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Direct Response Marketing

Tracking Digital Response

1 Apr, 2013 By: Patrick Cauley Response

From social media to dedicated landing pages and more, DR advertisers are trying a bit of everything to figure out where their digital leads are coming from.


YouTube, tablets and Androids — oh my! While the final destination always remains the Emerald City, the continued emergence of devices and digital platforms has made each consumer’s path down the Yellow Brick Road that much harder for marketers to follow.

Response sat down with some wizards of marketing to figure out the latest trends and solutions to help you understand your way around Oz.

Back To Basics

Even with all the hype around evolving consumer viewing and engagement habits with digital, many DR marketers continue to place almost all of their focus on the boob tube. “The majority of their advertising spend is going towards DRTV because it’s the most expensive medium, so most of their focus is going to be there,” says Lindsey Carnett, CEO and president of Los Angeles-based Marketing Maven Public Relations.

She contends that with traditional DRTV advertising there’s a certain set of expectations. “The whole digital world is somewhat uncharted territory, people know what to expect for a pay-per-click campaign, they expect what to do with a banner ad, or retargeting or CPA, or all these other types of online marketing. But they wouldn’t know what to expect in terms of baseline metrics for these new types of advertising,” she says.

So, if a marketer is looking for the best way to track the digital responses to their TV ad campaign, what’s the first step?

“Either drive them to a vanity URL or a social channel — somewhere where you can get to a measurability standpoint. If you don’t have any call-to-action on, then it’s going to be very tough measure,” says Jared Roy, director of performance marketing for Portland, Ore.-based Webtrends. “There are other ways to drive the effectiveness by airing the commercial, then looking at when it aired, and then looking at your analytics to see if it created a lift,”

Moreover, multiple means of data collection are always helpful. “Consumers are so sophisticated. If you try to push them to a microsite, the consumer might just Google the name and go to the main site — then things won’t be tracked properly,” says Carnett.

She warns that its wishful thinking on the marketer’s end to assume a consumer will type in an exact unique URL from a TV spot into their browser.

“If someone gives me a unique URL so they can track how well it did, I say ‘no way.’ It’s not going to track where you think it’s going to track. Consumers are going to go on Google to type in the name of the product. And it’s really important that the organic search works well to send them to the right spot,” Carnett says.

But, going a step further, how do marketers track responses to their online videos?

From an online video perspective, the first thing Roy advises is identifying a measurement and learning strategy. “So, making sure you have that video tagged correctly with analytics in place. But to me, if we’re talking direct response, and for performance marketing, it’s how many people converted from that video? Was there a call to action on that video? Or a link on that video that drove them to a website, and then if there was a conversion that we can track, we can directly see how many actions that specific video did derive,” explains Roy.

Tools of the Trade

With so many digital touchpoints, successful marketers must deploy a variety of tactics to track their campaigns. One of the most prevalent and useful tools is Google Analytics. “A service like Google Analytics or Clicky helps determine the time, traffic, and it also provides social conversions to see which platform is generating the most sales,” says Aljolynn Sperber, social media marketing manager for Marketing Maven.

This kind of data obviously gives DR marketers an accurate read of which TV media buys are most lucrative. “Being able to see where that traffic is coming from and being able to see if it’s coinciding with the time slot that a client’s short-form ad is airing, we can see where digital is being helpful in generating traffic to their website,” says Sperber.

However, it’s not always so simple. “Whether you’re promoting in social media, blogs, mobile advertising, E-mail, banners, search — all of those need to have a specific campaign ID associated with them,” says Roy. “Then I can see directly the traffic that those channels are driving, and then follow that all away through to conversion. A lot of people don’t have a clear measurement strategy in place, so some stuff gets tagged and some stuff doesn’t. What they might see then is, ‘Hey, were getting a bunch of traffic from Twitter, Facebook, or this website, but I don’t know what specific piece of material is driving that?’ So we sit down and work with them to really understand the importance of developing an analytics and measurement culture,” says Roy.

Similarly, Expedia utilizes a test-and-learn approach when gathering information from various digital channels to influence their go-forward strategy. “I think they offer different opportunities for us from the consumer perspective within the purchase funnel,” says Noah Tratt, global vice president of media solutions for Expedia. “I think people think about Expedia as just a place where people buy travel and come to pull the trigger. And, the truth is, our users are often at other places in the traditional marketing funnel. They’re looking to be inspired, or they’re just trying to figure out how expensive it is because they know they want to save for a beach vacation next year. So we try to help our partners and help ourselves take advantage of each of the opportunities that those different consumer profiles represent, and then we map those to the different channels.”

He elaborated that further down the funnel, the company does a lot of creative testing and learning. One of the insights that they learned is that a lot of DR campaigns use the terms “book now,” or “buy now,” but when simply changing the wording to “show me” or “show results,” you actually drive better results.

“Consumers fear commitment. ‘Show me’ is less threatening and seems like a lower threshold for commitment, and people are more likely to stay with you and not abandon the experiential part of things. It results in more bookings and more DR metrics that would put a smile on a marketing person’s face, but does it in sort of a counterintuitive way,” Tratt says.

With so many different opportunities for consumers to be engaged and buy within the confines of a multichannel campaign, it often leaves marketers wondering which specific campaign element ultimately pushed the consumer over the edge. However, the answer is not as straightforward as one would think.

“Marketers are still focusing on that ‘last click attribution’ model. So let’s say someone clicks on an E-mail campaign, and then clicks on a paid search banner wanting more information, and then they come back on a display banner for the purchase. What’s happening is brands are not seeing those two clicks in advance, so they are attributing that sale only to that last click. So what we’ve developed is a multi-touch attribution model,” says Roy.

With this model, Webtrends is able to see all the different clicks on all of the different channels, and thus the exact path that consumers came through to conversion. “When you open their eyes and show them the assists that are coming in, then it really changes the game,” Roy says. “The savvy marketers are doing the multi-touch attributions and understanding the assists to conversion. What happens is you get these marketing departments where someone’s running paid search, someone else is running display, someone’s running E-mail, and there’s not someone who’s understanding and looking at this from a measurement and a multi-touch perspective. What it takes is someone to say, ‘Let’s look at this holistically. Let’s get these teams to work together so we know what the perfect mix is,’” says Roy.

Social Services

People can talk about social media until they’re blue in face, but again, not monitoring or monetizing it effectively leaves you without much to go on.

Expedia recently rolled out an award-winning, interactive social media campaign in conjunction with their partners called Friends Trips, which was the largest sweepstakes in Facebook’s history. “Originally, our metrics were trying to build our fan base of ‘likes,’” says Tratt. While they were able to measure a literal direct response of ‘likes’ to their multichannel campaign’s investment and did meet their initial goal, one of the things Expedia learned is that is that it wasn’t enough to just have the metric about fan base.

Without an engagement strategy paired with it, the ‘likes’ were simply a pyrrhic victory.

Roy advises that all social efforts should have a link on them to make sure they’re tagged appropriately so that marketers can get down to the individual post level to see what’s driving that traffic. He recently came up with a solution for a conference registration client with Facebook advertising that tested driving Facebook ads directly to the conference signup site versus driving to a conference application within Facebook, which gave them information about the conference and the ability to register by clicking on the signup button in the application. He found that the ads driving off of Facebook to signup versus going from the ad to the app had six times the cost of conversion.

“I see a lot of advertisers out there using Facebook from the DR perspective, but they’re kicking them right off site. People are on Facebook and want to stay on Facebook. They may click on your ad, but if that goes to an application and continues their interest, then they’re willing to go offsite. What happens is once you get them off site, they will instantly go back to Facebook and not convert. What you want to do is continue that experience on Facebook until they’re ready to convert,” says Roy.

Marketing Maven has found gold with Facebook Offers. “Facebook Offers have been so amazing and helpful in generating traffic and sales, and you can also see the percentage of conversions that you get from Facebook Offers,” says Sperber.

In fact, Marketing Maven posted a Facebook Offer for its client Hot Iron Holster that offered free shipping for the entire month of December. After tracking the referral traffic for Hot Iron Holster’s website on Google Analytics and reviewing the December revenue report, they found that their Facebook Offer campaign helped increase client revenue by over 92 percent from November. Best of all, Facebook Offers are not only claimed and redeemed online, but you can also claim the offers on mobile devices, making them an extremely mobile friendly solution.

Mobile Mania

Expedia is extremely focused on mobile platforms right now because of the big consumer shift they’re seeing in terms of traffic and behavior. “One of the things we’ve been highlighting with our partners is the importance of day-parting. Mobile usage peaks on specific days of the week and on specific times of the day. Specifically in the morning, consumers are more apt to be in a research phase while they’re planning a trip, while later in the day they’re more likely to make decisions. So, if you’re running a mobile DR campaign, you might want to think about your messaging being slightly different in the morning or even opting out of morning day-parting and focusing your efforts in the afternoon,” advises Tratt.

But aside from simply looking at site traffic and analytics to determine the amount of mobile interaction with your brand, there are other questions marketers should be asking too.

Sperber contends that if marketers want bigger conversion, then they need to have a mobile site, but she cautions against simply having mobile-optimized sites. “Mobile optimized is where it just fits so you can view the website on your cell phone. But it’s not a mobile site where it’s actually customized with the different tabs and buttons. If someone wants to do an impulse buy on a mobile site, they must be able to just click on it and add it to the cart and they’re done,” she says.

Looking Ahead

As a marketer, Roy is most excited about the real-time perspective that web analytics provide. “You can see in real time what actions all those different mediums are delivering. So the days of saying, ‘I’m going to spend X dollars on E-mail this year versus direct mail versus display,’ are gone. To me it’s, ‘Lets put those channels out there and measure what’s driving conversions.’ Then we can shift budgets accordingly based on what’s working, and because it’s a digital medium instead of print, we can transfer budgets immediately to what’s driving the most effective conversion rate,” he says.

Consequently, Webtrends’ new Streams solution takes real-time marketing to the next level. With Streams, marketers can see richer data on each individual visitor all at once, and act immediately while the customer is in your digital channel to improve relevance and conversions. “To me, the future is now with that sort of thing. Someone’s coming to your site and what we can do there in real time is change the behavior based on what they’re looking at, optimizing that experience for them,” says Roy.

Roy suddenly takes a moment, almost pondering the entirety of our interview’s scope. Then, in a matter of fact tone, he abruptly finishes: “So if you’re still trying to understand some sort of measurement or analytics, you have to catch up, because we are way down the road now.”

He’s probably right. If you’re not already heading down the road, you may as well be home in Kansas. ■


About the Author: Patrick Cauley


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