Digital Essays 2014: Influencing a user’s digital journey

Krishnan and Puliyali Vizury

Engagement with an ad is a response and it happens when perfect emotional resonance is established, say Subra Krishnan (left) and Amjad Puliyali.

The digital ecosystem is evolving rapidly and marketers are keen to explore sustainable techniques that connect with users and monetise their ad spends. With the whole spectrum of desktop, mobile and social media that have sprung up, ad tech companies offer specialised solutions to achieve specific targets and retargeting has proven its worth across each of these.

The journey begins – a quick look at retargeting

Retargeting identifies users who have dropped off a website or a mobile app and reach them with personalised ads across the internet. It works based on the user behaviour displayed on a website and identifies their preferences through various parameters such as the drop-off page, number of visits, previous purchases etc.

Retargeting also acquires some unique attributes from search marketing

  • Intent: While search uses keywords to identify consumer intent, retargeting achieves this by slicing and dicing a cookie, device ID etc.
  • Real time bidding: While search allows to bid by user for optimised ROAS, programmatic display ads work around user behaviour trends and patterns to predict the right ad spend for each user.

During the initial days of retargeting, ads were customised based on a few fixed parameters that were common to the campaign and did not necessarily reflect the user’s interests and preferences. However, due to the user’s growing familiarity with internet, the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach didn’t work anymore.

Developing an effective recommendation system was the biggest challenge. The impetus lay on determining the most preferred product/service for an individual user and often, there was large and diverse amounts of data involved. Today, with advancements in web technology, retargeting has evolved from its primitive form and it is now possible to customise ads for an individual user based on his/her interests and preferences. But that just solves half the problem. For effective re-targeting, ads these days have to be engaging and grab the user’s attention through product/service offerings that are aligned with the user’s purchase.

Five things that make the journey interesting

Engagement with an ad is a response and it happens when a perfect emotional resonance is established.

1. Geography is one of the biggest contributors for the design, the regional and socio-cultural environment informs the preferences of the consumer.

For example, we see big difference in consumer behaviour across the Middle East and Africa users. We see an appetite for a larger palette of colours and animations amongst Egyptian consumers, but more product recommendations on the creative in Saudi with subtle colours. While in Kuwait, the discounts and offers on banners are not well received like other markets in GCC.

2. Retargeting banners often work best when a combination of recommendations or choices are provided to the user. However the ways in which one recommends products are also specific for every industry. For e-Commerce buyers, providing brand recommendations works better than product recommendations. But the reverse holds true for luxury brands.

3. Gender is another major determinant in terms of the kind of messaging, colour palette and the nature of goods one can cross-sell/ upsell with the products browsed by the customer. Every functionality/product definition has multiple manifestations, each forking out to a different price point.

Consumer strikes a balance between his/her purchasing capacity and the appeal of the product, often stretching beyond his/her budget for the marginal extra and the banner must persuade the consumer to do this.

4. The point in the purchase funnel, called the ‘Stage’, that the customer drops-off at (eg. Landing page, product page, shopping cart etc.) indicates his/her readiness to consume the product. While stage can be an indicator of urgency, pertinent messaging can help bring a faster closure to the purchase cycle.

5. The last variable at the consumer’s context is urgency. Consumers not only buy out of need for a pro-duct but also to accomplish a sense of discovery (very often seen with books, movies, songs etc.) or complete a series of collectibles (very often seen with sports and historic memorabilia). In such cases there is little urgency except what is induced by the seller and a sense of closure is generally sought for such goods, making banner a key actor in the entire play.

The future of personalisation is at the intersection of customer transaction history, context and intent. A brilliant blend of recommendation logic and cleverly designed banner ads help connect well with users.
With this, the digital journey comes to an end, until he starts browsing for something else.

(Subra Krishnan is VP – products and marketing, and Amjad Puliyali is GM – India, Middle East and Africa, Vizury)