Last year was a landmark year for programmatic advertising. For the first time, programmatic digital display ad spend outweighed traditional direct sales and made up 59 percent of total display advertising spend in the year. eMarketer estimates that this number will grow to 72 percent by 2017. However, even as programmatic buying in the U.S. turns six, many marketers are still missing out on big opportunities made possible by these technologies.
Looking to improve your programmatic strategy? Here are three things you might be doing wrong, and a recommendation for how to right them.
1. You equate programmatic with lower-funnel marketing
If you're still only using programmatic for website retargeting, then you're missing out on some serious value creation. Advanced programmatic advertisers are already leveraging this tech to reach prospects and customers across every stage of the customer journey, from awareness to advocacy -- and for good reason. To squeeze the best results out of data-driven display, marketers should build an integrated programmatic strategy that includes both upper-funnel (prospecting and promotions) and lower-funnel (retargeting and loyalty) marketing.
If you're working with a fully stacked demand-side platform for your programmatic marketing, then you can probably count on the technology to be, on some level, self-learning. (This just means that it uses ongoing analysis of aggregated data to improve targeting and messaging strategies automatically, as more data accumulates.) By running different campaign types through one platform, the performance data from each campaign can help to inform, and refine, the others. On the other hand, when you run upper-funnel and lower-funnel programmatic campaigns in silos, you'll likely find yourself targeting the same customers with numerous campaigns, which can result in inefficient spending and -- worse -- over-exposed consumers.
For this integrated, full-funnel approach to be successful, be sure your programmatic partner is excluding new users from the lower-funnel campaigns, and known users from the upper-funnel campaigns.
2. You think programmatic is only about media buying
In the early days, it's true that when marketers talked about "programmatic," it most likely referred to automated buying and selling of digital media -- real-time bidding, in particular. Today, the term encompasses pretty much any tech that uses a combination of real-time data and stream technologies to create better digital advertising. Buying is the first piece, but what happens when you win the ad impression? That's where programmatic creative comes into play.
The fact is, people have changed -- profoundly and forever. The customer of today expects to be spoken to as an individual, which is why many have pegged 2016 as The Year of Personalized Marketing. "Personalization" and "at scale" may sound like mutually exclusive benefits, but with programmatic creative, advertisers can use the same real-time data that are used for automated buying to also optimize the creative for each user. This strategic combination of programmatic buying and programmatic creative will set apart the truly data-savvy digital marketers from the amateurs.
3. You're still measuring all programmatic campaigns on the same two or three performance metrics
When it comes to lower-funnel programmatic campaigns, we've all been trained to look at hard KPI's like CPC (cost per click) and CPA (cost per action). However, in advancing your strategy, and especially when starting with more upper-funnel campaigns, marketers must learn to read a wider set of success metrics to match the wider set of campaign strategies. After all, the goals of reach campaigns are different than retargeting campaigns, so why would you measure them the same way?
When assessing the success of upper-funnel campaigns -- those that are intended to bring qualified new users to your website -- the first metric you should check is the percentage of new visitors delivered by the campaign. Is your partner actually delivering new traffic to your site, or reaching the same users as your lower-funnel campaigns? After that, the best metrics you can examine are customer engagement metrics, such as website bounce rate (the lower the better), time on site (the higher the better), and number of pages visited per session (more, please!). Because new users usually need more time on your website prior to conversion than existing customers, healthy engagement metrics are key indicators of upper-funnel success.
Bringing it full-funnel
At its best, programmatic advertising is able to reach qualified prospects and customers with personalized creative at every stage of the customer journey, and across all devices, creating seamless and highly customized marketing for each user. An integrated strategy will enable you to target the right audience in each stage and distinguish between new and existing customers to prevent issues of over-targeting. With the right metrics for each campaign type in place, you'll soon be on your way to smart display advertising.
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