Payments Data and Google Attribution

Great articles yesterday

This year, the iab (interactive advertising bureau) labeled 2017 as the Year of Measurement. Understanding why, and what is changing here is key for retail, banking and advertising. Most of us know the adage “measure what you want to manage”. As an engineer, I view measurement as the key feedback loop in any system or process. In order to gain feedback (close the loop), you must know what happened.

As I wrote 3 yrs ago, “closing the loop” has been key for Facebook’s insane success in advertising. Most of my readers know that a key driver for Google in payments (Google wallet) was to “close the loop” at the POS. My short time at Google in 2011 was focused on helping them obtain the data without doing the actual payment. Google and Facebook knew that if I could measure the ACTUAL store sales (resulting from an advertising effort), that I could charge the advertiser based upon incremental sales generated (rather than clicks or impressions).

Banks have always been best positioned to answer the question “what happened” (outside of CPG/ SKU level data). The issue for banks participating within the advertising world has not been competency, but rather: #1 legal/privacy, and #2 complexity of partnerships. How can any single bank navigate this (below) AND direct relationships with their retailers?


Who is my Customer?

The biggest questions Retailers have in Commerce: WHO is my customer (see blog). Retailers (as Advertisers) want to know the effectiveness of Advertising Spend (who actually bought). Google calls this “closing the loop”. If an advertising platform can “close the loop” to answer “what was purchased” then advertising will be purchase based upon the sales that resulted (ie performance based marketing). Brands want the RISK of advertising to sit with the platforms/publishers and agencies, in other words advertisers want to pay for sales .. not clicks.

Payment has been the key event to measure success in retail. Banks did a superb job in protecting consumer anonymity with card based payment instruments. Online, the challenge of closing the loop was solved on the checkout page (purchase) where retailers could track both the card and the consumer information. At the POS, loyalty and private label cards were key tools of retailers to eliminate anonymity to gain consumer insight (also the focus of retailers efforts to supplant V/MA in mobile with MCX).


In 2011, Google launched Google Wallet with the PRIMARY business driver of using this data to close the loop (see blog). In my previous blogs on topic Targeting and Attribution – Facebook’s Substantial Lead (3/14) and Google Building a Platform (3/15) I outlined the importance that Google and Facebook have put in attribution. In 2011, I helped Google understand that they could execute this primary need through direct purchase of the (aggregate) transaction data and skip the mobile wallet effort.

Facebooks dominance in measurement here is substantial driven both by the FBX network and by FB’s an exclusive agreement with Argus (with either FB or Nielsen) for last 3 years. Google has completed a few significant acquisitions to catch up with Facebook (ex Adometry 2014). Given that 2017 is the “year of measurement” it makes complete sense that Google would finally roll out what they have been working on for last 4 yrs. Google had little need to move on measurement because it was so effective.. Facebook’s lead is in CPG.. an area where google has great problems (you don’t search for soft drink of diapers).

My educated guess is that Google did direct integrations with MasterCard and a handful of large banks and acquirers that would permit them to assess aggregate spend of audiences exposed within the Google Display Network (GDN) and Google Search.  The ability to determine “advertising efficacy” is core to both optimizing advertising and competing for incremental ad dollars.

I would position that consumer privacy issues are likely minimal, as Google (and banks) are very thorough here.  The flow of information looks something like this

5M anonymized IDs, Merchant ID, Time Frame –> Total Spend of 5M IDs over time frame

In other words, Google WILL NOT know CONSUMER LEVEL spend, but rather the aggregate spend of a large cohort. Google’s service will be big win for SMBs… and also enable google to further optimize ad placement on Google Display Network (GDN).

Issues for Google?

  1. Brands will directly permission Google access to payment data. Google will be a more effective advertiser because they will gain insight into what is driving sales. What value does a brand obtain by allowing Google to improve?
  2. Self Attestation. Measuring your own performance is like allowing your children to write their own report card (more detail below).
  3. No multi-touch attribution (MTA). Third party specialist like Barometric,  Axciom and Adometry (oops that is Google now) look at audience exposures from multiple publishers. I can’t see Oracle running to turn over “frequent flyer” exposure files to Google for measurement.
  4. Merchants and Banks need a third party to monitor data flows (what data was sent to whom for what purpose) to ensure sufficient (and transparent controls) as well as compliance. As bankers know.. once something becomes operational.. it goes on autopilot.  A key example, what if Google asks for aggregate spend for 2 cohorts that differ my one ID? A: I gain individual consumer spend insight.

Commerce Signals

Today Commerce Signals (my company) allows any advertiser/agency/platform to accomplish what Google rolled out yesterday (we also cover 70% of US card based transaction volume). Per articles Forbes Article, First Annapolis we provide a privacy centric permissioned use platform for data exchange that allows ANY BANK or ACQUIRER to participate. Today we serve 4 of the top 10 retailers, and top 5 QSRs as we help Banks deliver “value beyond the transaction” and we help merchants solve the problem “who are my customers”.

For example, a top 5 retailer found that planning media around actual spend (vs clicks) enabled them to improve media spend effectiveness by 140%.sales-vs-click

Measurement – Need for Standard

A key challenge for Google’s measurement efforts are self-attestation. Measuring your own performance is like allowing your children to write their own report card. Neutral third parties are necessary in transaction mediation, particularly when there is variable pricing and value exchange (ie S&P). Specifically, brands are mandating a “common view” of ad effectiveness (vs likes on Facebook, clicks on AOL and sales on Google). Beyond a common measurement SOURCE (ie payment data) there is also a need for:

  1. Common methodology (ex Control groups, confidence levels, last click…etc)
  2. Common legal agreements (ie merchant permissions, … etc.)
  3. Common IDs. For example Commerce Signals works with LiveRamp, Neustar, Transunion, …etc.
  4. Permissioning Use (ie Restrictions and Approvals) for campaign types, platforms and target audiences (example minors).

We give brands and agencies the ability to measure consistently across platforms like Google, Pandora, Spotify, AOL, Ad Theorent, .. all consistently…  We enable a common view of performance across publishers, giving publishers the ability to optimize and media planners the ability to focus spend.. all while allowing both merchant and bank to control the flow of payment data.

Bank Business Case

As a neutral 3rd party we also enable banks to participate. Each entity in the payment ecosystem has a different value proposition.

  • Payment Networks have broad coverage and share of wallet view
  • Issuers have strong debit coverage and consumer insight
  • Acquirers have strong merchant relationships and geographic views

All have a role to play in collaborating with both brands and consumers to create great experiences. Their role is BEYOND ECONOMIC.. after all when was the last time you PURPOSEFULLY clicked on an ad? Banks know consumers best, merchants know products and distribution. Our role is in connecting consumers, merchants and banks in a privacy centric environment.

Banks typically have 3 broad approaches to constructing a value proposition:

  1. Merchant focused – value beyond the transaction – something to negotiate beyond interchange
  2. Network – allow millions of businesses to work with you consistently. As Bank of America said to me “if we don’t Google and FB will continue to dominate all commerce data”.
  3. Revenue.. build a billion dollar business. Data may be the new oil (article in Economist) but the potential to destroy your consumer brand is intense,

In Google’s model there is no need for “additional” bank participants. To measure consistently, there is no need for 100% of coverage of transactions, only a statistically relevant sample size. Google wrote some very large checks to gain access to this data (my guess is $70M to Mastercard for a 5 year deal).

My message to banks: Google is the least of your concerns. Consumer level payment data is leaking out from providers like Argus (through to Exelate/Nielsen Buyer Insights) and others is far more problematic. In this model advertisers buy lists of consumers based upon actual payment behavior (ex frequent pet shoppers). If banks want to have a data business they must permission use.. banks and payment networks care about control (and reputation).. .

Transaction Flow

As a side note, if you are interested merchant-consumer “brokering” see my blog on Apple’s opportunity.

One thought on “Payments Data and Google Attribution”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *