The online advertising industry has for several years been faced with the challenge of how to distinguish between user intent and actual conversion. Until recently, the model has stayed the same: impression, intent, click, landing page, and purchase. The issue has always been in the steps impeding a consumer from getting to the point of conversion. However, this challenge is today being addressed with the integration of smart data. Smart data is making it possible to now identify intent prior to broadcasting an impression. This still leaves several steps before the actual purchase, and as with all things online, the more steps necessary, the greater the drop-off.
That being said, recent developments by major online providers is now making it possible to close this gap. By providing secure Buy Now buttons on display ads, these ads have changed from just delivering a promotional message to now appearing like recommended content. The algorithm and methodology behind the ad is still the same, but by eliminating the several steps between impressions and purchase is now turning out to be a seamless single action.
"[A]ds now work more as shopping recommendations rather than one-way marketing blasts."
This is most notable on two significant platforms. Pinterest, the social network for sharing images and ideas, recently introduced a Buy It button for its promoted pins (advertising). Still in its early stages, this feature is currently only available to major retail chains like Macy's, but will eventually gain wider reach. Instagram, another visually oriented social network, also announced call-to-action buttons for purchasing, downloading an app, or simply requesting more information.
In India, one of the steps we took toward bridging the gap between intent and purchase was by adding the Buy button in ads for telecom operators. With this, customers can now recharge or subscribe to offers across data, voice or segmented channel packs from within the mobile ad. Similarly, Google recently introduced a Buy Now button to display on mobile AdWords impressions in exchange for a higher cost per click.
Universally, all of these functions can change the very nature of mobile advertising. Because this content is curated and now presented as instant purchase options, ads now work more as shopping recommendations rather than one-way marketing blasts. From a user perspective, this shift means a more engaged experience. Studies have defined how users have become accustomed to ignoring pay-per-click ads, but by moving towards curated recommendations, this breaks the previous paradigm and establishes more trust in the user experience.
Moving forward, brands now have an opportunity to engage in this instant-purchase opportunity. The trick, then, is to understand what this new methodology means for engagement and how it impacts the details behind preparing ads.
The following four items are critical points for adapting your brand to this new landscape.
● Sponsored content is now more than pay-per-click: In the previous paradigm, most ad opportunities meant setting a budget and spending a certain cost per click through. However, in addition to clicking through to a landing page or target URL, this is now also a direct purchase opportunity. This means that the potential return on each bid is much higher, and that can factor into how you create your ad budget.
● Target identification is even more important: Because this shift creates higher stakes for each ad, accurately targeting the very specific audience for your ad is more important than ever before. Ad display parameters vary from platform to platform, but the same principle exists for all of them -- drill down to as specific as possible to maximize the potential to create an intent-purchase action.
"The shrinking of the intent-purchase gap is the ultimate goal of any marketer, and technology has brought us closer than ever before to eliminating this gap."
● First impressions count: Previous ads acted to entice click- throughs. Now ads are essentially product displays. This means that any images or descriptions used must be catalog ready -- photos, descriptions, captions, etc. should be prepared and must also factor in the demographics and trends of the ad platform. (Example: Pinterest's user base is shifting while more in-depth studies show that they spend an average of $50 through Pinterest Buy and tend to use the platform to create shopping lists).
● Understand each platform's logistics: Each platform has its own unique backend requirements. Some, like Pinterest, require a third-party account, and those third parties may have their own unique set of requirements or additional costs/commissions. Before committing to a direction, understand all of the logistics involved, as that may cut into your ROI.
The shrinking of the intent-purchase gap is the ultimate goal of any marketer, and technology has brought us closer than ever before to eliminating this gap. For brands, that means that an immediate understanding of this new landscape is critical. With the smartphone explosion of recent years, as well as the ever-changing pace of technology, brands must get ahead of the curve, not only to maximize their opportunities with these trends but also to future-proof their strategy.