In the pre-Internet days, brands exerted enormous influence over consumers. Their messages, delivered effectively over the limited number of available channels, compelled us to go out and buy their wares. And we obeyed.
By mid 2005, the Internet had democratized the process. Today, our friends, families and work colleagues exert as much influence over our buying decisions as any brand. Thanks to email, Facebook, Twitter and other digital channels, we can instantly ping our personal network for their opinions and experiences with products.
What does that mean for marketers? To engage consumers, you must join them on their purchasing journeys and engage them with the right message in the right channel. Make no mistake about it; our digital lifestyles have made marketing a lot more complex.
But there are plenty of trends emerging that can help you reach and engage your consumers in the coming year. Here are 6 that I believe will advance digital marketing in 2014.
According to an Oracle cross-channel survey, some 75% of all consumers use one or more channels to purchase a product. Many begin with online research, and continue in-store where they’ll ultimately buy, often using their mobile devices to search for competitive deals.
While marketers understand they need to reach consumers on all screens, too many are taking a channel-centric – not a consumer-centric – approach to advertising.
If you treat each touch point as a separate campaign rather than a continuous dialog with the consumer, you’ll never become an integral part of his buying journey.
There’s no doubt that cross-screen marketing is difficult, especially with privacy restrictions now the law of the land. But our industry is making in-roads into understanding the cross-channel buying experience. Big data, viewability, and real-time analytics are shining a spotlight onto the journey, and in 2014, we’ll see a lot more success.
Big Data and Data Management Platforms
Big data provides digital advertisers with a tremendous amount of insight into a consumer before they buy an impression. As consumers click-through the web, they generate data signals that reveal their intentions, brand loyalties and more. Big data science enables marketers to capture those signals, and hone in on their best prospects so they can target them anywhere within the digital universe they’re most likely to convert.
Sophisticated RTB buy-side platforms are often fully integrated with data management platforms (DMPs), which have direct, sever-to-server connections with all the major third-party data providers, as well as the brand’s CRM systems and website data. As a result, marketers can determine if a user is one of its catalog customers or has recently visited its website before placing a bid. Buyers can also build rich profiles of the user by purchasing demographic and psychodemographic datasets from leading data providers such as Experian, BlueKai, Nielsen Catalina, eXelate, Acxiom, DataXpand and many others.
Rise of Mobile
By some estimates, up to 20% of all web traffic stems from a mobile device; according to industry Mary Meeker, mobile traffic eclipses desktop traffic in some regions of the world. This should come as no surprise to us, given how we’re never far from our mobile devices, often checking them as we work on a desktop or watch TV.
However, mobile advertising has yet to catch up to mobile usage for many reasons. First, publishers need to optimize their sites for mobile viewing, a trend we’re seeing in the whole ‘mobile-first’ movement. This is taking some time, but once more sites are mobile optimized, more inventory will be available for advertisers.
Additionally, mobile requires a new way to target users, based on geo, the less-robust device ID and registration info collected by some mobile app developers. In other words, rich data for targeting isn’t quite at the same scale as its desktop counterpart. However, as the industry gains experience, more campaigns will be launched.
Programmatic Growth and Programmatic Premium
Within the past 12 months, premium direct buyers have clamored to get in on the programmatic game, and many publishers are experimenting with Programmatic Premium. In this model, directly-bought campaigns are executed programmatically.
When the request for a bid goes from the exchange to buyers, a cookie synch occurs. In other words, all the data stored in that user’s cookie is sent to the buyers (note: URLs can be withheld upon publisher request). Buyers use that data to determine who that user is, and to calculate its value (e.g. bid) to their campaigns.
As mentioned above, these buyers have access to robust online and offline, first-, second- and third-party data from DMPs within their buying environment. In short, RTB lets buyers cherry pick impressions based on who the user is, as well as the user’s likely value to their campaigns.
So, let’s say you’re an auto manufacturer and you want to buy an exclusive campaign for your 2014 line-up. In the non-programmatic world, your ad creatives would rotate randomly, based on the weights you’ve assigned them at the time the campaign was trafficked. Sometimes a mom would see an ad for your sports car, and sometimes an 18-year-old male will see one for your mini-van.
With programmatic premium, nothing is random. As a user arrived on the page, the DMP assesses that user’s demographic, and match the correct ad to the right user. Moms would always see mini-vans, while younger demographics might see economy models.
Naturally, programmatic premium drives higher campaign rates, and we can expect to see more premium publishers and brands experimenting with it in 2014.
Private exchanges are the solution to the publisher’s worst fear: programmatic selling provides a back door for premium advertisers to purchase their inventory at very low rates. Why would a brand pay premium CPMs if it can get the same use on the same site for significantly less on an open ad exchange?
Private exchanges were developed as a way to offer programmatic trading between a premium publisher and a set of premium advertisers in a walled off garden, so to speak. In these scenarios, the publisher offers exclusive access to a set of inventory to select buyers in a real-time bidding environment, with strong sales and price controls in place.
2013 saw numerous private exchanges announced and implemented, but the model is still very much in its infancy. Buyers complain that it’s difficult to manage, and often requires a full time headcount to implement these deals. Publishers want to see greater shares of the marketer’s budget dedicated to the private exchanges in order to justify the expense.
But make no mistake about it, these are growing pains for the model, and there’s no doubt that the coming year will see many more buyers and sellers participating in private exchanges. After all, they offer the best of both worlds: the exclusiveness of direct deals married with the efficiency of programmatic.
The Impact of Social Media
The numbers are astounding: Facebook as 727 million daily active users; Twitter users send 1 billion tweets each week. Both platforms have changed the advertising game.
Two years ago, Facebook announced Facebook Exchange (FBX), enabling advertisers to purchase Facebook inventory programmatically. Recent research by digital marketing agency NetMining found that FBX is particularly effective when paired with retail offerings. In fact, retail marketers earned 42% more clicks than last year. It’s no surprise that spending increased by 59 percent.
For a long time, marketers had few robust opportunities to advertise on Twitter. But Twitter changed all that on December 5, 2013, when it announced tailored audiences, a new targeting product that lets marketers create unique audience segments based their website and behavioral data, and then target those audiences on Twitter.
Consumers learn about and make purchasing decisions in the digital universe, and these trends enable brands to insert their influence, at scale, in brand safe environments. As we embark on a new year, how are you preparing to make good use of the new trends in content marketing in 2014?