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How to capture audiences online. Six golden rules

How to capture audiences online. Six golden rules

Ian Dowds, VP UK at online advertising network Specific Media shares his six golden rules for advertisers looking to capture online audiences.

Online is becoming a vital channel in almost every sector within the overall retail offering. According to data from the British Population Survey, nearly half the adult population of the UK (48.7%) purchased goods online during the last quarter of 2009.

But it is not a channel constrained to the young. For the first time, more than one in five of the 65-and-over age group shopped online in the last three months of 2009, showing that this form of retail is reaching new audiences, as the internet becomes an increasingly important aspect of life for everyone in the UK.

The IMRG / Capgemini Sales Index report published in January this year showed the UK e-retail market grew a healthy 17% year-on-year, an increase from the 14% annual growth recorded in December 2008.

These are certainly positive figures, unsurprising when one considers the factors contributing to its growth – such as the growing desire for convenience and choice, plus heavy investment from retailers in their online presence.

But needless to say, the over hang of the recession, actions of competitors in a competitive industry and the sheer volume of noise that is generated online are only some of the challenges that need to be addressed to ensure retailers make the most of their online advertising campaigns and ensure a captive audience.   

1. Be targeted

Online advertising allows retailers to target consumers in a way much traditional advertising doesn’t. Advertising no longer has to be broad brush - and driven by demographics, as traditionally with other media – but instead can be based on actual user interests and recent online activity. For example, a phone advertiser would benefit from identifying a user in-market for a particular style of mobile phone that offers specific capabilities such as a high-pixel camera, or 3G internet access.

By collecting anonymous data and browsing behaviours linked anonymously to that user, the advertiser can more accurately identify those more likely to be in-market and target them with relevant and timely advertising that has a higher likelihood of producing a sale.

By harnessing intelligent data, it is possible to create a more accurate picture of what a particular user is in-market for, allowing retailers to pinpoint people interested in their product, rather than relying solely on traditional demographic information.

Whatever the medium and whatever the message, we’re all in-market for something not because of our demographic profile but simply because we’re in-market for it. A cosmetics brand wouldn’t traditionally target men with a women’s make-up advert, however, our technology is able to identify in-market gifters, helping retailers identify male shoppers purchasing for a wife or girlfriend.

2. Keep the customer interested

Marketers have been using advertising campaigns to up-sell to consumers for years, however, the online advertising age has created an interesting spin on this traditional concept. Rather than simply encouraging customers who have bought from you in the past to buy again using the information they provided at the initial point of purchase, it is now possible to reach customers who have merely showed an interest in purchasing your product, by retargeting them with an advert.

For example, a consumer browsing a jeweller’s website may not make an immediate purchase, but instead decide to do some more research or compare prices. Through retargeting, the jeweller can reconnect with that consumer at a later date - serving an advert that drives them back to their site to complete the purchase.

3. Lay the foundations early

Retailers should plan online activity to enhance awareness during peak times, allowing them to capture more online traffic when interest is at its highest. Targeting consumers a few weeks before any seasonal event, such as Mother’s Day, ensures brand presence is at front of mind when the consumer is making their decision to purchase.

Time-relevant messaging around peak seasonal events such as ‘Guaranteed in time for Mother’s Day’ or ‘Last chance for Christmas delivery’ will serve as deadline reminders to consumers.

Furthermore, behavioural targeting allows advertising networks to detect spikes in user activity. This provides highly valuable insights that can be used to maximise campaign effectiveness, enabling retailers to serve ads to a consumer whose online behaviour indicates they are at the optimum position on their path to purchase.

Online advertising works best when it isn’t used simply as a media tool that can be switched on or off. Like any targeted campaign, you won’t immediately capture an audience; rather you need to take the time to plant seeds of information to the consumer in order to influence their purchasing decision in favour of your brand. Digital advertising can be strategic as well as tactical - understanding consumer behaviours before peak periods allows retailers to target the most relevant people with the right message, at the right time.

4. Don’t get sloppy in the quest for reach

For any retailer looking to embark on an online campaign it’s vital to maintain the integrity of your brand. At no stage should marketers compromise quality for reach. This can be ensured by insisting adverts are placed only on premium networks with reputable, brand-safe sites, making use of qualified data, sourced through the suppliers understanding of user behaviour.

5. Target the upper funnel

It’s easy to focus your efforts at the bottom of the purchase funnel, in other words users who are in the ‘Consideration’ or ‘Purchase’ stages. They are easier to reach and convert at a lower Cost Per Acquisition (CPA), than those users at the top of the funnel – the ‘Brand Awareness’ stage.

However the volume of sales you can drive by purely focusing on the middle and lower funnel is limited and ultimately your business will fail to grow if you do not reach new customers.

Employing ‘Behavioural Discovery’ techniques to optimise your campaign against certain behaviours can enable advertisers to communicate with their potential audience even at the very start of the purchase cycle, and result in sales from people who were not necessarily looking to purchase your product.

Retailers who fail to engage with this opportunity at the top of the purchase funnel run the risk of losing potential new customers to their competitors.  

By utilising advanced targeting technologies to connect with users at the right time and with the right frequency, marketers can drive users down the purchase funnel and convert them into new customers. Over time the Brand Awareness stage of the funnel can be optimised and CPA driven down even further. 

6. Monitor success

In the same way that advertising online allows for more granular targeting, measurement is far more accurate in the digital environment. A campaign can be tracked and assessed utilising a variety of methods throughout its delivery, giving the opportunity for amendments to be made during the campaign lifecycle.

Sales, brand perception, coverage, click throughs and increased time spent on a retailer’s site can all be used as a measurement of success. Importantly, learn from your campaign through intelligent data analysis and act on it in the’s vital for retailers to stay ahead of the curve.

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