One question CMOs are asking themselves these days is, “Are our methods of tracking the effectiveness of online marketing getting easier or more difficult?” You’d like to say they're easier, but that’s not always the case.
The ability to track and measure effectiveness is complicated by the changing nature of online consumer engagements. For instance, it’s not unusual for someone to shop online at his desktop computer during the day, check in with friends to reference a product on a social network, and then switch to his mobile device to surf for that “got to have” from his tablet at bedtime. And how he engages with your brand will be different in each instance.
Given this situation, we’re at an interesting confluence. While there have been some terrific advances toward making online marketing more effective, a natural tension exists between continually evolving consumer behavior and a brand’s engagement efforts. This is because how a consumer engages with a brand often varies depending on the medium being used. It challenges the way brands reach out across channels in the right medium, with the right message, at the right time–and have it properly tracked, measured, and attributed. Heady stuff, indeed.
While it’s not necessarily a state of mass confusion, we are going through a period of transition in terms of sorting these issues out as technology evolves and marketers move from the dabbling stage to familiarity and then to proficiency. There is no lack of tools on the table, but they’re not always put together in the most seamless, intuitive way, often making it difficult for marketers to use them toward the holistic goals I mention. So how can we simplify and makes things work better? The solution can be found on both sides.
For vendors and marketers alike, the focus needs to be on tying together disparate channels through data aggregation and analytics. This creates the ability to not only understand how the various messages are resonating with an intended audience, but also to fine-tune them in real time based on feedback from interaction data. Preceding this step, there’s the ability to understand an audience’s location, their mindset, and preference.
For brands, the capabilities that big data and analytics are enabling work only if there’s a fundamental shift in terms of how they think about engaging with consumers. For instance, they can know where Jim is now, all of his demographic data, what device he’s using, and how his responsive behavior is different on that device than on others. All of this informs the mode of engagement and increases the odds of conversion, and none of it intrudes on Jim’s privacy since his personally identifiable information (PII) is not on display. Brand messages need to be tuned to this information to be more effective.
In the meantime, vendors can be doing more to solve for their part of the equation. Take, for instance, the practice of bringing traditional paid advertising and social engagement together to reach broader, more qualified audiences and increase conversions. Given the growing land rush into social advertising–because that’s where consumers are spending so much time–this should be one key integration goal.
Until we see both sides doing their part, we won’t be able to keep up with these rapid changes in consumer behavior.
While CMOs and marketing VPs may feel overwhelmed at times by the wide array of solutions and vendors available to them, as they struggle to get a handle on the changing consumer environment there is a lot of innovation happening in the trenches at smaller technology providers that are not constrained by old ways of thinking. For instance, advances have made it possible for a brand to pull together an effective promotional campaign sensitive to all of Jim’s attributes in a matter of days, not weeks or months.
In terms of social media advertising, it’s a missed opportunity to target Jim in Facebook or on Twitter without enticing him to share brand messaging using the social utilities native to those platforms. An even bigger miss happens when the social behaviors that spread brand messages further can’t be fully tracked through a point of conversion. Today’s consumer behaviors beg for these capabilities to be baked into advertising solutions.
When social utilities are properly paired with well-targeted ads and wrapped with analytics that gather information through the purchase funnel, you can follow consumer behavior from the first paid ad through social sharing to the point of conversion. This lets marketers see that Jim found their offer, shared it on Facebook, and got X number of friends to take the offer as well, generating Y in sales–in a way that leaves out guesswork. It’s not just a case of, “Let’s storm into social advertising,” which has been the theme for the past two years, but more about connecting all these engagements to points of conversion.
That said, this scenario represents but a small corner of the entire consumer engagement ecosystem. This year will bring us still more creative ways to respond to increasingly plugged-in and social consumers. That’s what makes this such an exciting time to be involved in marketing and advertising; so much more is possible in terms of real-time engagement, personalization, the network effect of social sharing, and increased relevance–and value–for consumers.