Tipping point or tripping point? Assessing the ROI of digital beyond the screen

Jed Mole, European Marketing Director at Acxiom writes about the ROI of digital

Jed Mole

For a long time now, marketing has been about so much more than advertising and direct mail. The past decade’s rapid growth in consumer technology has offered opportunities such as search, social and mobile: this along with a seemingly endless list of platforms, tools, and specialisms which can help brands reach their audiences in increasingly creative and innovative ways. And to access this privilege, organisations across the world spend a fortune each year (£21.4bn in the UK alone in 2016 to be exact) to activate campaigns across the ever growing number of digital channels all with the hope of converting interested users into active and loyal customers. 

Yet, despite the increasing number of channels available to brands and the ever-growing amount of customer data being produced as a result, there is more debate than ever over exactly what success looks like. And it’s hardly surprising. 

With more and more data being produced each and every second across the myriad consumer touchpoints, marketers are drowning in numbers. So, as an industry, it’s no wonder that we’re struggling to define what success really looks like - when we have so much online data to choose from. Defining which of those numbers really matters is the challenge. 

But amongst the growing media attention and industry debates over exaggerated video view numbers, social engagements, and programmatic reach figures, which you’ll have seen gripping the headlines of the marketing trades, it seems there is something we’re in danger of overlooking – the objectives.

Whilst it’s lovely to have a 1m video views on your vlog, or a record number of people watching your Facebook Live video, or 6m expansions of your Display ad, let’s be honest – it’s the impact of those impressions which really matters. And is, therefore, what we should really be looking to benchmark our success against.

One of the biggest tripping points for digital marketing over the last couple of years has been the inability to accurately track the associated offline conversions and adjust campaigns accordingly. For a long time, in fairness, this was impossible. But not anymore. Now it’s a lot easier to define your magic numbers by linking digital clicks and views to real world sales. 

As services such as data onboarding continue to grow in effectiveness and awareness throughout the industry, the gap between the online and offline worlds closes. But in the meantime, there is still the issue in how we as an industry are thinking of measurement and attribution of digital campaigns.

Even with all of the tracking and onboarding technology at our fingertips, if your organisation, marketing team and c-suite are still thinking of digital marketing in terms of purely likes, views and opportunities to see (OTS), then you’ll continue to overlook a wealth of additional value for your campaigns. And you’ll at risk of missing the point of what we’re all marketing for. After all, awareness is at best half the story without resulting action. 

With the rise in mobile technology, we’re all aware of just how fragmented the customer journey has become. From checking prices of competitors on their phones in-store, to surfing multiple devices from the comfort of their own sofas in front of Love Island, precisely attributing exactly when, where, and from which piece of marketing your customer took the inspiration to finally make a purchase was difficult. By beginning to look beyond the screen to the real-world actions taken by these key consumers, and more importantly to the data these interactions provide, we can start to look beyond the performance of each piece of marketing to map the overall success of the wider marketing strategy. 

By factoring increasing amounts of physical-world data, mixed with the wealth of online insights, marketers can begin to build a more holistic view of their individual customer’s profile – be it store preference, payment method, location, tendency to browse whilst in-store – and factor all of this into real-time digital activity. Thus, helping educate a marketing brain which can assess the responses of target audiences and attain proper attribution across the digital landscape, as well as drive smarter, more effective and less wasteful marketing activity across the board.  

Now, whilst this might seem like a marketer’s Nirvana – where marketing systems are all-knowing and users covert to customers with compellingly relevant personal offers – the truth is that this utopian state is within reach. It begins with a mind-set, a mind-set that does not dismiss the long-term challenge of measuring the in-store impact of digital marketing as just too hard, but one we can get to grips with right now, improving measurability, planning all culminating in a better customer experience and more successful business results. 

Soft KPIs like ‘likes’ or ‘views’ will always be overvalued, if we let them be. By drawing in real-world conversations to online engagements and transaction data, marketers will be able to showcase the more holistic impact of their activations and highlight the true value of data-driven marketing. 

IAB UK logo

Supportive thought leadership on today’s biggest issues, the best of digital advertising and the future of the industry

Our members achieve more as part of our community through network information, education, stewardship and advocacy.

supportive