Contemporary media messages, delivered across an ever growing number of channels, surround consumers through out the day. The direct mail item, above the line advertising, promotional email or text messages received all have an undeniable impact on consumers, the difficulty lies in the integration of all these media which has seen marketers busy spreading their advertising efforts across a variety of differently expensive media.
Response One recently commissioned research into the effectiveness of different media at driving web visits and found that the top four channels for driving consumers to a website were customer e-mail, TV and newspaper advertising, direct mail and search engine links (see the full PDF report, http://www.responseone.co.uk/files/PR/Online_turn_on_.pdf). To follow up these findings and shed some further light on the matter of the interrelation of media to drive sales Response One asked UK consumers whether they were able to satisfy the majority of their pre-sales queries online and found an unsettlingly even split: 49% of consumers were satisfied by the information they found on the company website while 51% were not. It is likely that a significant portion of the unanswered questions would be satisfied if search were suitably integrated with the campaigns running at the time.
The internet has had a colossal impact on the way consumers interact with brands empowering them to claim the information they want at the instant, review, criticise and share experiences with other users across the globe. How and when people access the internet is, however, an area that still requires exploration particularly as research from Harris Interactive in March 2008 revealed that 70% of Britons go online while watching TV and 27% search the products advertised in the commercial. These findings tell us that consumers can be driven onto a search engine by other media so why has search not yet gained its proper status as advertising medium at the planning stage?
While consumers live their media experiences holistically, in-house advertisers and marketers as well as agencies still cling on to a misplaced and outdated “silo” approach to advertising. Each part of the campaign runs independently and only rarely are some elements integrated such as email and direct mail or follow up direct mail on display advertising. Search is practically never considered at the planning stage, mainly because a role for it in combination with other media is yet to become established. The result of this separation of media is that each part of the campaign is independent of the other making it difficult if not impossible to track response and efficiently measure return on investment (ROI).
When a cookie is set on a landing page informing the system that the potential customer has landed on the company website via a specific search engine, search is regarded as accountable for that acquisition. It is of course evident that the effect a television advert such as the pre-Christmas John Lewis ad, had on footfall is much less measurable as other factors can impact such as, for example, the VAT drop at the beginning of December. As a result traditional media are concerned that a massive portion of the sales conversions derived from the single campaign, composed by a series of items of direct mail, emails and television and out-door advertising will be attributed to the last trackable medium: usually search.
To put these fears to rest and promote a suitably integrated view of campaign planning, search needs to be integrated right from the start of the campaign. An increase in searches after television advertising is launched can thus be realistically measured as can the subsequent rise in campaign specific word searches after an item of direct mail or email is issued. This way search actually provides greater insight into consumer attitudes and may reveal that a channel has even more influence than imagined.
By tracking response across media it is be possible to view precisely the uplift created by, not only each channel, but the specific batch for each channel. This means that for example it will be possible to view the uplift generated by emails received and opened by customers on a Wednesday evening rather than a Tuesday evening and optimize send out times and follow ups for future activity.
While search is commonly optimized for the company website and traffic is driven to it both organically and through sponsored search, this effort is rarely made for individual campaigns. So while finding a website based on its core brand message and trademark product or service is usually taken care of scrupulously, the same is not provided for each campaign. Often companies do not even bid on the terms used in their expensive and far-reaching TV adverts.
The result are disgruntled surfers that cannot find what they are looking for and muddled response analysis that fails to reveal the impact made by each channel. Search is an important tool in the mix not to be overlooked as it can greatly improve understanding of media performance and campaign planning.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.