3-Tips for retailers to sustain sales when the Ad-supported web is no more

Last week’s news about Apple shifting support to ad blocking on its mobile OS made me giggle – ad blocking is official now! More recently Firefox also announced a major update of its software and integration with Adblock Plus. If push-advertising is like the billboard space at a train station, there are going to be a lot of blank canvases in there. SO! What does it mean for business? Depends on who you ask. For publishers it could be a huge loss in revenues. For Ad networks this means a big shift in their business models. I expect a big shakeout. For retailers there is going to be a big reality check on the effectiveness of their marketing and brand positioning. There are three considerations for retailers to start preparing for the end of the ad-supported web.

1. Start moving beyond last click attribution

last click attribution - RIPLast click attribution is flawed but remains the standard bearer for marketers because it’s easy to measure via Google Analytics. In truth it only shows the last customer touch point with brand or product and represents, in best case scenario, only a third of the whole intimate connaissance with the brand. I like a pinball machine reference a lot when talking about customer journey – they(we) are bouncing from one channel to another, from desktop to tablet etc. If the focus is directed to the last click, most of other very valuable touch points have been overlooked.

Here’s the problem. If you’re still looking at Google analytics for measuring the impact of your marketing, you are likely overspending on those channels that show up at the LAST stage of the shopping journey. Which is probably why you are still bidding on your company name/brand’s search and under spending on acquisition and engagement.

Tip: To prepare for the end of the ad-supported web, you need to remove all doubt on revenue attribution across all stages of the shopping journey. This will give you (for instance) an understanding of the impact of social and mobile on driving sales – perhaps not in conversions – but in engaging the customer on her journey.

2. Invest in Content 

Content marketing is on the rise and is the key to customer engagement retention. Customer experience is in the highest focus right now and content should be adding value, not taking it away. Overload of irrelevant and excessive content is clearly too much for the customer tolerance. Retailers must relocate the creative efforts towards user friendly content. It works both ways – happy customer, happy retailer. This is Marco Arment’s recommendation for publishers but it equally fits to retailers: “For publishers who want to remain ad-supported, ethically and tastefully presented native advertising, such as sponsored posts in feeds and our community’s podcast ads, has proven to be more effective, more profitable, and less user-hostile by far compared to awful network <script> embeds.” The industry has caught on and in the US (period of 2007 – present) interest in content marketing has been outgrowing other channels. [Chart below via Google Trends]

google trends

Tip: Start investing in content that engages, informs and entertains the shopper. In principle, content marketing, SEO and social marketing are not completely distinct. The goal is to create an affinity for your brand with the shopper and focusing on the early part of the sales funnel. The more shoppers you have in the earlier stage, the more that will trickle down to your sales – and you will not need to rely on sales. Your bottomline will look good.

3. Look beyond freebies and discounts

It’s a public secret that finding a new customer is way more expensive than retaining the one that is already engaged. And a shopper who shops only on discounts is a fickle shopper. Customer engagement is about building a relationship. With consumer trends shifting away from sampling and looking towards long term commitment, retailers must change their customer retention strategies.

adblocking penetrationAggressive advertising offering discounts, ads that start chanting some free offer benefits at you once you accidentally hover over them, are working great – but only as a great repellent. This is the reason why ad-supported web is at risk (see the chart of ad-blocking rate on the left). To make peace with customer and keep a long term relationship healthy retailers have to ensure positive encounters with brand. This Forbes article suggests several ways to improve customer experience: make it simple, be reactive and prompt, make most of social media, and “anticipate, and act on customer needs”. The key of employing any of these practices is knowing your customer’s behavior. As I’ve stated previously, customer loyalty is a share-of-mind and the retailer’s task to get that share of mind is to establish a long term relationship.

Tip: Do an assessment of the Long-term value (LTV) for your customer base. Better still, if your marketing strategy is built around customer personas, do a LTV assessment for each of the personas. This will help you build marketing content catering to your best customers.

Get customers at every stage of their shopping journey

Still not ready for the end of the Ad-supported web? Click the button bellow –  we’ll show you how to get customers at every stage of their shopping journey.

Feature photo by Gideon Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
Photo courtesy of Nebo Blog

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