iMedia Connection

How to adjust to the new consumer journey

Keith Wilson

All too often marketers allow their strategies to be led by the performance of an individual channel: ROI for paid search vs. ROI for display vs. ROI of social media, etc. And all too often marketers are left with the same inability to really move the needle of success. The problem is that marketers are channel-centric in their measurement of marketing performance and optimization. Advertising no longer looks the way it did in the days of Don Draper. It's not as simple as coming up with a big creative idea, printing a magazine ad, erecting a billboard, broadcasting a commercial, and sitting back with a cigar to wait for the ad-induced mass consumption of a product. No, the advent and wide-spread adoption of internet connectivity, mobile technology, and social sharing has created countless disruptions to this once direct path.

The consumer decision journey is no longer as simple as seeing an advertisement and driving to the store. As a result, success can't be accurately measured in a linear fashion either. There are many conversions that go unaccounted for because marketers aren't paying attention to their customers' behaviors, which are becoming more varied just as you read this article. More technology equals an increased amount of ways your customer will interact with your brand.

Today's consumers are savvy, wary, and extremely aware of how they are being fed advertising. Consumers are more informed than ever, with product research and trusted user reviews available right at their fingertips. There's a whole lot happening in between seeing an ad and actually deciding to drive to a store or load up an online shopping cart.

Consumers continue to fragment their online usage across search, social, content, review sites, and more. Every consumer path is unique, but the largest hub is online search; all paths include at least one stop here. How do marketers measure the media influencers that are the most important?

The increased adoption of smartphones and tablets alone has critically altered the consumer purchasing behavior. Here is a great example of a place where marketers are not considering all actions that could be identified as conversion points. What about the mobile search options of "find a store" or "click-to-call?" Increased mobile options create more consumer behavior that needs to be accounted.

So what does today's consumer decision journey look like? A little something like this:

Source: McKinsey & Company

Even though this consumer path occurs across multiple channels, marketers are still structuring their teams with a channel-centric mindset, which causes them to think in tactics rather than strategy. Teams are siloed by channel and performance, and budget reward is based on the last click performance channel. This leads to limited visibility into activities and performance that drive growth and efficiency.

Herein lies the disconnect between marketers and their consumer, and it's why marketers continually struggle with the question, "How do I grow my business?"

Marketers need to be thinking about what has driven growth in the past. How do consumers engage with the brand? How are consumers introduced to the brand? Taking a consumer-centric approach to paid media marketing, instead of the traditional channel-centric method, will reveal the answers to these questions. Additionally, marketers must still maintain their data-driven, performance-focused measurement of marketing spend in order to yield optimal ROI.

Source: The Search Agency

A consumer-centric approach to paid media marketing doesn't focus on each channel's performance, but rather the performance of each point in the consumer decision journey. Channels should not be managed separately but rather looked at as a whole cross-channel environment where consumers interact with a brand.

Consumers don't see individual advertising channels and choose their path accordingly. They just see a relevant ad -- whether it be paid search, display, Facebook, or mobile -- and click on it. What sense does it make to approach your marketing strategy any other way than taking your consumers' behaviors into major consideration?

Leading a paid media marketing strategy with consumers in mind means that channels should be assigned to and measured against a point on the purchasing path. Marketing and advertising with the consumers' behavior patterns and preferences in mind is the only way to understand how to grow a business.

So when you're thinking about your paid media marketing plan for this year, remember the only way to achieve sustainable growth is to always let your consumer be your guide.

Keith Wilson is the VP of agency products at The Search Agency.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.