By Ross Barnes, Head of Digital Media at Response One
Contemporary consumers have an incredibly vast daily media consumption rate. From social networking to email, from SMS to tweets, not to mention traditional direct mail and display advertising, consumers are surrounded by promotional messages throughout the day.
All this exposure cannot fail to have some impact on the consumer, but understanding which combination of channels is most effective is not such a simple equation.
The route taken so far has seen marketers busy spreading their advertising efforts across a variety of different channels.
Last year, in order to shed some light on the matter, Response One commissioned research to find out how effective British consumers thought different media were at driving them to a company website and inspiring them to make a purchase.
The survey uncovered that the top four channels for driving consumers to a website were customer e-mail, TV and newspaper advertising, direct mail and search engine links.
However, the customer journey does not end by landing on the company website so Response One followed up this survey by asking UK consumers whether they were able to satisfy the majority of their pre-sales queries online and found that: 49% of consumers were satisfied by the information they found on the company website while 51% were not.
An important factor at play within this result is very likely to be the inability to find campaign specific information and many of the unanswered queries could probably be satisfied if search were suitably integrated with the campaigns running at the time.
A new era has dawned for consumers and the way they access information relating to products and services. Thanks to the web they can now review, share experiences with other users and compare prices at the click of a mouse. While the use of the web has entered consumers’ lives at extreme speed, marketers are still trying to understand the many ways in which to extract its value.
To begin to make headway it is of course necessary to establish how and when people access the internet. Research earlier this year revealed that 70% of Britons go online while watching TV and 27% search the products advertised in the commercial. These findings tell us that consumers can be driven onto a search engine by other media. The customer journey may involve more than one or two steps, so why has search not yet gained its proper status as advertising medium at the planning stage?
Consumers expect the brand to issue a consistent message across a variety of channels, failure to maintain continuity in tone and content strikes them as disorganised and artificial. Sadly this is not a rare occurrence as advertisers and marketers still cling on to an outdated “silo” approach towards communications which means that although sometimes a few elements of the campaign are integrated, such as email and direct mail or follow up direct mail on display advertising, most of the time each channel runs its campaign entirely independently of the other.
This approach results in confusing and disappointing the consumer but also makes it difficult to measure the success of a campaign and the single actions within it.
As search is rarely integrated at the planning stage of the campaign it is difficult to measure and understand its role at the end of the campaign. Generally speaking when a cookie is laid onto the landing page informing the system that the potential customer has landed on the company website via a specific search engine, search engine marketing is then regarded as accountable for that acquisition. But this is evidently a simplistic explanation as a number of other factors may have contributed to driving the consumer onto the search engine: a television commercial or a piece of direct mail for example may have left an impression to be followed up by searching on line at a later date.
Unfortunately, one of the results of this basic attribution of sales conversions is that traditional media become concerned that a significant portion of the sales conversions derived from the single campaign, will be attributed only to the last trackable medium, search, which will then command the greater share of budget.
This preconception is so mistaken that often integrating search at the planning stage can actually help attribute uplift to the right media rather than polarise results. In fact if key word searches increase after television advertising is launched, sales conversions can be attributed to that advertising, right down to singling out a more successful airing time.
The same process can be applied to email batches and mail outs so that increases in search subsequent to specific send outs or follow ups can be measured to reveal how effective they are. Search thus proves invaluable in informing future broadcast channels, times and dates.
Search is already usually optimised for a business’ main ecommerce site and traffic is driven to it both organically and through sponsored search, but this is rarely the case with campaigns. Sometimes the microsite is difficult to find, others the campaign specific key words do not lead to the main website, but in each case this negligence devalues the initial investment made in the campaign.
Failing to integrate search at the initial stages of a campaign contributes to delivering skewed results on channel impact and when consumers fail to find what they are looking for they can be trusted to vote with their feet.
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