Today's column is written by Nick Talbert, Director of Product Marketing, Eyeblaster, a campaign management and advertising technology company.
Search and display budgets decisions made within their silos will only yield non-scalable results. Attribution decisions need to be channel agnostic and these decisions must follow consumer behavior for the category of products.
For instance, for someone with rather large feet, finding shoes is often a chore so I tend to avoid shopping for shoes until absolutely necessary. While browsing the web, I happened to see a particularly engaging ad from Zappos.com about sneakers. So, I ventured to Zappos.com (without clicking on the ad) to casually look around. I moved from page to page within the site, exploring options to adorn my feet and in the end, I simply ran out of time due to prior engagements. However, my newly attained desire for shoes still sat unquenched and it didn’t dissipate once I left the site.
It’s important to make note that when looking at attribution we should be considering browsing habits vs. consumer mindset. Thus, the next day I went searching for sneakers and typed ‘large size sneakers’ into Google to which Zappos.com came up as a choice. Keeping browser habits in mind, since I had previously paid a visit to the site, I found my sneakers within matter of minutes and made my purchase successfully. So, as marketers, what channel do we attribute this to? Let me remind you that it was the original ad that I saw in the first place, albeit many behaviors ago, that initially perked my interest in buying shoes, but clearly the search ultimately helped me convert. This example is not far off from how web users all over the world browse the web and go about their business daily.
The relationship of display and search has been a rough one. Each has been constantly pitted against each other by the folks who profit the specific channels. The question remains, who wins when it comes down to the game of allocating budget? Attribution comes into play at post click, post view and even post engagement, but at what stage of the consumer funnel can we begin to attribute whatever we’re tracking? Is it possible that with display finally being brought into the conversation of biddable media, search has lost its command in the conversion game or that a new attribution model must be defined?
We can prove through recent research from eMarketer and Microsoft that there’s a strong correlation that total conversions of a campaign are greater when each channel is used in parallel. Display is good at driving interest in a product, while search is great at funneling that interest into dollars and ROI factors. Both can have minor achievements in each other’s arena, however, not proven or scalable by any means.
Attribution relies heavily on how your consumers interact with the brand, within your vertical, or with your products; and these variables are too great to have any sort of prediction of the most efficient allocation of budget. The search universe represents a finite number of people that exist in a state of mind that are ready to buy or that know what they want. For the other 80% of your audience out there, they need help. They need information. They need to be inspired. This is where display comes in and for lack of better words, interrupts the clear cut attribution model for online advertising . Without display to drive search, brands are limited to the number of searches initiated which ultimately puts search in a position to plateau.
Emarketer reported that research shows that nearly one of five search conversions was preceded by at least one display impression. This suggests that the current benchmarks for defining attribution will not fit the bill when we take a multi-channel strategy into play or when folks with large feet are looking for a shoe that fits. As we move into a world of biddable media, post impression may carry a larger value than clicks as we’ll be able to know who the ad was served to and track the behavior to follow.
Without seeing that display ad, I would have never wanted to search for the sneakers I wanted, or at least at that very moment. Once I was ‘inspired’, I searched without hesitation and converted online. Without one or the other, my $82 for my new sneakers would be still in my wallet and I would be stuck with my same old selection of shoes. A lose-lose situation for myself, the consumer and the advertiser.