Performance marketing used to be simple. Search and affiliates loosely covered the space, the internet was accessed via a single device and conversion rates were good (8.4% in 2006, according to IMRG).  

Performance channels were clearly defined and we knew what to measure. So what happened? 

It’s not you, it’s me…

We all became more complicated. With increasing competition, device proliferation and faster access to information, consumer paths are no longer linear.  

Consumers now spend more time browsing and researching online, accessing information via their social networks and their purchase habits have extended to multi-device and multichannel.

Despite this, it’s never been a better time for marketers to invest in performance marketing. More than 61% of Europeans are now online and over two thirds of these people have made a purchase online over the past year and online retail sales are expected to grow by 16% this year according to the Centre for Retail Research.

Following are five areas which I see as key for enabling marketers to unlock the new value within performance marketing


With so much said about big data recently it’s easy to develop an inferiority complex. But it’s actually an exciting time for marketers.  

The abundance of third party data has helped drive the behavioural advertising sector. By utilising first party data however, marketers can start to be even cleverer with their targeting and increase the relevancy of the marketing messaging and creative.  

It’s important to recognise which data is useful and how best to use it, for example understanding that different data can have different values. Evaluating your data on a regular basis, even though some data doesn’t change that often is also important.

Demographic data may have a longer validity period (say six months) than user data showing current needs which may only be relevant for 30 days.     

Having the ability to use your own data to understand which second and third party data can enhance your campaigns will also help you scale your campaigns.

Trading and RTB

Programmatic trading has fundamentally changed the way we use display advertising. Whilst you can get lost in the acronyms and sometimes feel like you’ve walked into the London Stock Exchange whenever the conversation turns to Real-Time Bidding (RTB), there is real value for the performance marketing sector.

The global real-time bidding sector is now estimated to be worth some $3bn-$4bn and is expected to reach as much as $20bn by 2015.  

The key is in knowing the true worth of each user you’re bidding on and utilising first party data for this purpose to drive greater efficiencies in your media buying.  

Real-time buying takes this one step further by giving you the ability to ascertain the value of the consumer at any given point in time as well as the ability to serve dynamic creative that’s relevant to a consumer at that given point in their conversion journey.

The way we view premium inventory has also changed and is now defined by the advertiser. This doesn’t mean that advertising on the Guardian is the same as ads on user generated content – context still plays an important part in driving performance.

However, what trading and RTB has helped with is transparency into which inventory is of value to an advertiser based on the data they have about the user and creates true value that can be measured back to your performance goals in real time.


It’s the year of mobile! Sounds familiar but it might just be the year this actually rings true.  

The average person reaches for their mobile 18 times a day and that’s not to call or text! And data from a new Econsultancy report shows that the number of consumers that have made a purchase on mobile has roughly doubled in the UK since 2011 from 13% to 25% of consumers.

In the US the figure has increased from 12% to 28% in the same period.

Whilst web search tells you what a consumer is searching for – ‘where do I find what’, mobile search gives you the added element of local relevance – the ‘when you are actually there’.  

Search results need to be tailored for this added element of locality.  Making sure your mobile channel is SEO’d and your ads are tailored to the device is important in driving the right conversions. 


The Facebook community has become one of the biggest “countries“ with over 1bn users.  But can social work for performance?  With Facebook’s new exchange it’s looking likely.  

It allows advertisers to include Facebook data into their real-time buying and customer journey analysis and early results are proving effective with relatively low costs and high conversions.  It’s important to remember that it’s not just about broad reach campaigns on Facebook.  

The targeting data is really strong and that’s where the uplift in results is likely to be seen. Once accessible in the UK, marketers would be wise to take advantage of the additional inventory but as always with a test and iterate approach.


The internet kick started our love of performance marketing. Why?  Because everything was measurable – page views, visitors, clicks, TSO, CTR, CPM, CPC, CPA, CPL, CPO, AOV, LTV, you name it, we found an acronym and recorded it religiously.  

But here’s the catch: not everything that’s worth measuring is readily measurable.   

Measuring should be about three things: optimum budget allocation, how channels influence each other and forecasting.  In our increasingly fragmented world it’s important to take into consideration external factors such as market trends, competition, seasonal effects, prices, weather, purchasing power and offline advertising.  

Analysis of the digital customer journey by only looking at your online data therefore can be flawed and lead to loss in efficiencies.  I’ve written previously about how the more traditional methods of modelling and regression analysis which can have a major effect on optimising your campaigns.