According to the most recent report from The Interactive Advertising Bureau, brands spent $75.8 billion on digital ads through the third quarter of 2018, marking a 22% increase in spend over the first three quarters of 2017. That’s a whole lot of YouTube ads, Facebook ads, native ads, paid search ads, and any other paid content that’s become so pervasive in our online culture. In fact, at least one recent study found that advertisers now spend more on digital than on all other channels COMBINED!
But what good is spending all that money if you can’t target the right audiences or understand how these ads influence purchase decisions? Long gone are the days of relying on tired old metrics like reach and impressions that deal more with hindsight than foresight. Fortunately, as the stakes of digital ad spending continue to balloon, so do our capabilities to understand the digital lives of target audiences. Today, researchers can apply sophisticated analytics to provide extraordinary insights into the countless ways that consumers interact with your brand both on- and off-line. These insights, in turn, can better inform your digital ad strategy.
To make sure you’re getting the most ROI, here are four audience insights that you’ll want to consider as you plan your next digital ad campaign:
Know where your audience is going
Customers can take many unique paths before they finally buy your product or service. Some may do hours, days or even weeks of research before they pull the trigger. Others may solicit word-of-mouth recommendations from friends on social media. And still others may go right to an online retailer and buy. By using passive metering to analyze clickstream data and cross-device behavior, researchers can better understand the digital paths to purchase, so that they can inform marketers on where to place the right messages and at the right time.
Know what your audience is buying
Consumers have more shopping and purchase options at their disposal than ever before. Whether it be in-store or online, legacy brands or private labels, the shopper profile is changing dramatically. By analyzing purchase event data at the retailer-, brand-, and product-levels, researchers and marketers can inform the next wave of consumer journeys, product preferences, and category visibility. These insights can shape not only message strategies, but also competitive conquest opportunities.
Know what your audience is saying
You might think you know how consumers interact with your space, but do you know for sure? By conducting a deep dive into digital communities by using practices like online anthropology, researchers can unearth new insights into the way consumers are talking about individual products and brands. But more importantly, they can reveal product category “white spaces” where neither you nor your competitors are fulfilling consumer needs, which can help guide new out-of-the-box messaging ideas. You may also discover new and overlooked online destinations filled with enthusiasts that are primed to engage with your brand.
Know what your audience is thinking
How do your messages impact brand perception? Using a technique called “Attitudinal Attribution Modeling,” researchers can determine what aspects of your campaign give your brand a lift and what aspects are dragging it down. You can flesh out these insights by integrating behavioral science practices into a robust brand tracker. At LRW, for example, we evaluate attitudinal insights through a process known as PACE Analysis (PACE: Platform, Assets, Channels, and Exposure). Through this process we can tell if marketing messages viewed on a mobile device affect brand perception the same way they are viewed on a desktop computer. Similarly, we can evaluate how many digital ad exposures are the “sweet spot” for successfully getting your message across. These insights are especially powerful not only because they can inform upcoming campaigns, but also because they can help you adjust your campaigns in flight.
For decades, marketers have pulled out all the stops to understand what makes consumers tick. Now that so many consumers’ lives are online, advanced digital analytics make this dream possible. Before you invest one more dollar in your digital marketing plan, make sure that digital audience insights are actively informing your strategy.
Aaron is the marketing and communications director at LRW, where he highlights the company's fresh insights and innovative work . He has more than 15 years experience in media and communications, first as a producer at CNN and CBS News, and then as a communications officer at Nielsen and Edmunds.com. He holds a B.A. in journalism from The George Washington University in Washington, DC.