Between desktop, social media, mobile apps and the mobile web, today’s path to purchase has become a circuitous customer journey.
Consumers engage with brands across channels, browsing prices on a brand’s site while also reviewing customer feedback on its Twitter page before making a purchase. They encounter ads in their email inbox, on YouTube and at dozens of other digital touch points. Because of this, today’s marketer face even more of challenges fitting their brand’s messages into consumers’ lives relevantly and seamlessly.
Consumers have become more weary of standard marketing messages due to the sheer number they encounter on a daily basis. According to Forrester Research, only 13 percent of consumers trust ads on websites and only 22 percent trust emails from companies or brands. Overall, about 32 percent trust ads on any channel.
But even against this backdrop, there remain huge opportunities for success. The key is to think about “disrupting” a consumer with ads that speak to wherever they are on their journey, rather than “interrupting” them with irrelevant, general offers. Many brands think native advertising is the only way to address this challenge when, in fact, there many ways to optimize existing digital ads to connect consumers with promotional materials and drive both online and offline results.
Create Engaging, Informative Experiences
Building engaging ad experiences across platforms is an important first step to establishing good disruption. These experiences grab consumers’ attention and feature useful information relevant to what the consumer is doing online. They also tie offers directly to current needs and wants.
For example, Disney ran banner ads in the Weather Channel app for their film Oz The Great And Powerful. It may seem like a strange partnership, but to integrate seamlessly into the platform and users’ lives, the banner units’ creative tied to specific weather conditions. The ads communicated something the app user needed to know, while also prominently advertising the film.
Brands and retailers must ask whether or not their promotional content is contextually relevant and useful. Is a desktop banner unit serving products already purchased (an interruption) or items from an abandoned shopping cart (a disruption)? Does a Facebook ad feature general offers anyone would see or does it target shoppers based on what they have Liked? Does the mobile banner ad provide price and item information for what is available at a nearby store location? These sort of questions are extremely important to cut through the clutter and drive shoppers towards a sale.
Get The Timing Right
Another important thing to consider when being disruptive is timing. Today, timing is no longer about time of day or seasonality; it is about “real-time.” What’s more, the definition of real-time has fundamentally changed now that 50 percent of the population owns a mobile phone. Shoppers expect promotional offers to speak to their immediate wants and needs.
Julie Bowerman, vice president of sales and marketing at Coca Cola, echoed this point at a meeting of digital CMOs. She gave the example of regular soda consumers who have opted in to receive mobile offers. Because of this action, the company can target these consumers wherever they are, know that they are near a mobile-enabled vending machine and send a coupon for a new sports drink. After this interaction, the company also can send a discount offer for a case of the new beverage the next time these consumers visit the grocery store.
Because consumers encounter offers through a variety of channels and on a variety of devices at any stage of their shopping journey, timing has become a critical component to establishing relevance and value. For example, a free shipping incentive sounds great, unless the shopper is already in-store when they see the offer. In fact, poor timing like that can lead directly to showrooming behaviors that cannibalize in-store sales. Retailers and brands alike must get smarter about timing if they want to see better returns.
Help Consumers Shop Locally
With more than 8,200 stores across the country, the drugstore retailer Walgreens knows that localization matters. They capitalize on their local presence with an app celebrated (and well-rated) for its ease of use and in-store utilities. It allows shoppers to fill prescriptions faster, while giving them access to in-store discounts and helpful shopping tips to drive additional sales. Walgreens even launched a Prescription API last year to allow third-party health care apps to integrate with its portal so users could refill or transfer prescriptions to their local Walgreens. The drugstore giant has used a technological solution to foster localized, in-store interactions, create multiple paths to purchase and generate a lot of new business.
Walgreens mobile application won awards for helping consumers access mobile coupons they could use while shopping in-store.
Another great example of a retailer creating a uniquely disruptive experience is what luxury brand Burberry does in their flagship store. Featuring mirrors that double as video screens, Burberry attaches radio frequency chips to certain clothing items so shoppers who approach the screens are engaged with video specific to what they’re wearing – with clips from a runway show or exclusive information about the product’s craftsmanship. It’s a personalized and novel way to connect with customers in a hyperlocal way.
While not all retailers can deploy something this high-tech just yet, practical and effective hyperlocal solutions exist. Beacon technology and geo-targeted social ads are now realities that make it easy to connect potential shoppers to brick-and-mortar stores. Even on desktop, localized offers in search that are available at nearby locations help inform the webrooming decisions that lead to in-store purchases.
Burberry’s flagship London store incorporates interactive video and smart mirrors to bridge online-to-offline.
Because consumers navigate different devices and multiple channels before they ever make a purchase, retailers and brands can no longer just bombard them with mass-market messages and hope for the best sales numbers. The key to success is to deliver messages in the right personalized context, at the right place and in real-time. Brands that seek to create disruptive omnichannel experiences that surprise and delight their consumers in this way will propel themselves forward and win in this space.