The importance of decoupling display KPIs from search

Azad Ali, Head Trader at The Exchange Lab explains why establishing relevant KPIs is such an important decision for marketers.

Azad Ali

From its inception over a decade ago, programmatic buying has fast become a useful ally for online marketers. However, while incorporating programmatic into the digital media mix can be a fine balancing act, the task becomes trickier with inflexible targets. Establishing relevant KPIs is an important decision for any marketer and must be considered carefully.

To understand the nuances of programmatic when compared to other digital marketing techniques, it’s helpful to start by comparing it to one of the most common marketing practices; Search Engine Marketing (SEM). SEM is a vital marketing tool; it ensures your ads are seen by consumers who have specifically expressed an interest in specific products or services.

Display, on the other hand, helps drive awareness to consumers who may not be in any particular rush to purchase and who are usually further up the conversion funnel. Expecting these channels to procure the same results can stifle campaign effectiveness and the potential of programmatic marketing.

Imagine the online world as a shopping centre, where we are advertising for an electronics company. We’ll consider a few scenarios where store employees act as ad impressions.

Scenario 1: Clumsy Chloe spilled milk all over her laptop last night and has walked straight towards the electronics section. As Chloe has shown explicit interest in purchasing a new laptop, we merely need to demonstrate that we are open for business to convince her that buying with us is the best solution for her needs.

Scenario 2: Hesitant Harry, who came into our store twice within the last week without having purchased anything, has been spotted at a nearby fast-food restaurant. We would send one of our employees to sit with Harry to show him why he definitely deserves a new set of headphones.

Scenario 3: Trendy Tracey is a regular in store and likes to browse and try on before buying a pair of shoes. After analysing first party data - it seems that indeed a majority of our customers are female, aged 18-25 and regularly visit retail stores directly before making a purchase. We can therefore send an in-store assistant to meet with Trendy Tracey in the shoe section to ensure she's aware of all the great products we have on offer.

If you haven't guessed by now - Scenario 1 represents SEM, where the user has shown explicit intent to purchase a product. This is a technique that is particularly efficient when combined with a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) model. Scenario 2 is display re-targeting, which again relies on targeting users who have clearly defined interest and just need a final push to purchase. Scenario 3 represents programmatic prospecting.

This can be an incredibly powerful tool, but to convince a user who may not have shown any previous interest in purchasing a product is a more difficult sell. While this may sound like it would be less productive in the short term, programmatic advertising is vital to increasing awareness and expanding your customer base beyond regular consumers, and should be seen as essential as brand marketing.

Organisations can often overlook programmatic when comparing it to SEM from a sales viewpoint. The potential benefits of programmatic are sometimes hampered due to the notion that it is purely a direct response solution. Marketers are gradually improving their understanding of how display advertising contributes to the conversion funnel through various attribution models. Try not to over-complicate KPIs. To improve results and capitalise on consumer analytics, simple measurement metrics must be applied from the very beginning of campaigns along with clear multi-touch attribution modelling that is independently verified. Only then will a clear and un-biased gauge of success be seen.

It’s important to remember that both programmatic and SEM work best together as part of an integrated marketing strategy. Flexibility to test, as well as a separation from SEM goals, is also required to maximise the full capabilities programmatic can provide to boost business development. For marketers looking for branding opportunities on digital devices and willing to separate KPIs when needed - programmatic advertising is a genuine diamond in the rough.

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