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The demand for true ROI

In the early days of digital advertising, proving a return on investment was notoriously difficult. While significant advances have been made, the industry continues to cycle through various forms of measurement -- from impressions, to click-through rates, to complex attribution models. Accurately capturing ROI is made even more complicated as consumers increasingly move between multiple devices throughout the day.

Further, marketers have struggled to define the ultimate goal -- should ads drive brand awareness or sales? With more pressure on marketers to demonstrate ROI, we're seeing a greater emphasis placed on the latter. If the goal of digital advertising is to move prospects further down the sales funnel, why hasn't measurement been more clearly tied to sales goals?

With the growing availability of consumer data, the technology to process and apply that data, and the omnipresence of mobile devices to help connect online and offline behavior, 2015 will be the year that measurement takes a leap forward. Marketers will focus greater spend on activities that drive consumers to make purchases -- otherwise known as performance marketing -- and they will look for measurement of digital ad dollars' impact on sales. Here are three opportunities that will enable them to do so:

Driving conversion with data-driven programmatic

Programmatic platforms are designed to help marketers drive results by reaching specific audiences at scale and on a real-time basis. The use of advanced machine-learning algorithms helps predict consumer shopping intent and drives even greater conversion by processing massive amounts of data as it's coming in.

By analyzing a consumer's actual digital behavior, this technology enables brands to dynamically design and serve highly personalized ads based on what is most likely to drive a desired action. We have the data and technology to identify when, where, and how to target individuals to illicit a particular action, so why settle for any action other than a purchase?

Connecting the dots with omni-channel

Omni-channel is typically thought of in the framework of reaching consumers -- engaging them across mediums, both digital and physical. However, omni-channel is also a key contributor to improving performance marketing efforts as every new channel represents a new data source, which can be used to create more relevant digital ads.

Beacon technology and mobile device location data has enabled real world behavior, such as in-store shopping, to be leveraged for performance marketing campaigns. These additional data sets not only enhance the prediction and recommendation capability of performance marketing, but also add a new element of measurement as we begin to understand the offline impact of online campaigns.

Mobile is everywhere

According to eMarketer, smartphone users grew by 25 percent globally in 2014, and that number is expected to grow to more than 1.91 billion by the end of 2015. So it should be no surprise that mobile commerce also saw tremendous growth this year. Indeed, in its Q4 2014 State of Mobile Commerce Report, Criteo found mobile now accounts for 30 percent of all e-commerce sales globally.

As marketers recognize the increased mobile opportunity and advancements in cross-device tracking, we can expect them to dedicate more ad dollars to mobile channels with the intention of driving sales rather than impressions or brand awareness. In turn, they'll require measurement that reflects hard results to justify these budget increases.

This year, the digital advertising industry will continue its quest to substantiate spend and link advertising to sales more concretely. Sales are the truest way to assess ROI and the technology has advanced to the point where down-funnel measurement is a reality. Machine-learning algorithms allow the best programmatic platforms to process big data in order to drive purchases. Omni-channel and mobile strategies -- and the data that follows -- further enhance marketers' ability to reach consumers and measure results, both on and offline. With these advances, brands have a greater ability than ever to measure the impact of digital ads on the bottom line. In 2015, brands must finally recognize this reality and demand nothing less.

Eric Eichmann is president and COO at Criteo

On Twitter? Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.

Eric joined Criteo in early 2013 and leads the company’s global sales, marketing, product and commercial operations as President and Chief Operating Officer. Prior to Criteo, Eric served as Living Social’s COO as well as President and...

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