So, what does this mean for advertisers? Clearly it’s important to target consumers across multiple channels. Not a ground-breaking statement in itself. However, what is becoming more and more apparent is that this is no longer enough.  

As the consumer purchase journey becomes increasingly fragmented, marketers shouldn’t restrict optimising ad spend across channels, and need to alter spend and messaging based on the background and intent of the individuals across these different channels.

This isn’t as complicated as it sounds. By looking back at the evolution of online advertising, we can see the strides which have already been made and develop a strategy which anticipates the next big thing.

In the beginning, there was individual channel optimisation

When the internet was a less crowded space and the consumer path to conversion was less fragmented, online advertising was also simpler.

Advertisers were getting to grips with the range of channels available to them, from search marketing, online display advertising, email marketing to affiliate marketing and so on.

However, these channels were so under optimised any uplift on the individual platform was celebrated.

This led to a deluge of ‘Big Data’ which wasn’t being used in an effective way; we knew if a search campaign had been successful at driving a conversion but had no idea whether this new customer had already been influenced by an ad on Facebook with the same message.

Then there was cross-channel attribution

The internet moved on, social networks ballooned and consumers were increasingly influenced by what their friends were liking and sharing.

At the same time, advertisers started comparing the results of campaigns across an entire portfolio of channels.

Spend could then be redistributed based on the most successful carrier of an ad to boost ROI. However, the customer journey across these channels was still difficult to understand with any sophistication.

Now there is individually tailored advertising across channels 

The world has moved on again. A more accessible and connected digital world gives consumers a greater choice of which device and channels they shop on.

This is so much the case that each consumer path-to-conversion is practically unique; a targeting nightmare for advertisers.

To overcome this new challenge, advertisers are increasingly able to use first- and third-party audience data to inform online advertising optimisation.

If you know a consumer’s demographic, you know if they’re:

  1. The right prospect for your brand, and…
  2. Their preferred online channel on which to target them with personalised messages.

We are now even able to build up a view of how valuable a customer has been in the past to inform how much spend they’re worth in the future and segment these from new customers to inform which ad creative should be served to different users.

To reach brand loyal customers for example, marketers can use Google Retargeting lists for search ads (RLSAs) to retarget existing customers across social and display channels.

However, to reach new customers its more effective to spend more on generic keywords and implement corresponding creative.

To use a real world scenario, a travel brand could create a list of prospects interested in flights for a particular destination.

Once a member of this list clicks on a search ad for that destination, rather than continue to target that individual on search and pay a premium for an expensive keyword, the advertiser could retarget the same individual across other channels such as Facebook or display to complete the journey from click to conversion.

This approach goes beyond relying on the keyword. Advertisers can generate a powerful picture of not just what a consumer is looking for, but also who they are and how likely they are to convert.

Innovative advertisers are realising that the more data they integrate, the better results they get from their online advertising budget. After all, knowledge is power.