "Noline Customer ID" and "Noline customer name ID" because staff have a single sign on that is used for line of business tools. It seems their experience in these areas could be co-opted to help their organisations move to down the Revenue Per Human (RPH) and Profit Per Human (PPH) continuum.

    Even so I have yet to see an organisation that ties the threads together internally, to build up a human centered picture of a staff member from the data they have available. Too often the "think" hasn't been done, and the ink is copious. Or they have legacy systems each with their own login for staff, unrelated to the single sign on.

    Thanks for providing inspiration for my own practice.

    • 19

      Dorje: I am so glad you found the post to be of value!

      You are right, for intranets the employee login is pretty close to nirvana. Perhaps if the web analytics teams in these companies figure out how to use that to analyze the intranets, that could serve as a springboard for external (internet) implementations.


  12. 20
    Dragmire says

    Really great post Avinash.

    I can vouch for the value of moving to the right in the identity spectrum. We are using Nonline-C-ID in our company. It was a part of a Big Data strategy where we are able to personalize all interactions across platforms for all our current customers. The impact on our conversion metrics has been dramatic to say the least.

  13. 21

    Hi Avinash-

    I really like your post and I'd like to recommend it as insightful on my LinkedIn postings if that would be ok with you? I do like the PPH metric, and that RPC or RPH are important. Two questions come to mind.

    Thanks so much for tieing in a discussion about identity — not only does it give meaning to the metrics (well, the denominators, "you are what you divide by") but also giving perspective on what to strive for in establishing identities. This closes the loop. Much segmentation and personalized targeting and metrics can then be accomplished, Just to confirm, if PPH improves for these customers, do metrics associated with the broader customer base (including those without human id's) like RPV follow the same trend? Marketing treatments will ideally be different for this segment.

    Second, depending on one's business, many individual experiences will go unmatched by login-ids 1st. Would you recommend that login-ids 3rd be matched to those experiences to expand logon-id coverage (by cookie look up matching), using these services at least until logon-ids 1st can be established? I wonder if you would comment or point to a blog on making the decision to use 3rd party identity services to enrich your customer base of identities. Thanks again for this discussion!

    • 22

      Peter: Indeed… You are what you divide by!

      PPH cannot improve without a combination of good things coming true: more revenue, more efficient acquisition spending, more conversion of higher value customers, the ability to retain your customers, effectiveness of cross-selling and up-selling. Etc.

      There are several layers in your second question, I think. If other third-parties are selling you data, and you have a primary key in your data to connect to their primary key, then you are welcome to go for it. There was a recent story of Facebook buying lots of data from other parties to complement their data on you. I don't know about matching login-Id 1st with login-id 3rd, if you already have a relationships that gives you login-id 1st then just get better at incentivizing your customers to use that one. :) Finally, there are folks who will "merge" third-party cookies with first-party cookies (or even different first-party cookies for the same person). This can be of value in the interim (until you get to login-id 1st).


  14. 23
    Jaunita says

    What an amazing way to frame a problem that your client was having. Your evolution of the last slide is a nicw way to help us all figure out how to adopt this in our company.

    I've just implemented Cost Per Unique Page View in our adobe implementation. The initial insights are interseting. Thanks for the idea.

  15. 24

    Really nice post, Avinash, as every blog you're writing.

    I'll agree with your statements.

    One question about your engagement goal: Are there not better choices than cost per unique pageview?

    Shouldn't you focus rather on the value of your content rather then costs to write your content.

    For example pagevalue per unique pageview or costs per non-bounced unique pageview.

    • 25

      Gerard: Oh, there are so many more!

      First I do want to clarify that the way I have framed it Cost Per Unique Page is not the cost to produce is but rather the acquisition cost. So if it cost you $1 to deliver a human to your site and they saw two pages and then left the CPV of that session is $0.5. Feels scary right? That's what I'm going for.

      In providing CPP I wanted to give all our readers something provocative to think about. Especially if they are in the content business (of if they are targeting See and Think intent clusters, from my See-Think-Do-Care business framework). My fav content related KPI continues to be Page Value. If I can string it together across Sessions because I can track a Human, that's absolute nirvana.


  16. 26

    Thanks a lot for giving everyone an extremely easy lesson in something very complicated Avinash.

    Our company is squarely in the second stage in terms of identity. It has been difficult for us to proceed as users seem to be less engaged with B2B website.

    You've given me some new ideas to try to move us along. Thanks.

  17. 27

    Hi Avinash,
    About Avg. Call Time metric, a Zappos employee broke the internal record for longest customer service call by having one for more than 10 hours.

    About we're at, we're mostly looking to optimize for CPL (or Cost Per Conversion metric with our high value channels such as search.

    I do have a question about 'See' level marketing from your See/Think/Do approach.

    With many clients, we find that social assists rather than converts [last click or via time decay]. Keeping expectations real and knowing that mostly, this will end up being a 'See' level marketing [as users on social are not necessarily looking to purchase at that particular moment], what are your thoughts on optimizing for Cost Per Reach [unique users] on Facebook ads instead of CPM?

    As always, thanks for the blog.

    • 28

      Adil: Social strategies can be effective at solving for the See intent cluster, and part of Think. For both of those, you'll have different metrics to solve for.

      For the See intent cluster, your question, I primarily solve for metrics like shifts in Brand Perception, Likelihood to Recommend, Propensity to Purchase etc. Secondarily, I want to get a strength of the connection, hence metrics like Conversation Rate, Amplification Rate, Applause rate come in handy.

      For content that is solving for the Think intent cluster, your suggestion of Assisted Conversions will work really well.

      I personally don't do Cost Per Unique Reach. I want the result of that Reach. I could use the secondary metrics to measure Facebook.


  18. 30
    Adrian Correa says

    Good Observation about Cost Per Human and Profit Per Human. At the end of the day that is all that matters.

    There has to be a change to how Agencies are compensated. They are singularly responsible for many of the bad habits that we see outlined in this article.

    Thanks for fighting the good fight.

  19. 31

    As always you bring out some thought-provoking concepts in this post (which I whole-heartedly agree with).

    Your observation about "deep relationships are impossible because companies have not solved identity" is a telling one. This is a paradoxical situation many companies fall into even today. They spend millions of dollars on technologies to know more about their customers but in doing so they get farther away from unifying the identities.

    The other notable insight you mention is looking at metrics not in isolation but in the context of people. Metrics like PPH have as you mention many layers it. It is not a simple mathematical fraction where you increase it by reducing "H" or increasing "P". In my mind, the how you go about it is equally critical.

    As an example, we have put a tremendous amount of effort on the "H" part. It starts with hiring the right folks but then also giving them the right environment to unleash their passion. It involves building up a culture that drives retention (and so reduces cost from a different angle) but also motivates people to generate more and also drive innovation which has an impact on the 'P'.

    Of course, there are many more angles to this – just wanted to say I enjoyed the post and the resulting thoughts on the points you made.


  20. 32

    Hi Avinash,

    First time on your blog and I'm also a babe in the woods when it comes to Data mining. I don't work for any companies, only my own. A lone wolf on the prairie of discovery. Self-taught.

    Part of the problem for companies in creating a better human connection and experience is the issue of people allowing their ID to be known. Part of what I do is create stories through video and I can see that attitude of 'fear' people have with giving up their ID can be blamed on movies.

    Think of all the movies that involve the future and human ID and how it is used by officials to rule and ruin. The antagonist is the fighter against ID and eventually hero against tyranny.

    So we can partially (and in good humor) see how these futuristic disaster movies have infiltrated the public's consciousness and fantasy and pull against giving up ID.

    We always have that question in our minds 'am I safe?'

    Anyway, I know I am going to enjoy and learn so much from your blog.


  21. 33
    Girish Pai says

    Awesome post as always.

    Facebook, Amazon and google have always come up as leaders when it comes to innovation and customer engagement. If i as a customer feel that i am valued, my needs are met and my expectations are met even before I open my mouth by observing my behavior and actions, the business gets my trust and loyalty.

    Saying that, I am little annoyed by the recommended list of movies by Netflix , which doesn't arise my interest. But amazed by Amazon's prime video as they have been able to segregate the genre, to the next level.

  22. 34
    David Chung says

    Hey Avinash, I love that you're taking the risk to materialize what I imagine to be an imperfect "value graph" in your mind (and heart!) into a story+framework resembling what today's leaders anchor on to make decisions.

    I think we're approaching a point where people will stop dismissing "gut feeling, instinctive, feeling human" dimensions (creativity, passion, love, innovation) in favor of "rational, scientific, if it fits in an Excel sheet it's valid" false god KPIs.

    Instead of saying innovation cannot come from data, quoting Henry Ford, ‘If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses’ — they might accept blends of imperfectly aligned data points from a graph forming stories to guide, inform, suggest and warn decision makers. Maybe we really do want faster horses (they cost more than F1 racecars).

    I liked the thinking behind cost per page viewed, and where that's headed. I think even that is restrictive — pages are non-human dimensions. If our objective is to engage, to inspire ahas, to compel desire — then we might consider cost per "moment" or "opportunity" to engage. A web page might be broken into "series of swipes" (if we know users do 3 quick swipes to assess and form opinions on a mobile site), or time portions of a video, and so on — then we have to optimize each of those moments to deliver our best/relevant message.

    Real life human experiences and old school marketers did the same thing years ago, in a store — the cost of square foot, the cost of 5 feet of top shelf, the cost of real eyeballs walking past Times Square billboards. And the objective was largely the same — to get people to see, fall in love, and commit.

    I hope we can talk further next week at the event. :) I'm working on ways to re-think how we measure customer experience on mobile websites, and this article inspired me to keep thinking in human terms. For example, one mobile agency said they are looking at "% of a session that a user spends waiting for content to load" — it makes "load times" much more human — "waiting", and within a larger context (not 1 page).

Add your Perspective