The Ad-Blocking Holiday Diet
As the debate surrounding ad blocking heats up, columnist James Green has some tips to ensure that your ads are fit for the holidays and focus on the consumer experience.
These past few weeks, there has been much controversy and commentary on ad blocking, and a good majority think it’s unethical. It’s reasonable to expect that mass ad-blocking adoption will cause a slow, painful death for many small publishers, so the concerns are valid. On the other hand, some (myself included) think that everyone should stop complaining and focus on the next steps.
The debate reached a new level with the release of Apple’s iOS 9, which supports mobile ad blocking — a stab at Google’s revenue model and an indirect blow to publishers.
Regardless of which side you stand on, it’s pretty clear that the debate nods towards a broken system, one that could care less about the consumer experience and allows for annoying, poorly created ads that litter screens everywhere.
If all ads were highly valuable and relevant, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place.
It’s interesting timing for this debate to be heating up, as we’re about to dive into the holidays. According to IAB’s 2014 Internet Advertising Revenue report, advertisers spent $14.15 billion in the US during that time of the year in 2014.
But as we stand now, much of that advertising will be subpar messaging that’s mass-produced and irrelevant to most of its viewers.
Magnetic’s recent survey with Retail TouchPoints (registration required) revealed that people want a valuable ad experience, and unfortunately, retailers aren’t delivering. (Disclosure: Magnetic is my employer.) But the ad-blocking dilemma has left us with no other choice — retailers must go through a holiday cleanse and make sure their ads are in the best shape of their life.
Stop Annoying People
If there’s one takeaway from the survey, it’s that people are pretty fed up with irrelevancy. Half of those surveyed find it “frustrating” or “extremely frustrating” when online ads are irrelevant to their personal tastes and preferences.
Nearly as many (49 percent) said that it’s frustrating when ads are about products they’re not interested in buying. No wonder people want to block ads from their view — they’re not providing any value.
Retailers admit to providing a lackluster experience, with only 37 percent delivering online ads based on consumer interests.
Marketers are swimming in massive amounts of data, including site activity, Web activity, device behaviors, purchase history — the list goes on. A holistic view of your customer is possible.
And so is a relevant advertising experience.
Email People… Like They’re People
There’s nothing more frustrating than waking up to an inbox full of irrelevant email promotions. But every now and then, one catches my eye.
It’s often when I’m in the market for something, and I magically receive an email alerting me to buy that item while it’s on sale. But it’s not magic. This particular retailer probably knew what I was looking for based on my shopping behaviors and tailored an email to my interests.
The days of segmenting and one-and-done email blasts are over. Emails should be helpful and reflect the unique interests of the person receiving it.
But this isn’t happening: 50 percent of consumers surveyed say they regularly see emails with irrelevant information. Clearly, there is a discrepancy happening here, because retailers think they are personalizing their emails. As many as 71 percent claim they frequently send tailored messages to people.
The problem seems to lie in the definition of “tailored.” More than half (54 percent) of retailers say they are unable to send personalized emails featuring product recommendations, ratings or exclusive deals.
These levers are the foundational elements of a tailored email; if you aren’t doing them, then you aren’t personalizing your messages.
Give Your Site Some Muscle
From the moment a customer enters your site, their experience should be hyper-customized. In a perfect world, each customer’s unique landscape of interests and shopping behaviors should determine how you interact with them, which products you feature, and so on.
However, only 35 percent of retailers are even using basic site personalization elements like product reviews and recommendations, according to our survey. This problem is recognized loud and clear by consumers: a startling 75 percent feel that retailers drop the ball on educating or empowering them throughout the buying process.
Why sign up for a race if you’re only going to walk? To make sure your marketing is fit for the holiday season, take a close look at whether you’re truly giving people what they want through the ads you serve across the Web, on your site and within people’s inbox.
We have an opportunity to reduce the need for ad blocking if we can provide people with the relevant information they want and expect. The days of annoying ads that disrupt the consumer experience need to come to an abrupt halt, and fast.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.
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