Embrace the Change

While KPIs, measurement models, attribution, and optimization remain go-to frameworks of digital marketing plans, I often get the feeling we’re leaning too much on these performance metrics and not actually taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture. Instead of asking how we can decrease the CPA by 10 percent or increase enrollments by changing frequency caps, we need to do our due diligence to expand beyond our silos and look at the big picture to understand how evolving consumer consumption and usage is truly impacting our business.

U.S. Internet usage has reached saturation, and with that, so has usage of search engines and email. According to eMarketer, overall Internet penetration came in between 75 and 85 percent (depending on the source) in 2012 with a projected 2.4 percent increase this year. With saturation, consumers are developing a more cultured palate for their online experiences, and their expectations have evolved to determine what is and is not acceptable. The days of championing the glorious measureable results of digital media with year-over-year staggering increases in performance are coming to an end…and it is not all to blame on the economy. For example, consumers have become so desensitized to the clutter of banner ads that click-through rates are dismal, and retargeting is now the show pony, saving the day and keeping banners alive. However, with the continual threat of cookie deletion, multiple browsers, and the latest default setting of Mozilla to block cookies, “tracking” and “accountability” could have some challenges ahead.

While Internet usage has reached its saturation point, online ad spending continues to demonstrate healthy year-over-year growth rates and is not expected to dip to single digit growth until 2015, according to eMarketer. With online advertising spending reaching over $40 billion in 2013, we are experiencing a saturation point with these more sophisticated users and continual increases in advertising spending, which is leading to online schizophrenia. With the growth of digital, the idea of a hyper-connected consumer 10 years ago is so outdated that nowadays consumers feel more disconnected than hyper-connected; there is always something they are missing out on, be it using one social platform vs. another, a missed promo code opportunity or daily/flash deal, or (GASP!) maybe a real-life event outside of their digital world.

As we attempt to take a step back and look at the big picture, here are a few things to consider:

  1. Ensure research is always part of what you are doing. Research is vital in staying up to date with competitors, consumer perception, and customer experiences; qualitative is just as important as quantitative. It is the grey that can fill in the gaps between the black and white story the data tells.
  2. Reconsider how you are measuring success. Does your current model for digital measurement only reward the “now,” or does it take into account the long-term health of the business and brand? Is your attribution model accounting for offline as well as online media?
  3. Consider consumer usage across devices and always work to make it better. Additionally, make sure that not only the experience is optimized for the device, but you are measuring performance and results accordingly. Lastly, do not neglect the opportunity to integrate social and local initiatives across these different devices.
  4. Evaluate your content strategy and its integration into all of your platforms and communications.
  5. Decide what you will be doing this year to truly enhance the overall consumer experience and value your brand offers them. Trust me, offering 40 percent off every week during the holidays truly sets an expectation for what “value” you can offer consumers moving forward. Take note and be mindful.
  6. Always allow for testing. You will never set the standard if you do not take chances and test to see what is working and what is not; however, you must make sure your test is set up for success, meaning: clear objectives, measureable results, specific differences in one experience vs. another, and the ability to confidently ensure the test will not create confusion for the consumer.
  7. Embrace the data. OK, now it may seem like I’m being contradictory. I’m not just talking about the data you use day in and day out, but digging beyond the high-level performance results. Data was definitely on trend for 2012, so there should be no shortage of it, but you need to be looking at it collectively across research, analytics, advertising, third-party, etc. This will help you to determine what to make a priority, what to test, and what perhaps can wait.

There is never a shortage of opportunities to test and try out. If you are always the “wait and see” follower brand you will never stand out amongst the clutter and chaos because consumers become desensitized so quickly. What is new one day becomes standard the next – who doesn’t have a responsive design site? So just like dieting, it’s important to keep a healthy balance and practice moderation to ensure you have a good mix of tried-and-true, and new and innovative that will keep you in shape to be sure you’re continually looking at the big picture for opportunities to embrace the change rather than waiting till it changes you.

Change image on home page via Shutterstock.

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