7 Digital Advertising Trends to Achieve Record Results This Holiday Season

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A record $69 billion was spent by online and mobile shoppers during the 2015 holiday season and for the first time in history, the Wall Street Journal reported that more people shopped online than in stores during Black Friday.

With these numbers only projected to increase, brands are faced with the reality that reaching consumers with effective digital advertising campaigns over the next three months will have an unprecedented impact on the overall fiscal performance of their organization.

Given the speed at which the digital landscape has evolved since just last year, the stakes are higher than ever and the brands that understand the up-to-the-minute trends will have the best chance at success.

At Optimal Fusion, we have dedicated tremendous resources to prepare our clients for this moment based on the latest analytics and first-party data. Below are 7 digital advertising trends that will help you achieve record results this holiday season:

1) REACH HUMANS, NOT BOTS: According to the Association of National Advertisers, advertisers will lose $7.2 billion globally to bots and fraud in 2016. While fraud varies by buy type, programmatic buys had the greatest amount last year. Using technology to effectively target the right audience is critical, but an overreliance on automated advertising could lead to the squandering of resources during this critical fiscal quarter. To avoid this pitfall, diversify your media plan to include platforms that focus on engagement and that guarantee KPIs rooted in viewability and post-impression activities.

How does focusing on platforms that focus on engagement and that guarantee KPIs rooted in viewability and post-impression activities deter fraud?

Almost every campaign these days utilizes third party impression validation companies like DoubleVerify and Intergral Ad science who are gauging viewability and blocking fraud in real time. The problem is that each validation company utilizes a different metric.

For example, our platform only serves impressions when a user is currently in view, in that sense every impression should be viewabile. We frequently see three different viewability stats between these three platforms. What IAS quantifies as a viewable impression DoubleVerify may quantify as not viewable. Whereas these platforms are extremely useful for blocking fraud, the ultimate measure of viewability should also be gauged through post impression activities and KPIs.

A strong platform that is confident in their product will and should contractually guarantee post impression goals. With so much uncertainty as to which validation platform is most effective, our clients focus less on upfront viewability numbers, and more so on click rate, conversion rate, engagement rates, and ultimately sales or actions. As native is a current buzz word, there is a glut of native platforms out there these days promising the world to prospective advertisers during their pitch. There are very few results-based platforms, as it’s much easier to sell an impression rather than guaranteed results.

I would highly recommend that advertisers push for contractual KPI guarantees before proceeding with a new platform. 99% of the industry just rolled their eyes after reading that comment. We are not popular amongst our peers by suggesting that platforms should be alleviating media planners’ risk, but we feel that is where the industry is headed or should be.

2) CONTRACTUALLY NEGOTIATE RESULTS, NOT IMPRESSIONS: Impressions as an Internet currency have lost tremendous value. The Internet Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) Viewable Impressions Guidelines state that 50% of the pixels in a banner must be visible for one second to qualify as an impression. According to Google, 56% of impressions are not viewable. Many companies, including our own, now offer results-based digital advertising solutions that contractually guarantee results and reduce risk. The burning question over the last decade — how to convert impressions into dollars – has more solid answers in 2016 than ever before.

3) TELL A STORY WITH PROGRAMMATIC SPONSORED CONTENT: With the advent of ad-blockers and the constant noise from aggressive banners, advertisers are shifting budgets to include more sponsored content. LinkedIn’s ad revenue grew by 29% in the first quarter of 2016 to $154.1 million, thanks to nearly 80% revenue growth from sponsored content. One major issue with sponsored-content is that many consider it unscalable as a means to target consumers because it requires too much customization to reach a large number of sites. New platforms launched in 2016 such as ContentCard are overcoming scalability issues and offering programmatic sponsored content that will allow brands to reach a massive audience this holiday season.

4) USE NATIVE ADVERTISING TO WIN MILLENNIALS $1.3 TRILLION IN BUYING POWER: With 83 million members, Millennials have supplanted baby boomers as the largest segment of the population and according to the New York Times, Millennials have $1.3 trillion in annual buying power. Developing advertising campaigns to infiltrate the ‘Selfie Generation’ is no longer ancillary, it must be a core focus and priority. One particularly effective tactic is native advertising. Native ad spends are expected to reach $21 billion in 2018, up from just $4.7 billion in 2013.

Adweek notes that 46% of Millennials who read native ads consume the information; and according to the 2015 Reuters Institute Digital News Report, consumers ages 18-25 were the most welcoming age group for native ads. But…not all native ads are well done. They too can be intrusive, especially on mobile.

How do you create a native ad that draws consumers in?

I think we are in a transition period for Native advertising, very similar to what we saw with mobile over the last few years as it matured and somewhat peaked. There is very little true Native these days if you really boil it down.

Native should be just that, it should be native. It should fit in and feel as if its part of the site/content, and the user shouldn’t have to earn or choose to view or participate in Native content. We’ve seen companies in the content suggestion business like Taboola and Outbrain positioned as the pioneers of Native advertising. But should true Native advertising require a user to click a banner and visit another site or page just to view that content? Essentially, the ‘click-bait’ creative that the user decided to click on becomes the content and engagement rather then the actual content the brand is looking to promote.

From our point of view, native must live within sites, and marketers should be resistant to requiring users to leave a site or the current article they are reading. True Native should blend, look, and feel like the site and content the user is currently engaging with.

Consumers want instant gratification and quick news, notes, and nuggets. They want their content quick and easy, particularly in the mobile format. We are seeing this trend as Google and Facebook focus on keeping users within their platforms while consuming outside content as opposed to clicking out to thirdparty sites. This will continue and brands will need to get creative in how they engage readers with sponsored content or native ads. I believe that as this transition continues, we will see less clickbait as consumers are somewhat tired of being tempted with something that doesn’t deliver after the click.

5) REALIZE THAT DIGITAL CONSUMERS OWN 3.64 CONNECTED DEVICES EACH: In 2016, BI Intelligence reports that digital video will reach nearly $5 billion in ad revenue due to developing delivery channels. A GWI study found that digital consumers own 3.64 connected devices each. While mobile was all the rage the last few years, brands are recommended to develop digital ads that cut across all channels and platforms this holiday season.

6) GRANDMA IS LIVING LONGER, ACCEPT HER FACEBOOK REQUEST: Just a few short years ago, brands were targeting younger consumers online but still focused on reaching older consumers through traditional advertising. Then it happened, mom requested to be your friend on Facebook and as troubling as that was, grandma followed. The fact is, baby boomers make up 70% of the disposable income in the U.S. and are more tech savvy than they are given credit. A DMN3 study found that more than 90% of baby boomers use search engines, email and shop online. With life expectancy on the rise, developing an online strategy for older adults is now a long-term growth opportunity for brands.

7) TIMING IS EVERYTHING, START EARLIER: A multitude of studies show that online shopping has created a longer holiday buying period. Nielsen’s data showed that in 2015, 36% of Americans started their holiday gift shopping by the end of September; and AYTM Market Research found that 47% of Internet users said holiday promotions before November 4 were effective in getting them to make purchases. It is highly recommended to begin your efforts sooner rather than later.

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