More and more consumers are participating in the modern digital landscape, using the internet to do everything from shop for groceries and electronics, to maintaining social relationships and consuming news. According to Pew, 67% of American homes had broadband connection in 2015, and nearly two-thirds owned a smart phone. With such a large and diverse population gathering online, the digital world offers businesses an important opportunity to interact with target audiences.
A strategic online advertising initiative, when executed correctly, can be the most impactful marketing spend a retailer can invest in, for several reasons. First, online advertising provides brands with several channels for engagement, in addition to hyper-targeting capabilities that can abundantly impact the return on any spend. Secondly, it provides multichannel merchants with a holistic approach to drive sales to both online and brick and mortar locations.
Many merchants have mastered online retail, but this does not necessarily translate into comprehension of online advertising, which can make delving into such initiatives a bit daunting. But it’s not impossible. For merchants venturing into digital advertising, success can be maximized with an acute attention to detail and a thorough comprehension of the end customer. By preparing upfront and defining key objectives during the campaign development process, multi-channel merchants can use digital advertising to generate sales across their business.
Tackle your audience first.
The success of a digital advertising campaign, like any ad campaign, is ultimately dependent on who sees the ads. An ad may be seen by one million people, but if it’s not the right audience, the impact of that ad is diminished. Deciding where ads should run, therefore, is critical to the success of a campaign, and should be based exclusively on the audience you are trying to engage.
Merchants that leverage research data to intimately understand their retail consumer audience will see the largest ROI on their ad spend. Before media planning and even before creative development, you must ask several key questions: Who is your consumer? Can you cast a wide net or should targeting be very niche? The answers to these questions will help to better define the next steps of the campaign. If, for example, your consumer is very limited such as high-end luxury, then granular targeting will be important in your digital efforts. While the rates for such niche targeting are very high, they still outweigh the waste of spending dollars on the wrong audiences. If, on the other hand, your consumer base is broad and diverse, it may make sense to cast a wide net and ask your media team to optimize media buys to those users that are responding well to your campaign. The lower rates for broad optimize-able targeting are wise when you do not have a niche customer.
Learn the where and how.
A digital media plan is based on more than just audience comprehension, it must also acknowledge the answers to “where” and “how.” Where is your audience going online, and how are they doing it? Consumers have an increasing number of ways to engage with brands these days, and the digital landscape itself hosts a wide range of advertising options. Learning where and how your target customer engages with the digital landscape is crucial to allocating ad spend in the best way to maximize results.
Use research to determine how each of your target audiences consumes media. This is important in building a cost effective media plan. If your online shopper spends much of their time on their smart phone and tablet, that is where you should focus the majority of your digital media campaign. If they tend to favor social media platforms over internet news websites, it may be more effective to spend money on Facebook over CNN.com. Go where your audience is and engagement will be more likely to convert into a sale.
Use research to determine tactical engagement.
Digital advertising offers advertisers a range of execution options, and while these options are extremely valuable, they can also be overwhelming. For multi-channel merchants in particular, data is incredibly helpful in deciphering what drives online sales versus in store. For example, if your products attract consumers that want an in-store experience, your advertising campaign should incentivize a visit to your location. Conversely, for those audiences that are more likely to shop online, use your advertisements to incentivize the purchase and make the transaction easy and smooth. If an online sale is your goal, using a specific promotion like free shipping is key.
Other options to consider include retargeting, where you focus your ads on consumers that have recently visited your site but not recently purchased (also referred to as “negative retargeting”). This can be an incredibly effective tactic for the right campaign. Using more advanced tactics such as dynamic creative (creative that is custom depending on your audience) can also be very effective, as well as targeting ad dollars to the most effective zip codes where your target audience is most saturated.
Multi-channel merchants can find an incredibly valuable tool in the digital landscape, if the proper preparations and considerations are made during the campaign development process. While the digital world can feel overwhelming, with so many options and often a lot of jargon, grasping your audience and your objectives at a granular level will better position you to make the right investments in your ad spend and maximize the return you generate from a campaign.