6 Steps to a Smarter Ecommerce Advertising Strategy

Now more than ever, online shopping is a lifeline to everyday essentials for millions of people. From groceries to toys to school supplies, nearly every industry is trending upward in online growth. Marketers who are thinking of entering the ecommerce space – or who have already embraced it – must find a way to stand out from the crowd as so many brands battle for consumer attention in this unprecedented era. Luckily, we’re here to provide the insights and innovative thinking necessary to help you become a leader in today’s online shopping marketplace. Start with these six steps to craft a smarter ecommerce advertising strategy:

Since the pandemic, where consumers shop, what they spend their money on and how they choose the products and brands they purchase from have shifted. COVID-19 upset the usual balance, and experts anticipate these behaviors will continue to change long after the pandemic ends. Brands relying on past patterns or consumer behaviors to guide their advertising decisions will be at a disadvantage. However, for agile marketers, this means there are opportunities to re-evaluate shoppers’ needs and adjust their ecommerce advertising strategy to capture new market share.

While your core audience demographics may not change significantly, consumer attitudes, consumption trends and buying behaviors are very much still in flux. To target effectively, throw past playbooks out the window and build new buyer personas and a data strategy that will establish the right connection for the new normal. Monitor consumer behavior, needs and socioeconomic concerns across a variety of channels to inform your ecommerce advertising strategy and develop relevant messaging. Then build in feedback loops to adjust to changing consumer trends in real time.

2. Optimize Your Product Pages

Before you can begin advertising your online store, you must ensure your site and product pages are retail-ready. Creating a frictionless shopping experience throughout the entire funnel is key to motivating customers to browse, buy and come back often. Leverage a third-party ecommerce marketplace or build an ecommerce shopping platform into your site, such as Shopify, BigCommerce or 3dcart, to allow users to quickly browse and purchase your products online. Regularly review your product pages across every ecommerce platform you’re using and maximize this real estate with SEO-rich and visually appealing content to lay the foundation for a successful user experience.

3. Get Started With Amazon’s Sponsored Ads

While there are many channels and platforms available to drive ecommerce activities, how much you invest in each channel relies heavily on your budget. For those new to ecommerce advertising, we recommend starting with Amazon’s Sponsored Product Ads. They’re simple to set up and because these ads are triggered by shoppers specifically searching for your product or similar products, your budget is optimized to only the highest-intent users. These placements can make a quick impact on your bottom line; then you can use the real-time data and results from that campaign to fund waterfall budgets with other publishers.

4. Adjust Keywords as You Go

Retail websites and search engines are generally query-based. That’s why it’s critical for marketers to make sure shoppers can find their brand and products with a strong organic and paid keyword strategy. Experiment with your keywords based on the season, new trends and consumer behavior shifts. Keep an open mind when creating your initial keyword list and gradually fine-tune it – pausing low performers as needed and continually testing new options.

5. Think Holistically to Expand Your Reach

As you begin to expand your ecommerce advertising plan, it’s important to remember that every marketing effort you implement has an impact on your other investments. And it’s through combining these efforts that you maximize effectiveness and create a virtuous customer cycle. So marketers must strive over time to create a holistic advertising strategy that incorporates additional marketplace ads, promoted social posts and display and video ads on the open web for maximum reach and alignment with the full customer journey.

6. Collaborate to Continuously Innovate

Competition is fierce in digital marketing. It’s not enough to rely on one platform or one tool in today’s environment. Long-term success requires the right resources and partners to take your ecommerce ad strategy to the next level. No matter what channels you’re advertising across, consider augmenting your program with a trusted partner or technology service that offers deep expertise or capabilities in ecommerce advertising to help you continuously innovate across emerging channels, like voice and augmented reality.

To get more tips for turning browsers into buyers, download our updated Ecommerce Advertising Playbook now. Or let our experts help you find the right advertising solutions for your business – reach out to us to schedule a complimentary ecommerce advertising analysis today.

Reach Ecommerce Shoppers on Comparison Shopping Engines

man online shopping

Since the COVID-19 outbreak started, the world has changed dramatically. Where consumers shop, what they spend their money on and how they choose the products and brands they purchase have shifted. The pandemic upset the usual consumer behavior balance, and experts anticipate these behaviors will continue to change long after the pandemic ends. For agile marketers, this means there’s an opportunity to re-evaluate shoppers’ needs and adjust their strategy to capture new market share. For example, QuantumMetric found U.S. shoppers are looking for more meaning, more value and more purchases this holiday season, so smart marketers should strive to personalize their advertising and make the digital experience more intuitive. For ecommerce marketers, advertising on comparison shopping engines may be a good fit. Find out more about these ads and if they make sense for your brand in our FAQs below:

What are comparison shopping engines?

Comparison shopping engines, also known as price comparison websites, showcase similar products or offerings from multiple retailers on the same page so consumers can evaluate the options side by side. Shoppers on these sites – like PriceGrabber, Bizrate and Shopzilla – are actively looking for a good deal, so brands list their products and pricing alongside competitors’ items to give buyers a clear apples-to-apples perspective.

For advertisers, this means they can upload product data feeds and set their bids by product or product category. Because most comparison shopping engines operate on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis, the advertiser doesn’t pay unless a user clicks on its product listing.

How are these ads different from selling my products on an online marketplace, like Amazon or eBay?

Once a user clicks on your ad on a comparison shopping engine, they’re sent directly to your website to complete the purchase. However on most online shopping marketplaces, the purchase takes place on the marketplace’s website.

What’s needed to advertise on comparison shopping engines?

Because comparison shopping engines rely on the brand’s product feed, advertisers must have a well-organized inventory system and data feed already set up. Each site will have different feed specifications, so it’s crucial that you monitor your feed regularly and ensure it stays up to date with the engine’s requirements.

In addition, advertisers must have online shopping capabilities already set up on their website since the final purchase will take place there. This means you should optimize your site’s mobile layout, page load times and checkout processes to prevent cart abandonment.

What are the benefits of comparison shopping engine ads?

While your core audience demographics may not have changed significantly in the wake of the pandemic, consumer attitudes, consumption trends and buying behaviors are very much still in flux. Comparison shopping engines let you expand your reach beyond your website to find new customers who might be interested in your products and a good deal.

Comparison shopping engines only redirect customers to your site who have seen your product and price details and actively clicked on the ad. This means you’re only receiving high-intent consumers who have a greater chance of converting into a sale. What’s more, because the purchase happens on your site, you can more easily remarket buyers to generate repeat sales and stronger lifetime value.

What types of advertisers are a good fit for these ads?

This is a very niche tactic only recommended for advertisers with a detailed product feed and competitively priced products. Also, it’s important to only drive demand for what’s in supply and closely monitor your shipping cutoff dates, so this tactic doesn’t work well for products that quickly run out of stock or that require long production and shipping timelines.

Always remember if you allocate your budget across too many efforts, you won’t win at any of them. Instead, align your ecommerce advertising strategy to the channels most relevant to your goals and stay flexible.

To check out other advertising tactics that might be an even better fit for your ecommerce brand, download our updated Ecommerce Advertising Playbook now. Or let our experts help you find the right advertising solutions for your business – reach out to us to schedule a complimentary ecommerce advertising analysis today.

Turn More Browsers Into Buyers With Ecommerce Paid Social Ads

Girls on couch looking at social media

Social media has always been where consumers go online to connect with the people and things they love. More recently, social platforms have expanded to enable shoppers to connect with the brands and products they love too through paid social ads.

Adult users’ time spent on social media platforms while in the midst of the pandemic grew by 13 minutes in 2020 eMarketer found, and today the average time spent on social per day is 1 hour and 35 minutes. So it comes as no surprise that more and more ecommerce advertisers are turning to social media to help people do more than just casually browse. They’re helping people get inspired, find new products and make purchases.

Case in point, over 60% of direct-to-consumer brands worldwide list social as the leading customer acquisition channel according to Yotpo. Paid social ads are also a great way for emerging brands or small businesses to expand their ecommerce strategy without a large advertising budget. But social media best practices vary greatly from platform to platform. If you aren’t sure if paid social is right for your ecommerce business, find out more about these ads and if they make sense for your brand in our FAQs below:

What social platforms should ecommerce brands consider first?

The biggest players in the space are Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat. Online stores and product listings on these platforms are a new way for shoppers to discover your brand and buy your products, especially during the pandemic. Factor in each platform’s exclusive data targeting as well, and everyone from small business owners to global brand marketers can gain confidence knowing their paid search ads are personally relevant and will inspire action among the people they want to reach.

Begin with one platform – we most often recommend Facebook first due to its extensive first-party data – and prioritize products with the best margin or inventory levels. Focus on the placements that can make the quickest impact on your goals with a single platform; then use the real-time data and results from that campaign to fund waterfall budgets for the other platforms.

Here’s a look at a few social platforms that can help you reimagine retail shopping.

What’s needed to advertise on social platforms?

Ecommerce brands typically need a shop or business account and product feed set up with the platform before you can begin advertising. Each social platform will have different feed specifications, so it’s crucial that you monitor your feed regularly and ensure it stays up to date with all platform requirements.

While we recommend building out your ecommerce strategy to run across multiple social media platforms over time, you should never duplicate creative content. Instead, vary your messaging from platform to platform to help prevent creative fatigue. A robust set of ad creatives in a variety of formats for desktop and mobile is necessary to capture the attention of potential buyers and share your brand message in a way that fits how consumers use social media.

Why should you bother with paid social ads if you already have a strong organic social media program?

While an organic social media presence is key to your overall branding efforts, the number of things a consumer can watch, listen to and read on social is infinite. This means social platforms have largely shifted to a pay-to-play model, using algorithms to sift through the abundance of noise and streamline what users see. To get in on the best social media real estate, marketers must supplement their organic initiatives with paid campaigns.

What types of advertisers are a good fit for these ads?

Because social platforms are creative-driven, it’s important to feature attractive product images and videos to streamline the online shopping experience and make it easy for consumers to visually search for products. Therefore, brands with highly visual offerings, such as clothing, beauty products or accessories, are a natural fit. Also, advertisers targeting younger audiences with their products are ideal for newer platforms like Snapchat, as 83% of its 84 million users are Millennials or Generation Z according to eMarketer.

Always remember if you allocate your budget across too many efforts, you won’t win at any of them. Instead, align your ecommerce advertising strategy to the channels most relevant to your goals and stay flexible. To check out more advertising tactics that might be a good addition to your next ecommerce ad campaign, download our updated Ecommerce Advertising Playbook now.

Looking for more hands-on help? Let our experts help you find the right paid social ads or advertising solutions for your business. Reach out to us to schedule a complimentary ecommerce advertising analysis today.

New Customers Are an Ecommerce Search Away

woman outside on her cell

While online shopping was growing quickly prior to COVID-19, the pandemic greatly accelerated consumer ecommerce adoption — by two years — Digital Commerce 360 estimates. The research firm also found online sales hit $791.70 billion in 2020, up 32.4% from $598.02 billion in 2019 based on Commerce Department figures, which happens to be the highest annual online sales growth of any year for which data is available.

As brands battle for consumer attention in this unprecedented era of ecommerce, marketers are challenged with finding the right channel and platform that will help their brand stand out from the crowd. There are many advertising options available to drive ecommerce activities, but how much you invest in each channel relies heavily on your budget. That’s why for most advertisers, we recommend starting with search engine and online marketplace advertising before expanding out to other ecommerce tactics.

If you are looking to capture browsers at the bottom of the funnel, paid search ads may be a good fit. Find out more about these ads and if they make sense for your brand in our FAQs below:

Why should you start with search engine and online marketplace advertising?

These ads are triggered by shoppers specifically searching for your product or similar products on a search engine (like Google or Bing) or on an online marketplace (like Amazon.com, Walmart.com or eBay.com), meaning your budget is optimized to only the highest-intent users. By getting in front of these leaned-in customers when they’re actively searching for companies or products like yours, you focus on driving the lower-funnel results that matter most to your business. Plus, these ads typically serve above organic listings, giving you more prominent placement and control over the messages shoppers see.

What platforms should you consider?

The biggest players in the space are Amazon, Walmart, Google and Bing. Begin with one publisher – we most often recommend Amazon first – and prioritize products with the best margin or inventory levels. Focus on the placements that can make the quickest impact on your bottom line with a single publisher; then use the real-time data and results from that campaign to fund waterfall budgets for the other publishers. What’s needed to advertise on these platforms? Brands typically need a store or merchant account and product feed set up with the publisher. Each site will have different feed specifications, so it’s crucial that you monitor your feed regularly and ensure it stays up to date with all platform requirements. Product reviews, ratings, shipping tags and return policies may also factor into your ad eligibility on certain platforms like Amazon and Walmart.

Some publishers require a minimum monthly spend so it’s important to remember that if you allocate your budget across too many efforts, you won’t win at any of them. Instead, align your ecommerce advertising strategy to the channels most relevant to your goals and stay flexible.

Here are a few retailers where you can captivate consumers who are only a search away.

Should you advertise on Amazon if your brand has its own ecommerce store?

Yes. For most people, online shopping is synonymous with Amazon. It’s the world’s largest online retailer with consumers ordering items from Amazon 6.5 times per month on average – more than any other online marketplace according to Wunderman Thompson. Still, its research shows 38% of digital consumer dollars in the U.S. are spent with Amazon. That means brands looking to convert online shoppers must think outside of the box and tap into Amazon Advertising’s reach, even if they have their own ecommerce marketplace.

Ensure consumers in the discovery and consideration phases can find your products wherever they do their research and then bring them back to your own digital marketplace for additional or future purchases, if necessary. That’s why our team frequently recommends advertisers use Amazon Advertising search ads as part of their evergreen plan and ramp up with additional budget during peak holiday seasons. But remember, these search ads are served only on Amazon.com and drive users to the brand’s Amazon storefront for purchase, so you must have an Amazon Store with products available to use these ads.

Should you bother with paid search ads if you’re already doing organic search engine optimization (SEO)?

Yes. Every day, millions of people turn to search engines and online marketplaces to find, discover and shop for products. But most online shoppers never click past the first page of search results, so promoting your products through paid search ads is vital to ensuring they actually see your brand. Working in tandem with your organic SEO efforts, paid ads can provide a more complete picture of your target users’ behaviors and interests so you can continue to develop even more personalized customer experiences.

Plus, advertising campaigns that use both shopping ads and traditional search ads in parallel with SEO efforts typically increase consumer engagement and perform better than those that use one tactic alone. To further improve your performance potential, ensure at least 10 to 20 SKUs are eligible for advertising, including a mix of established best-selling SKUs and opportunity SKUs for new and seasonal products.

How can you take your paid search strategy to the next level?

Retail websites and search engines are generally query-based. That’s why it’s critical for marketers to make sure shoppers can find their brand and products with a strong paid search keyword strategy. Keywords and phrases match ads with search terms shoppers are using to find products on search engines and online marketplaces. They also allow advertisers to avoid showing their ads to consumers who use certain keywords or phrases in their search. To take your ecommerce advertising keyword strategy to the next level, consider these three tips:

  1. Keep an open mind when creating your initial keyword list and gradually fine-tune it based on the strongest performers. Ongoing experimentation is vital to keeping your keyword strategy at its strongest.
  2. On platforms that offer automatic keyword targeting, let the platform’s algorithms identify the best-performing keywords. Then add in manual targeting over time for more granular phrase mining.
  3. Separate your search campaign keywords thematically and replicate that process for each product at the ad group level to identify the right keyword-product combinations that deliver optimal results.

To check out more advertising tactics that might be a good addition to your next ecommerce ad campaign, download our updated Ecommerce Advertising Playbook now. Or let our experts help you find the right advertising solutions for your business – reach out to us to schedule a complimentary ecommerce advertising analysis today.

9 Answers to Your Burning Cookieless Questions

People want answers. At the end of our recent Preparing for a Cookieless Future: Now What? webinar, our audience asked a lot of questions during the Q&A session about the deprecation of the third-party cookie and what the post-cookie future holds. Our Client Strategy Director Lindsay Boeddeker and our Future of Identity Expert Amanda Martin took them all on, and here’s how they responded.

1. How would you see alternate addressable platforms (aka The Trade Desk and LiveRamp) impacting this upcoming change?

Amanda Martin: I think they’re impacting it in the sense that they’re truly trying to participate and vet what an acceptable addressable alternative would be. They didn’t allow Google to take away the third-party cookie. It’s important we push with Google on the changes and with the partners outside of Google and work together. The reason we have this delay and didn’t have this end-of-the-year “sky is falling” situation is because of these alternative addressable platforms, and that’s why competition in the space is really important, and buyers can support that competition by spending across multiple platforms.

2. Any insights on how to gather all the key performance indicators (KPIs) without cookies?

Amanda Martin: I think the key is some of the KPIs are truly vanity metrics and are tied just to the ecosystem we’re in. They don’t actually relate to or speak to any of the business KPIs that we track. So I don’t think we’re going to be able to replicate every KPI that exists today.

What I love about the delay is we’ll be able to test new metrics without losing our old metrics. Being able to compare when your current KPIs go up and down and what future-proof KPIs fluctuate, what that relationship is, that’s the most telling piece.

Some of the KPIs will be recreated with offline data or with clean room aggregated insights, so it’s not clear-cut, this is your cost per action (CPA), this is your aggregate lift of those two purchases or this is the tracking of your spend and where we can attribute it.

But I do think we’ll have to say goodbye to the vanity KPIs that some of our programmatic buys have relied on for a long time.

I also think that allows us to acknowledge that programmatic isn’t actually a medium, it’s a way of buying things. So the way you buy things shouldn’t have a KPI. The media you buy should have KPIs, and the business that you run should have KPIs. So I don’t think we’ll have 1×1 on all KPI metrics, but I think if you’re tracking existing KPIs with new future-proof KPIs, you’ll be able to know how to read the new signals before you lose the old signals.

Lindsay Boeddeker: I think it will be a welcome change too because how many times have we seen deduped or duplicated attribution? So Facebook is going to take the credit for conversion. Google is going to take the credit on a last-ad-seen or last-click model, which is tracked on that cookie level.

3. How do you reset performance expectations moving forward? New benchmarks moving forward?

Lindsay Boeddeker: So the benchmarks are assessing different changes in dips and flows as this kind of awkwardly transitions out. When are you seeing lift across which medium channel versus how you’re buying it?

 I would say really pushing toward those incrementality models, looking at brand lift, looking at sales lift, looking at cross-channel lift in a certain setting where you can compare apples to apples versus apples to oranges. That’s going to be really smart.

I think as sophisticated marketers, we have moved away from click-through rate and clicks as vanity metrics, but where we still get stuck is, what were the total sales and conversions from Facebook or Google?

Now it’s a different story. How do we look at overall sales? How do we look at overall lift and impact from advertising as a whole versus trying to get ticky-tacky within the specific channels and buying methods?

4. Do you feel the goal of 1×1 addressable media contradicts the consumer’s desire for enhanced privacy?

Amanda Martin: So I think this is where we acknowledge that we’re not looking for addressability at 100% scale, which cookies falsely gave us with recognizing individuals.

I think it’s where the consumer values the relationship to allow for the addressability we’re seeking, so that’s going to be a smaller percentage of how we execute media. But I think what we’re looking to do is to remove the “how did they know I put those shoes in that cart?” and “why is that dress I looked at yesterday following me around the internet today?”

I think the way we solve that is by increasing the relationship that advertising has, and if the advertising experience is worthwhile and fulfilling and respectful, I think consumers don’t have an issue with sharing their privacy. It’s when it isn’t that great.

One of the benefits you see from an Instagram or Facebook or now a TikTok is that it’s a really good advertising experience, so if we can work on increasing the advertising experience so consumers value it, I think we can get more addressable.

But I do agree. We’re not looking to recreate100% addressability. I think that’s what we’re respecting. I’m a subscriber to The New York Times, and I trust The New York Times to have that relationship with me. So I’m OK with it using my information to give me relevant ads. But I do expect a level of ad experience that warrants that personally identifiable information (PII) that I’ve given it. I think that’s the shift we’re looking for, that’s the needle we’re looking to thread, not just to create an alternative that does exactly what the third-party cookie does.

5. Are tracking pixels effective as well?

Lindsay Boeddeker: So right now, it’s a little bit of a dance. I’d say the information we’re getting from the pixels, that’s what’s being affected. The pixels themselves are still being placed. They’re still driving data. They’re still right now giving us information and tracking certain things. The data we’re getting back is changing, especially with Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) impacts like we talked about – social impacts and mobile app activity and cookieless environments. So yes, overall, the data we’re seeing back from them is changing, and we’re gaining learnings from them and trying to test and learn and apply toward the future. My hunch is that pixels will be very different in the future in terms of where they can be placed versus website activity versus tracking activity. That has been yet to set in stone, but something we have a pulse on as well.

Amanda Martin: I think the key is that first-party pixels aren’t going away. So the pixels you place on your owned and operated property, you’ll still be able to gather that information. I think it’s the information you used to be able to gather across domains, for instance, when you could tell where someone had come from or where someone went. That’s what Apple’s ITP protocol is blocking, and that’s what cookies enabled and what will eventually be disabled. So the key is, if it’s happening within your website, within your own walled garden, it’s happening there and it’s your own, then it exists still. When you had insights outside of your own area, that is going to get more deprecated as we go on.

6. Safari, Firefox – no third-party cookie browsers – what is holding back clients from transacting on new IDs there today? Low adoption and reach? Better than nothing?

Amanda Martin: I think the reason why there’s low adoption is because cookies are the fuel of every demand-side platform (DSP) right now. So when a DSP can recognize someone, and the most prominent way to recognize someone is a third-party cookie, that gets prioritized in the sense of impressions that go out for bid. That’s because they’re the most revenue-driving for the buy side and the sell side, in the sense that if you know who you’re advertising to or you think you know who you’re advertising to, and we put the most value on those impressions from a buy side, and the sell side puts the most value on them. That’s probably what’s slowing down adoption.

The other truth is if you’re not intentionally buying Safari and FireFox, you’re probably not buying Safari and FireFox. It’s because they don’t have the identifier. Their impressions are just being deprioritized by most platforms. But there’s a huge opportunity: There’s lift on the buy side to activate there. And scale-wise, it’s smaller. It’s already a smaller ecosystem, and then it’s a smaller addressable universe, but I think it’s worth testing and learning; that’s your A/B test: Safari and FireFox versus Chrome. We have some great advertisers that are pursuing those types of tests, and we would love to see more. But I think the key is the expectation of scale is not there. But it’s better than nothing, and you’re not advertising there right now unless you’re intentionally advertising there.

7. Will Google Analytics (GA) still be able to track some information like demographics or devices people are viewing from?

Amanda Martin: Yes and no, depends on what browser they’re on, what device they’re on, what information will be fed back to Google. Again, Google does control the largest browser-based consumption in both mobile and desktop. So with that being said, I think you’ll notice things like if you’re an active Chrome user, you’ll now get asked to log in with your account, your Gmail account, so they know who you are.

Think of Chrome as an owned and operated property of Google. So I think GA will be fueled with signals in the owned and operated ecosystem that Google has from the browser if they truly treat it like an owned and operated property, but there will be blind spots because Safari and FireFox aren’t sending those signals.

But I don’t think that changes much from what’s happening today in that regard.

8. How are you articulating and preparing brands as this identity transition comes to life? (For example, you can have different conversations with existing clients, but new clients or prospects, you don’t have those insights or relationship — what does that conversation look like?)

Lindsay Boeddeker: I think it’s smart to be very proactive right now. We still have third-party data segments to put into plans and campaigns and use as targeting. We still have cookies today. This is changing. This will change. You don’t want to be caught not prepared for this.

So I think every client, prospect and marketer should know what’s coming down the pipe, and what that will look like if you take them on as a new client. That relationship is going to change, and you want to grow with them and grow them and pull them up in that process.

So for example, these conversations can look like anything from we’re given an RFP, and I come back and say what we’re doing in the cookieless space, what our identity alternatives look like and how we’re addressing it. I get that question a lot on new business proposals and new pitches.

The other piece is they haven’t asked about it; they have no idea. That’s when I give a very high-level view: This is what’s happening currently, this is what we have available today, this is what the future looks like, here’s where I think you need to be based on your business, your goals, your audience, where you’re running media, but also five years down the road, where you could be. And being very proactive in that sense has been helpful for clients because they haven’t thought of that but more so don’t know how to even approach it or get there.

Amanda Martin: Now that you have tangible things you can test and use, it’s also about presenting those opportunities plainly to brands and advertisers. It doesn’t have to be a fully baked client experience. There are ways to test one-off capabilities with new providers or new advertising agencies. So that’s where we’ve started to transition, started to bring that solution into that pre-relationship conversation because we can’t wait until we’ve solidified our relationship. Everything’s going great in the current ecosystem and then we tell you about everything that’s going to need to change. And we’re starting those conversations really early. Now that we have more tangible things to test and utilize, it’s getting easier than say a year and a half ago when we were still talking about hypotheses.     

9. How do clean rooms work?

Amanda Martin: I’m not on our data science and analytics team, so they’ll probably cringe while I explain it, but as someone who navigates the industry and has to at least understand it enough to break it, data clean rooms are basically a neutral zone.

As an advertiser, you have first-party data that you can contribute to the neutral zone, but you’re never allowed to take data out of the clean room that you don’t own, and then a publisher or third-party data provider can bring insights into the neutral zone.

You can then meld it together; play around with it. And what you can take out is, you can take out aggregate learnings. So you can’t take out that Lindsay bought a specific item on a specific website after she went to The New York Times, but what you can take out is this subset of users all had the same action that you manipulated the data to, and then you can take that segment out and target it.

Or you can take those learnings and turn them into measurement insights if you drove this much incremental lift by the addition of say, CTV, on top of your display advertising.

So the key is it’s 1×1 information in but never 1×1 information out. So each party maintains its data privacy and its consent mechanisms with the user, but insights can be derived, and aggregated actions can happen from it. For us non-technical folks, it’s a little bit of magic, but they’re usually SQL-based, and it’s usually about playing with data at high aggregate levels as opposed to line-by-line levels.

How Clean Rooms Work Infographic

Still have cookieless questions? Visit our comprehensive identity hub on our website now for all our expert guides, POVs, infographics and more – everything you need to go cookieless, all free to download and updated all the time. Or feel free to reach out with any cookieless questions and ask us; we’ll get you the answers you’re seeking so you can start securing your cookieless future.

Goodway Group Wins 2021 MarTech Breakthrough Award for Predictive Analytics

Goodway Group just won its second consecutive award at the 2021 MarTech Breakthrough Awards, this time for Best Predictive Analytics Solution for BidRange, a custom-built advanced machine learning model.

BidRange predicts whether an individual ad group can benefit from a base bid update, working across display, mobile and native campaigns with effective cost per action (eCPA) or viewability objectives prioritized by the client’s primary success measure.

Each week, the model predicts whether to increase or decrease the base bid for Goodway’s thousands of programmatic campaigns by using signals from 23 custom-engineered features to keep the base bid at the optimal level, including the gap between the submitted bid and predicted clearing prices, the proportion of impressions going to top sites by impression volume and distribution of CPMs.

When a Goodway media trader initially creates a campaign with an unreasonably high base bid, the solution makes a series of predictions that will decrease the base bid down to optimal. If the market shifts and a campaign’s base bid is no longer optimal, the predictive analytic solution detects and updates the campaign without intervention.

What makes BidRange award winning?

It comes down to its proven results. “Ad groups that received updates had 11% lower CPMs month over month than the control ad groups that only had a standard bid factoring algorithm applied,” Goodway President Jay Friedman said. “Our data scientists developed this predict and update solution so that traders no longer need to exert mental energy on this programmatic lever. In turn, they can focus on higher leverage activities to best support our clients, such as producing actionable insights that lead to better business outcomes. We are honored that the hard work of our data, science and analytics team is being recognized by MarTech Breakthrough this year. The ceiling is so high in this space, and we will continue to aim to break through.”

It also comes down to its adept ability to harness the power of data to strengthen programmatic campaigns. James Johnson, managing director at MarTech Breakthrough, said, “Successfully managing a programmatic campaign is a difficult task as there are many levers at a media trader’s disposal to optimize a campaign. Set the base bid too high, and you’ll be overpaying for impressions. Set it too low, and you’ll be unable to achieve scale. With this challenge in mind, Goodway Group is a leading-edge digital partner that understands and is able to leverage the power of programmatic data so that marketers reach the right customer at the right price. Congratulations to Goodway Group, once again this year – this time as our Best Predictive Analytics Solution award winner.”

The MarTech Breakthrough Awards is an international annual awards program that recognizes standout marketing, advertising and sales technology from around the world. At the 2020 awards, Goodway won Best Data Visualization Solution, and now we couldn’t be more thrilled and honored to win for predictive analytics this year, especially considering the program attracted more than 2,850 nominations from over 17 different countries around the world!

Ready to increase your digital advertising knowledge and take your own programmatic campaigns to the top? Tap into our unmatched ad tech capabilities and programmatic expertise now and discover how to minimize your administrative complexities and maximize your media efficiency and campaign results. Let us show you how. Reach out today.

What to Focus On Now for Your Cookieless Future

Are you relaxing now that Google has pushed back the end of third-party cookies until 2023? Stop. During Goodway Group’s recent Preparing for a Cookieless Future? Now What? webinar, our Lindsay Boeddeker, Goodway Group client strategy director, and Amanda Martin, our future of identity expert, warned that’s the last thing you should be doing. While the sky isn’t falling, still it’s no excuse to press pause or stop your cookieless efforts. Read on to discover what you should be focusing on right now to step more easily into the cookieless world, no matter when Google decides it’s time.

Assess the Impact.

What to Focus On Right Now

Examine your media mix and plan and review your current digital strategy to gauge how reliant you are on third-party cookies. For an accurate assessment, answer the following:

  • How and where are you reaching your target audience?
  • What channels are you using, and how are you speaking to your target audience?
  • What’s your customer and consumer personalization model look like, and is it reliant on first-party or third-party data?
  • Do you use third-party cookie data to drive personalization?
  • What does your measurement strategy look like? What are your metrics?
  • What are your primary key performance indicators (KPIs) versus secondary versus business outcomes?
  • Are your KPIs third-party-dependent?
  • Do you leverage third-party data to enrich your first-party data-driven insights?
  • What types of insights are you gaining and leveraging?
  • What cookieless alternatives can you try now?

Losing the third-party cookie will likely impact these digital advertising buckets – site measurement, content availability, media measurement and tactic scalability, and here’s why.

Site Measurement

Those who opt out of being tracked won’t be a random sample of the population; they could greatly skew your site metrics. Without the cookie, publishers and site owners will have to make decisions on incomplete information.

Content Availability

Publishers will lose insight around who’s visiting their site when third-party cookies go away. Of course, inventory has a greater value if there’s more info about the individuals the ads are being served to, so publishers will be forced to make the difficult decision on what content to make free versus what to gate behind a paywall.

Media Measurement

Without the cookie, the ability to track users will be hindered if they opt out because site actions won’t be able to be tied to ad exposure. But don’t be alarmed if your performance dips. It may be that the number of trackable users declined, and you’re working with a smaller lookback window. That’s why it’s important you (and every advertiser) should reset your expectations on what you consider good performance.

Tactic Scalability

Once the third-party cookie disappears, data-related tactics will see a decline in available inventory on the open exchange. To build scale in the future, media buyers will have to sublimate budget to contextual targeting, site-related buys or to category or interest targeting from a Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) from Google or a cohort.

Enhance Your First-Party Data.

What to Focus On Right Now

To make the most of your first-party data, answer these questions:

  • Where’s your first-party data coming from? Your website? Loyalty programs? Elsewhere?
  • What first-party data points are you currently capturing?
  • Are there other first-party data points you could be capturing to strengthen your marketing strategy?
  • Do you have consent and preference management in place?
  • Where’s your first-party data being stored?
  • How often is it refreshed or cleansed?
  • How are you currently using your first-party data?
  • Are you maximizing its full potential?

First-party data, your customer data, is foundational to digital advertising because that’s where your insights and directional learning will come from moving forward, especially now that the cookie will soon be deprecated. The most valuable way to spend your time over the next year is to gather and organize your first-party data so it’s fully usable and then build it up as much as you can. Assess both the quantity and quality of it – how you’re currently using it or how you could use it in the future. See what you have, where the gaps are and then acquire other data to make it your own. Your first-party data tells you who your interested and engaged audience is and also helps you build consumer relationships and move prospects to active customers.

Here at Goodway, we think of Google’s 2023 timeline as a gift – as an opportunity to prepare for the cookieless future.

For over two years, we’ve spearheaded an identity project, and our testing of several identity alternatives, from Unified I.D. 2.0 to LiveRamp to Ads Data Hub to Amazon Advertising, is already well underway. We’ve been collaborating across the ad tech ecosystem, making sure identity alternatives can replicate the same targeting as cookies and work for the buy side.

Want to start testing and learning yourself? Visit our Identity Resource Hub on our website now to read up on how to start testing identity alternatives and to find up-to-the-minute clear and free info, advice and insights across a wealth of helpful materials, from cookieless guides, POVs, infographics and more to support you on your way.

Or looking for a partner to take along on your cookieless journey? Tap us for the role, and we’ll help you assess the impact of Apple Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) and how your campaigns use cookies today; audit your current strategy to uncover data and omnichannel opportunities; and strengthen your first-party data and apportion budget for testing alternatives. Reach out whenever you’re ready.

Goodway Group Wins 2021 Oracle Markie Award

Goodway Group is out ahead of the cookieless future, and the industry is taking notice: At the highly esteemed 15th annual Oracle Markie Awards, Goodway won the inaugural Context Award for the best application of positive contextual targeting.

See how we reacted when we got the good news!

The Markie Awards

The Markie Awards, according to Oracle, “celebrates customer experience (CX) innovation and excellence in advertising, marketing, sales, service and commerce.” Out of hundreds of submissions from around the world, Goodway was one of only fourteen exclusive winners recognized for innovative ideas and processes – for driving tests that produced incredible results that outperformed data-based tactics across the customer journey.

Goodway’s Contextual Targeting Solution

“Data reliance is a requirement and an uncertainty today. Contextual targeting is one key element across the cookieless solutions that will be central to a future founded in data privacy and security,” says Goodway’s Nick Gaudio, client strategy director. Using contextual targeting, performance metrics and careful analysis to improve the customer experience, Goodway created an innovative way to maintain performance efficiencies established by cookie-based campaigns using alternate data sources to drive conversions for our auto clients.

These auto clients, heavily reliant on leveraging audience or data in targeting strategies, tapped into contextual segments to further reach target consumers while prime for exposure in relevant online environments. Auto historically has relied on audience targeting for conversion-based key performance indicators (KPIs), so leveraging positive context and Predicts segments were new frontiers.

Contextual Campaign Results

Contextual targeting matches ads to relevant environments across the web using identifiers such as keywords, topics, images, videos and more. Decide what content type you want to run your ad next to and align with the right keywords and topics, and an ad partner can then scan its network pages and match your ad with the most relevant content to reach your customers and prospects when they’re in just the right mindset.

Working with Oracle Advertising, Goodway was able to leverage audience insights and data into contextual segments to further reach customers in relevant digital media environments. Clients not only could target in-market individuals but also could target those who may have opted out of cookie pools or were not yet included within in-market audience segments to drive incremental exposure.

Campaign results were eye-catching: Goodway increased context revenue by 194% year to date (YTD); exceeded standard conversion benchmarks by 60%; and surpassed standard contextual conversion rates by 12% with custom Predicts segments.

“Contextual targeting is one key element across the landscape of cookieless solutions that will be central to a future founded in data privacy and security,” says Nick. “So, with The Context Award, it’s truly humbling to be recognized for our work, striving for what could be and not what is.”

Where to Go From Here

To see for yourself what is and what could be soon regarding cookieless advertising and the future of identity and privacy, visit our website’s identity hub for loads of new free resources – current POVS, infographics, blog posts, plus detailed guides on authenticated identity and how to approach testing and identity alternatives.

Or partner with us today. We can help you test your own cookieless advertising campaigns, easily navigate digital advertising’s unchartered waters and create a solid road map for future success.

What’s Search Marketing Automation? (Plus, a Do’s and Don’ts Checklist!)

What’s the difference between search marketing automation and machine learning? Are they interchangeable?

What do search marketers fear most about these topics? How can they fully embrace them?

These are just a few common questions our Lisa Little, a 2020 Search Engine Land Awards Search Marketer of the Year, gets asked all the time, so read on as she answers them.

What’s the Difference Between Search Marketing Automation and Machine Learning?

Automation: This is a wide range of technologies that reduce human intervention in processes.

Search automation examples are scripts, bidding technology, auto-applied recommendations, automated audits, budget-pacing tools, optimization score recommendations and management or reporting platforms.

The tools to complete automated actions are done by a machine instead of a human. Automated aspects act or run behind the scenes on cruise control without someone in the driver’s seat pushing buttons. (Note: The driver tells the car what speed to maintain and sets cruise control before the automation takes over.)

Machine Learning: This is the study of computer algorithms that automatically improve through experience, and using data is seen as part of artificial intelligence.

Today, machine learning comes into play with responsive search ads, real-time auctions, quality scores, smart campaigns, smart bidding or time decay and with data-driven attribution models, ad extensions, a customized SERP experience and more.

Machine learning supports the search account aspects that require so much real-time data that human minds can’t comprehend at the sheer speed required to compute and translate data. Machine learning is constantly used without advertisers’ control, approval or understanding. Search marketers choose to leverage and act upon data in a scalable and agile way through efficient automations. Embrace machine learning along with automation, and you’ll produce amazing results.

What Are Marketers’ Fears About Search Marketing Automation and Machine Learning?

Search marketers are hesitant to use automation and machine learning because of the lack of control and transparency; brand advertisers are typically slow to adopt, or don’t approve; they’re unsure about the automation types available and are concerned automation will replace jobs; and they’re confused about how to learn about them (or are unwilling to do so).

Though, the reality is if you’re in search marketing, automation and machine learning are happening around you so you should explore them, not ignore them! Brands that don’t evolve with customer needs, expectations and behaviors quickly fail and ultimately become extinct.

How Should Marketers Embrace Their Fears?

Use machine learning to keep up with demands as it allows you to adapt quickly and seamlessly based on the data and feedback you’re receiving. Simply put, automation and machine learning are required to keep up an accelerated search pace, particularly with the unexpected, epic and volatile behavior shifts over the past year. 

Look fear in the face and trudge ahead through the challenges. Think of this comparison: Search machine learning is like a robot vacuum cleaner. It cleans your floors for you. But first it must learn your floor plan and understand your performance expectations. It requires regular charging, cleaning filters and other maintenance. The best thing about a robot vacuum is you can spend that hour you used to vacuum your house in a more meaningful way. Now you have time to spend with your family, work out or cook dinner – and the chore gets done. The robot vacuum cleaner doesn’t replace you but allows for more productive and efficient floor cleaning so you can focus your time elsewhere. Of course, you still have to check up on the robot vacuum cleaner and troubleshoot and maintain it, but you can use it to your advantage.

Even with a robot vacuum, you still have to do some of the floor work yourself, whether that’s cleaning up a spill or cleaning those tight spaces a robot vacuum cleaner simply can’t reach. The concept is the same with search machine learning. Find ways to leverage automation to complement your overall program and results. At times you will need to do manual upkeep or repair, but that should work in tandem with all aspects of the account.

What Are Marketers’ Search Automation and Machine Learning Do’s and Don’ts? (Handy Checklist)

Do’s

Take it one step at a time. Dip your toe in with an automated bidding strategy to start. Most smart bidding strategies are generally straightforward, and selection depends on what goals you’re trying to achieve. To start, go with the simplest goal: Maximize clicks.

Check in daily and learn to love data. While we can’t physically see the data going into the automation or making the machine work, we can still know and appreciate the value of what we can’t see. Take a test, tweak and learn approach to analyzing data results. Stay curious!

Own your research and customize how you use automation. Google or Microsoft may say certain tools or automation are better, but that doesn’t mean that’s what’s best for your business or campaign goals every single time. For example, automated ad copy creation might not be the best because it’s harder for machines to understand the best value propositions. However, leveraging responsive search ads automation is strong, outperforms other ad formats and is required to keep up with all the consumer buying signals. Ultimately, you decide how automation will work in a brand’s favor.

Set baselines and frequently check performance and volume against them. Make sure you’re looking at search performance and volume or impact in your marketing efforts beyond paid search. The performance story should not be siloed to any one specific channel but instead is most effective when looking at things like conversions, revenue, sentiment, consumer behavior and messaging across the full marketing mix.

Don’ts

Rely on automation 100%. Automation needs human input, checkups, troubleshooting, maintenance and continual monitoring. Don’t turn on the machine and walk away from it. In the post-setup phase, inspect results and troubleshoot. Once you have statistically significant volume and understand the results, you can begin optimizing and course correcting with campaign adjustments.

Bite off more than you can chew. Because you need to regularly check, maintain, troubleshoot, analyze and explain what the automation is doing for your campaigns, don’t overwhelm the system by having too many things (especially conflicting automations in multitiered brands) going at one time. Troubleshooting can get complicated with too many added variables.

Approach automation as one size fits all. Different campaigns or groups will require different approaches to automation. Structure by goal so you can apply the best rule or setting to a group. For example, setting cost per action (CPA) or return on ad spend (ROAS) target goals may work for certain groups, whereas click or position-based rules may work better for other campaigns. As a general rule of thumb, Max Conversions (with a set target CPA) should be used when the value of the conversion is more static. Max Conversion Value (MCV), a set target ROAS, should be used whenever the conversion value is variable – if the value of a lead or sale can vary from conversion to conversion.

Forget to watch cost per clicks (CPCs). Automated strategies increase cost per clicks (CPCs) rapidly, but conversions don’t always follow. Actions fluctuate with search behavior, search volume, auction competition and so on.

As you embrace search marketing automation and machine learning, understand what they are, how they work together, when to leverage each type and how to measure their impact and success. Stay open, be willing to explore, innovate, impact and adjust automation and machine learning along the way to create the best combination for your business.

P.S. Want more great digital marketing advice and tips to move you and your business forward? Peruse our complete library of free and helpful advertising resources, read our blog, sign up for our newsletter, follow us on social media or reach out to us today.

How to Prepare for Your Cookieless Future Despite Google’s Cookie Delay

Cookies get to live another day – almost two more years, in fact, according to Google’s latest announcement.

Though Google’s original plan was to deprecate the third-party cookie by Q2 2022, in late June, the company decided to push back the timeline. The proposed alternatives aren’t ready yet, and Google’s recent agreement with the U.K. Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), a British antitrust agency, must include a six-month evaluation period when any changes to third-party cookies are made.

According to Google’s blog, the revised timeline will roll out in two stages:

Stage 1 will start in late 2022, pending the completion of privacy sandbox testing and the successful launch of APIs and will allow the industry time to migrate its targeting and measurement approaches away from cookies.

Stage 2 is dependent on the success of stage 1 but is currently slated for mid-2023, which will prompt a three-month period to phase out support of third-party cookies.

However, this is tentative timing and depends on how successful the privacy sandbox proposals are and if they’re accepted by the industry and regulators. Chrome is currently testing 4 of 30 proposals now, with FLEDGE trials delayed until later this year, if not early next.

Replace Third-Party Cookies With Cookieless Identity Alternatives

Though third-party cookies don’t provide ad tech a firm foundation to rely on, build on or scale, the industry is still finding it hard to say goodbye.

Parting is hard simply because these cookies underpin much of all audience targeting in ad tech, and no sole cookieless identity alternative can replace them.

How should you best proceed? Assess your goals, strategies and key performance indicators (KPIs) and determine the right set of cookieless identity alternatives available now (or soon) to try:

Authenticated and Shared IDs are consumer-provided consented identifiers provided via publishers who have established a trusted relationship with their users.

Clean Rooms overlap first-party data with secure, privacy-compliant impression-level data aggregated from the open internet and walled gardens like Google.

Publisher-Driven Data/Cohorts group and target by a common characteristic to analyze behavior and performance.

Federated Learning (FLoC) lets you see clusters of people with common interests and browsing activity and target ads to them while not intruding on their privacy.

Contextual Targeting matches ads to relevant environments across the web using identifiers such as keywords, topics, images, videos and more.

Want all the details? Learn all about these cookieless identity alternatives – their benefits and challenges (even get examples!) – in our free download, Preparing for a Cookieless Future: How to Approach Testing Identity Alternatives POV.

Reach and Build Audiences in a Cookieless World in 8 Steps

Today third-party cookies only exist in Chrome-based browser experiences so brand and agencies already find themselves reaching consumers more often in cookieless environments rather than cookie ones. So how you reach and engage customers and prospects in the coming cookieless world has to change if you want to succeed. Read on for our best advice – shared here in these eight steps (or get the visual, download our free cookieless targeting infographic!):

Embrace the cookieless opportunity: Change your mindset. Think of third-party cookies going away as an opportunity to see data and measurement in new ways, which can help boost return on ad spending (ROAS) and long-term customer value.

Evaluate audience targeting and measurement: Categorize your first- and third-party data and other data sources to see where you currently stand. No matter what will change, one thing will stay the same: the need to have and continually build up your first-party data.

Identify, measure and understand your potential data gaps or risks: Identify where you’re using third-party or cookie-based targeting the most.

Research alternative sources and how effective they are: Experiment with the cookieless alternatives mentioned above and gauge which ones are an effective fit for your brand.

Strengthen and add to your first-party data: Consider using mobile wallet coupons, opt in to SMS short codes or email capture on your own properties to get ahead.

Lean on your agency: Gather ideas, gain new insights and create a plan to enhance your existing data and fill future gaps.

Allocate budgets to test alternative targeting: Set aside an incremental cookieless targeting test budget if you can or take 20%-30% of the budget you currently spend on cookie-based tactics to test cookieless identity alternative approaches, your creative and additional channels.

Take the lead: Focus on only those scalable cookieless alternatives that fit your specific needs.

Discover the Way Forward

Google’s cookie delay is a reprieve – not a time to rest. That’s why Goodway isn’t slowing down and will continue identity- or privacy-focused efforts, including innovating within clean room environments, first-party data strategies, offline data integrations and measurement solutions.

These approaches will not only provide alternatives to third-party cookies but also offer solutions surrounding deterministic measurement, cross-platform analysis and more sophisticated modeling for both targeting and measurement.

Ultimately, the goal of the industry is to sustain a methodology that respects consumer privacy while delivering relevant messaging as brands seek to communicate with customers.

Want to keep your own momentum going? Find out if your cookieless approach is the right one or how to improve it. Contact us now and receive a thorough, no-cost, no hassle personalized cookieless targeting recommendation. Or let us be the expert partner by your side. We can help you strengthen your first-party data and your overall data management, increase your knowledge and build market share and customer share so you’re fully ready to take on your bright cookieless future when it arrives.