2014 was a big year for search marketers – especially for those with cross-channel responsibilities. Audience was the name of the game, and as marketers learned how to collect and act on audience data across channels, it opened up exciting new opportunities to test different strategies.
Let’s take a look at some of the recurring themes of the year, and the strategies that will help marketers succeed in 2015.
First, we saw marketers invest in an increasingly audience-oriented approach to search marketing strategy. Further adoption of Google’s Remarketing List for Search Ads (RLSA) was one example in which our clients recognized the need to go beyond keywords to incorporate consumer behavior in their search campaigns.
Beyond retargeting, we also noticed significantly more interest when it came to ingesting and overlaying a diverse collection of data for use in bidding strategies; this included first-party behavioral and intent data, third-party demographic and in-market data and more.
It’s encouraging to see that savvy marketers are getting better and better at leveraging audience data to optimize their advertising efforts.
Second, though we’ve seen fast growth in mobile, programmatic display and video ad spending, the quickest-growing category in digital advertising is actually social. And marketers are paying attention!
Our clients recognize the treasure trove of demographic data that social provides — particularly on Facebook — and are looking to find new and unique ways to leverage it in their social marketing efforts and on other channels, as well.
Third, implementing a cohesive cross-device strategy remains a top priority and improving mobile advertising sophistication is crucial.
As cross-device matching methodologies (whether probabilistic, deterministic or a mix of both) become more mature, and as growing programmatic mobile inventory improves reach and targeting efficiency across smartphones and tablets, marketers will see more success in this area.
Cross-device targeting will bring advertisers one big step closer to that perfect scenario of reaching a potential customer with a personally tailored message that is creatively optimized by channel and device.
In addition to those three big themes, it’s also important to consider the trends that are emerging beyond digital channels (especially as the conversion paths converge more and more).
Retailers are of particular focus, as they become more adept at incorporating offline sales data for a complete picture of customer ROI, cross-channel attribution insights, and more profitable targeting decisions.
Mobile is another focus. As a central touch point in many e-commerce interactions, it creates a challenge to understanding what drives customers from an initial ad engagement to a purchase.
On the bright side, we’ve found showrooming to be an over-hyped fear. In practice, mobile often performs an assistive role, serving to help drive in-store conversions more often than it results in a lost sale.
Finally, many marketers now have access to exciting real-world proximity technologies, such as beacons, to better capture and connect offline customer behaviors with online activity.
These trends have led us to recognize a few key opportunities for further improvement.
1. Digital Sales Still Trail
Digital sales still only represent a (small) piece of the pie. Integrate offline revenue data to get total accountability for digital performance.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe because we spend so much more time talking about digital marketing strategies, but eMarketer estimates that only 7.1% of retail sales are expected to occur online in 2015.
However, this 7% figure clearly underestimates the impact of digital.
While it represents only a small portion of total retail sales, according to Forrester, it influences more than 50% of total sales, and that percentage is increasing. There’s a reason why revenue integrations are by far the most popular type used by Marin customers.
Whether it’s onboarding offline sales data, online/offline CRM data, call tracking data, or a number of different custom feeds, it’s important for marketers to be able to pull in revenue data from all types of different channels in order understand the full value of their marketing campaigns – especially when it comes to revenue gained outside of a direct search, social or display conversion.
2. Mobile Cross-Device Targeting
Use cross-device targeting to enhance mobile’s unique position as an interaction hub. In our recent quarterly benchmark report, we found that mobile conversions don’t keep pace with desktop conversions. And it’s not only our data – eMarketer estimates that mobile will account for just 1.5% of total sales in 2015.
However, we found that mobile spending is disproportionately higher compared to the conversions it drives. Why is that? Proper attribution issues aside, it’s clear that mobile plays an essential assistive role in the consumer decision-making process.
Whether it’s for in-store product and brand research, social validation prior to purchase, or for transactional purposes such as mobile couponing, customers are using mobile in a number of different ways to supplement and enhance their shopping behaviors.
More often than not, the ultimate conversion happens in-store, or later at a desktop. This explains the relatively low mobile conversion numbers. However, mobile, and particularly cross-device targeting, offer marketers the opportunity to take advantage of unique and crucial moments to connect with customers as they’re making a decision.
Real-world proximity technologies like beacons will only enhance this further. For example, think of the opportunity for “real-world retargeting” by which you could to increase bids for particular users based on where they are in the store.
3. Attribution Model Improvement
Improving attribution models is essential for getting a complete picture of marketing efforts. Attribution isn’t easy. And as sophisticated as the models can get, they will never be able to keep pace with increasingly sophisticated customer behavior.
The prevalence of mobile only adds new complexity to the process, and the cookie-less environment disrupts the tracking data marketers have leaned on for the past two decades to build their marketing intelligence.
Still, just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. Algorithmic attribution modeling may or may not be worth the investment, but even getting started with a rudimentary version of multi-touch attribution modeling is better than continuing to rely on last-click attribution.
Otherwise, marketers will consistently undervalue the assistive nature of any non-search channel, and ultimately short-circuit the value that non-search campaigns are driving.
Increasing investment in social, display and mobile is one step, but figuring out how to make those investments succeed requires marketers to fully buy into the idea that finding success in those non-search channels requires going beyond last-click attribution.
The increasing convergence between the online and offline channels adds another level of complexity for successful omni-channel marketing, but it can also unlock opportunities for gathering actionable and differentiated insight. These are exciting times.
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