Tuesday, January 19, 2016

OneSpot Offers Automated Content Selection Targeted at Long Term Results

As you know from previous blog posts, I’ve been borderline obsessed recently with systems that automatically create multi-step campaign flows. So when I saw that OneSpot calls its product a “content sequencing engine” you can bet they had my attention. When I read that “OneSpot’s machine learning technology serially delivers multiple pieces of content to your users based on their interests and digital journey stage,” I thought I might have found the Holy Grail itself.

OneSpot was already on my list of interesting companies because they automatically reformat content to use in different channels. This is a good example of applying artificial intelligence to reduce the workload on marketing departments so they can deliver more targeted messages at lower cost. The company had been doing this and programmatic ad buying since its start in 2012.

The content sequencing engine is a more recent addition. According to OneSpot Chief Marketing Officer Adam Weinroth, one of the things that make the engine special is that it finds the best content to generate repeat engagement rather than immediate response. Another is that it delivers the content through advertising on external Web sites as well as in email, a company’s own Web site, mobile and social. In other words, OneSpot's “sequencing” is about coordinating messages in different channels, not delivering groups of messages in a fixed order. Since my own quest has been automated creation of ordered messages, OneSpot isn't the Grail I seek.  But it's still quite special: as Weinroth points out, there are many systems to select offers for ecommerce but few for content marketing. Even fewer support advertising along with other channels.

OneSpot deploys several major pieces of technology to make this happen. A content analytics engine automatically classifies existing content without manual tagging. The classification categories (a.k.a. taxonomy) are themselves created automatically. This automation removes one of the largest bottlenecks in deploying high volumes of content. The reformatting engine then prepares the content to be distributed across multiple channels, again without manual labor. The automated recommendations are based on a profile that includes results from all the channels supported by OneSpot. This cross-channel perspective is what lets OneSpot base recommendations on repeat engagement rather than immediate response. It also lets the system bid on advertising to non-customers as well as messages to current customers. OneSpot also has its own real-time bidding engine. It is integrated with major Web ad exchanges, which Weinroth said allows it to potentially bid on 36 million impressions per minute.

Other aspects of OneSpot are more conventional. The system uses a Javascript tag to integrate with company Web sites and third party ad sites. Email is personalized through API connections with email service providers. Advertising audiences are selected by defining targeting criteria against standard Web audiences. Customers and prospects are identified through Web cookies, hashed (anonymized) email addresses linked to cookies, and third party services for device targeting.

OneSpot continues to extend its technology. Weinroth showed me a beta version of a report that compares demand for each topic with the number of existing content pieces for that topic and the impact of content with that topic on reengagement. While OneSpot won’t actually create the additional content, this is still another step towards replacing manual tasks with automation.

Pricing for OneSpot starts north of $100,000 for an annual contract. The actual fees are based on traffic volumes and channels supported. Weinroth said most clients use the system in at least two channels, typically Web site messages and Web ad retargeting.

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