Webinar Wrap-Up: The Feed Maturity Pyramid

Incubeta’s Head of Product Development, Fred Maude, provided insights into Feed Management best practices and the Feed Maturity Pyramid in his latest webinar. Offering actionable guidance and an overview of each maturity stage, Fred’s session is a fantastic introduction into the world of feed maturity.

If you want to supercharge your marketing efforts, there’s one key element that you should be focusing on getting right: your feeds. Feeds contain all of the memories of past campaigns, products, and customers. So, when set up correctly these memories or your past data can not only be the backbone of your marketing efforts but also have a profound impact on your business as a whole.

To make feeds the center of your business, you can work through the Feed Maturity Pyramid, which not only highlights where you currently sit in your feeds journey, but also how to layer each subsequent stage. If you try and jump in at the top of the pyramid without laying the foundations, you’re likely to come crashing back down.

Laying the Foundations

There are two key parts to laying your feeds foundations. The first is to ensure that your data is reliable and accurate. Specifically, this relates to both your pricing and your stock; which can be broken down into 6 subcategories.

  • Standard and Sales Pricing should be updated in line with sector standards and must match the data on-site. This can be as regular as minute-by-minute for gambling and ideally hourly for most retail. Getting it right unlocks the ability to have dynamic messaging in your ads.
  • Including Shipping Labels becomes important when you’re sending your feeds to third parties as it allows you to control this information so it doesn’t become out of date.
  • Monitoring both stock and pricing, and overlaying this with your own data governance alerts, gives you the peace of mind that you’re catching and fixing any mistakes or issues as soon as they happen.
  • With pricing taken care of, you can then look at both Availability and Stock Levels. Most people do have availability in their feeds but stock levels don’t tend to feature. With this information you can look at sell-through rates, predicting stock outages and adding some urgency to your messaging.

Once you’re happy that the data is accurate, you’ll need to ensure that it’s put through continuous and rigorous testing. Times change, and you’ll need to make sure that you’re reinventing your best practices to fall in line with these changes.

Leveraging Your Data

With the foundations laid, you are then able to move on to leveraging your own data. First of all, you can loop your performance data back into your standardized feed, labeling products based on how they’re performing both as a whole, and across different channels. Crucially, by pulling your performance data into the feed, you are creating a feedback loop into all channels tearing down those silos.

Stock and returns is another useful dataset to be incorporating into your feed, especially for businesses in the travel sector. For example, it allows you to keep track of when you might want to pause ads for a product because seats or supplies are selling quickly, so why spend money advertising them!? On top of this, you can also track return rates, and hence give yourself a true picture of profitability. In other words, you have your product demand and product quality directly pushed into your feed and optimize to a true ROAS.

Taking this even further, and perhaps most importantly in the current climate, is to incorporate your margin into the feed. This way, you are able to optimize to a margin of ad spend – thus allowing you to ensure profitability at all times. Guaranteeing this kind of efficiency, especially in our uncertain economy, can only benefit your business’s stability and longevity.

Share Your Insights

With an increasing demand for centralization, there’s a lot that can be done within your feeds to help you along the way. Most accounts will have their central feed which is pushed out to their various channels, and the different teams that look after them. Each individual team will then set up their own automation, processes, and testing – often leading to huge amounts of repetition as well as some insights being overlooked by the various agencies and channel leads. In the long run, this will cost you a huge amount of both money and time and you’re not being efficient with the data you’ve got.

Instead, automation and testing should be sitting with your central feed wherever possible. This way, you’re sending the results of this to all your teams, creating a huge amount of efficiencies; saving you time and money in the long run. As you build out these testing frameworks, remember to keep all of your agencies in the loop as this allows everyone to learn together.

Utilize External Data

Having reached the top of the Feed Maturity Pyramid, you can now start to undertake some of the really exciting projects that can be done using external data. Before you get swept up in this stage, go back and doublecheck all of your foundations to this point are set up correctly and accurately. Once you have that peace of mind, you can jump into utilizing external data to supercharge your feeds.

Our internal teams have seen some huge successes in integrating sports fixtures and team performance into feeds for our sports clients. Clothing retailers can bolster their feeds by incorporating weather data, as it can help to serve the perfect product to a user based on their current weather and pollen conditions. There’s a lot of different examples here that can allow you to optimize your campaigns based on external factors that are outside of your control but can have huge impacts on consumer buying habits.

As has been reiterated throughout this session, we cannot overstate the importance of layering up your feed activity. Each step of this pyramid requires a solid foundation, else you risk becoming unstuck. Getting this right unlocks a whole host of exciting projects that you can undertake using both your own and external data, however, and the impact on your campaigns as a whole is sure to blow you away.

Shopping Free Once Again!

In a piece last July, I explored how Google was returning to an old system through its Comparison Shopping Services (CSS) platform, which is active in Europe. Those with a few years of digital experience will likely see the striking resemblance between CSS click-throughs and the lost world of bridging pages between Google and merchant websites.

Now, Google seems to be making a return to 2012 with the return of free shopping listings – not seen on the platform in 8 years. 

Free shopping listings will come into effect in the US on April 27th and are expected to be rolled out across the world within months. As marketers get ready for this new type of listing, there’s one question that hangs in the air. Why now?

The Timing

It’s a secret to absolutely no one that the meteoric rise of Amazon as a Shopping destination over the last few years has taken a significant share of the market away from Google – and it’s easy to see why.  Amazon’s wide-reaching product selection is a huge plus for users, and their ranking model – which sees products ranked purely based on certain attributes rather than bids – is reflective of what drew users to Google’s core product in the first place.

With advertisers slashing budgets left and right in response to the current pandemic, we’re seeing fewer and fewer listings on the Google Shopping tab as you can’t be listed without spending. It seems that in response, Google has naturally sped up their timeframes for launching free shopping listings for fear of falling any further behind Amazon as the go-to starting point for a consumer’s shopping journey.

There have also been some reports that, after the initial boom, Amazon is now struggling with its listings and fulfillment for some of its largest sellers. Perhaps Google believes that by creating a Marketplace with a low barrier to entry, they can create a larger pool of products than Amazon can at this time. Hopefully, by bringing consumers over now and building a habit, customers will stick with you afterward. 

The benefits for Google and consumers are numerous, but what about the impact on merchants? How will this change the way we run our paid campaigns; from 3rd-party tracking to measuring performance across both organic and paid shopping. In short, how will we have to adapt?

Preparing for Success

If you’ve already opted into the Surfaces Across Google program, you’ll automatically be opted into Organic Shopping. When it comes to measuring performance here, it’s important to note that organic ads will only be appearing within the Shopping Tab, which means they’re going to have a relatively small impact on volumes. Estimates suggest that the volumes coming through the Shopping Tab make up between 5-10% of totals, which is still enough to have an impact on your campaigns.

The actual volumes could be even smaller than that, as current communications say the shopping tab will be “mostly” free. The specifics of this are anyone’s guess, but there are a number of steps you can take to ensure that the impact of this new ad format is measured properly.

To ensure you’re accurately measuring your performance, we recommend that you apply your Google and Adobe tracking parameters to your Merchant Center so you can continue to monitor volumes across all shopping types within your analytics platform. We also recommend that you place an additional level of parameters so you can differentiate between the two sources of traffic; which should mean you can measure the impact of organic shopping on your performance. 

We will also be taking snapshots of the Shopping Tab results on some of our key terms, so we can monitor how changes have affected the results within the tab. This will be a key step in learning how we can influence the shopping tab going forward.

Over time, it will be important to closely monitor your CPCs. While most merchants are already listed in shopping, any new entrants to the space as well as fewer spots to compete for may cause CPC inflation – leading to increased costs within the SERP. Yes, counterintuitively Google’s free Shopping could lead to you spending more overall.

Who Wins Out?

If Google is ranking listings based on all the same criteria as before, without the bid coming into play, then those with the best feeds will have the best chance of winning in this space. Running an audit to understand your current feed, and optimizing based on the findings, will give you a strong basis here. You can find some tips on getting the best out of your feed in our recent webinar.

There is also a chance that Google will take a more handheld approach to the new world; perhaps using some of the more well-known SEO drivers, such as authority, relevance, and credibility to decide who will show. However, this could make it more difficult for smaller brands to appear within the Shopping Tab in the future. To help prepare for this, find ways for your paid teams to work more closely with the SEO team to ensure your feeds are optimized for the right terms and phrases that people are searching for. 

Ultimately, we don’t know what the real impacts and results of changes will be until Organic Shopping is rolled out. All we can do is set up to measure impacts and plan for every eventuality. The only constant is change in our industry, and I for one welcome it as an exciting opportunity to demonstrate our adaptability.

We will be analyzing the impact closely in the US, so stay tuned for the results.

Rethinking CBD Advertising With Display

The Cannabidiol (CBD) market has taken off in the United States and across the world in recent years, and competition has grown online. While most traditional brands look to paid media to reach new consumers and grow their business, CBD companies are forced to navigate a murky media landscape filled with regulations and restrictions. 

Advertising policies across Google, Bing, and Yahoo can make it next to impossible to market CBD products on search, and paid social advertising is just as difficult. However, brands can find success with display advertising alongside a unique approach. While marketers have to look outside typical advertising platforms and tools, such as Google’s popular Display & Video 360, there is still ample opportunity to connect with your target audience online to drive traffic and conversions.

Getting the Foundation Right

The key to effective CBD advertising is targeting. There are a variety of reasons that people seek out and use CBD, so it’s important that you have correctly defined and understood your audience segments. Some may need a sleep aid, while other consumers are looking for an anxiety remedy for themselves (or even a pet). With the spectrum of use cases, it’s all about showing the right person the right message.

Segmentation and targeting can be tricky since each use of CBD has multiple target audiences. For example, joint pain relief can be relevant for both older adults and retired athletes, but the messaging needs to be tailored for each specific group.

Accompanying creative must also be chosen carefully, as certain imagery will only be applicable to particular segments. A 34-year-old may be turned off by a brand that advertises “arthritis relief” alongside a picture of an elderly couple, and instead looks for a product that better aligns with their needs and demographic.

Tailoring your creative by segment makes your ads more relevant (Source: Unsplash)

Following Through on Targeting

There are different ways to ensure your target audience is seeing the right advertising. Establishing separate landing pages for each use of your product, such as relaxation and sleeping, helps keep your message to each segment clear. 

With properly-set logic in your campaign, users will be directed to the corresponding landing page that details the relevant benefits of your product. Consumers seeking pain relief won’t be confused by promises of a better sleep, making the buying experience more straightforward and streamlined, thus increasing conversions.

Leveraging creative capabilities is also an effective method to protect your brand image across segments. It may be tempting to generate and use a single set of creatives across your campaigns to save time and money, but you sacrifice a degree of personalization that drives traffic and sales.

Data-driven creative, powered by your first-party data, helps you display relevant ads that speak to a consumer’s specific needs and mindset, putting your product in the perfect context. The success of your creative strategy is dependent on the quality of your data, so it’s essential that your website is tagged correctly and any platforms work in unison.

Maximizing Conversions

With the foundations of your targeting strategy in place, you can look to several effective methods for maximizing your conversions. Retargeting is an important component of any display campaign, as it keeps your brand top-of-mind and encourages consumers to return to your site. Highlighting new sales/offers or showing items left behind in a cart can entice users on the fence to click that final ‘Place Your Order’ button, especially if your retargeting is based on the specific use(s) they are interested in.

The placement of your ads can highly influence the success of your campaign as well, and certain websites perform better than others. Categories that are aligned with the various uses of CBD products tend to do well, such as personal care and beauty. Placements are also effective on recreation and shopping sites, as users are already in a browsing and purchasing mindset. 

With the influx of new competition in the CBD market, retaining repeat customers is just as valuable as winning new ones. In addition to typical retargeting, sequential and time-based strategies allow you to advertise to consumers when they’re expected to finish their products and start looking to replenish. Catching these users at the right time makes them more likely to return to your brand after a positive experience, which can also help you improve your ROI.

CBD advertising isn’t straightforward. Regulatory hurdles make it difficult for brands to find an effective solution, but there are still opportunities to promote your products and reach new customers online. With the right display advertising strategy, you can navigate this confusing landscape and improve performance, beating out the competition.

The Evolution of Search Affiliates

Digital marketing is now in its third decade of existence, with many of the practices founded during its infancy still being implemented today. Even in these early years, when brands faced issues with organically growing through methods such as SEO and email marketing, they reached for new paid channels to sustain growth. Online affiliate marketing was one of these new disciplines, which helped brands expand to new audiences and increase traffic to their site, in the hope of generating more sales.

A key part of the affiliate industry was and still is the publisher, a business that markets an advertiser’s products or services on their behalf. Publishers are typically remunerated on a performance model, where they are paid a commission after having driven a conversion (a purchase, lead, download, etc.) on an advertiser’s site. In these early years, affiliates were often sites that simply recommended or reviewed certain products in an attempt to get a customer to click the product and make a purchase.

With the foundations of the digital affiliate model in place, several business models sprang up, leveraging the tracking and payment technology that affiliate networks had to offer. In this article, we’ll go into detail about one of those business types – search affiliates. How did search affiliates begin, where are they today, and how does NMPi fit into all of this?

What Is a Traditional Search Affiliate?

With the emergence of Google AdWords (known today as Google Ads) and other search marketing platforms in the early 2000s, digital marketers swarmed to this new marketing channel. 

While it’s hard to imagine today, marketers were initially wary of this new advertising technology, concerned about fraudulent traffic and its potential to even drive noticeable performance. Affiliates were soon to capitalize on these emerging platforms, however, realizing the high risk/high reward they had to offer. Search Affiliate Marketing is similar to traditional affiliate advertising, but instead leverages search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing to drive traffic and conversions for advertisers.

This came as an advantage to nascent in-house marketing teams, as the affiliates ran campaigns and fronted the ad spend, minimizing risk and preserving ROI for advertisers. This pure performance model acted as a natural incentive for the affiliates to perform to the best of their capabilities in order to not operate at a loss because of inefficient paid search campaigns.

Where Is Search Affiliate Marketing Today?

With the slow commoditization of paid search, brands began to bring increasing proportions of their PPC activity outside of the affiliate channel, in favor of working with an agency or managing in-house. Google also placed increasing pressure on search affiliates to improve the search experience and attract more marketing dollars from established brands.

With affiliates no longer able to serve ads directly to an advertiser’s website, new ways of working were quickly established that still leveraged the power of search engines. Indirect linking search affiliates such as coupon and cashback sites emerged, serving on ‘brand-plus’ keywords (also known as TM+) to drive traffic and performance.

You’ll often see coupon sites today providing specific promotions for brands via their paid search ads. These affiliates, just like their ‘90s counterparts, earn a commission off each conversion that falls within their attribution model.

Cashback sites are also common versions of modern search affiliates, driving a large proportion of traffic to their sites via search engine marketing. The commission earned by these publishers is often passed in whole or part back to customers as an incentive for using their site.

Where Does NMPi Fit Into the Picture?

By the early 2000s, there were countless search affiliates engaging in PPC activity via the affiliate channel. NMPi (known at the time as Net Media Planet) joined the fray in 2004 and began supporting advertisers in a wide range of industries, countries, and search engines.

For the reasons mentioned above, many of these paid search publishers ceased to exist or diversified into other areas. Despite these industry pressures, a small group of search affiliates survived and continued to offer performance-based solutions to their clients.

From that changeable time, NMPi emerged and expanded its offering. While paid search continued to be a valuable service, we expanded our pure-performance solutions to Google Shopping, paid social, and programmatic display.

Why Is This Useful Today?

With the emergence of search affiliate marketing came the opportunity for brands to launch paid search campaigns via affiliates on a commission-based model, minimizing risk while improving performance.

Due to industry developments, the viewpoint of what a ‘search affiliate is’ slowly shifted to cashback and coupon sites. Brands looked for ways to leverage search engine marketing in the affiliate space that didn’t overlap with their in-house or agency-managed PPC.

In this time of uncertainty, where advertisers are unsure of the ROI they will receive from their ad spend, might this be an opportunity to revisit this business model that founded what we know as search affiliates today?

No Pixel, No (First) Party

Recent years have been marked by a shift towards greater consumer privacy. The EU’s famous GDPR legislation – a trailblazer in its own right – has paved the way for an insurgence of data protection policies across the world. With California’s new CCPA laws for 2020, and Google’s upcoming 3rd party cookie ban getting under marketers’ skins, we are having to adapt to a whole new landscape.

While heightened data transparency and security is a big win in the eyes of consumers, you would be forgiven for assuming that these laws would restrict digital marketers’ access to granular data. To some extent this is true – perhaps the biggest impact of GDPR was its prohibition of the use of third party data, or Facebook’s ‘Partner Categories’. But this overlooks the potential for innovation, and crucially, fails to consider a tool far more valuable than Partner Categories: first-party data.

The Facebook Pixel

The age-old belief that companies are inundated with data (inundata’d, if you will) but are still searching for the best avenues to utilize it, rings true. In Facebook terms, the vast majority of this first-party data is captured on-site, by the Pixel. This is a piece of code placed on a website that, once given consent, registers events (content viewed, checkout initiated, etc.) that users take on a site throughout their path to purchase. It then syncs this data to a registered Facebook user profile, ready to serve them ads at a later date. This is how your favorite retailer is able to retarget you with that pair of sneakers you added to your basket 27 days ago.

What are Custom Audiences?

Facebook stores this event data in order to supply ready-to-build custom audiences within Facebook Business Manager (below). Most who are familiar with paid social are probably aware of these events and have seen great success from targeting these high-intent users, but not all are aware of their full capabilities. 

Screengrab of Facebook's readybuilt custom audiences

Below are three helpful examples of how custom audiences can be used to sift through your first-party data, unlocking nuances of user behavior otherwise overlooked by the standard events.

Purchase Value

You can overlay standard events (add to cart, purchase, etc.) with information in the URL of the specific page the user is browsing when the Pixel logs an event. This gives you access to various URL parameters like the product name or category to give you a much broader idea of specific user interest and intent. 

Overlaying a standard event with a category variable is perhaps one of the more common tactics deployed in custom audience targeting. All this means is serving sneaker ads to users who have recently been on a landing page on your website with ‘footwear’ in the URL. However, many ignore the potential to further refine these audiences by additional variables: namely, price. 

Screengrab of Facebook Ads targeting for purchases made in the last 90 days

When advertising products of a higher value, it is crucial to understand who is best to market them to. Suppose your customer’s average order value is $50, but you want to advertise your most valuable product range with an average product value of $250. Ads for these higher-value products may well mean wasted impressions on a typical past purchaser. Custom audiences allow you to refine these purchases by value, so that ads can be served exclusively to customers who have previously checked out a basket with a specified minimum value. Ultimately, this makes your ads more relevant.

Building an audience in this way still only utilizes a small segment of the abundance of first-party data businesses are sitting on, but in this scenario, this small segment represents a far greater potential for return on investment. These users also represent a valuable source audience from which to build a look-a-like audience from, enabling marketers to find new users that display similar behaviors to their big-spending customers. 

Time Spent on Site

The trusty Facebook Pixel not only logs the value and the events made on a user’s purchase journey, but it also tracks the length of these journeys by measuring overall active time spent on a website. Helpfully, Facebook groups all website visitors into percentile thresholds of their time spent on site, which can be used to build custom audiences. 

Screengrab of Facebook audience targeting for visitors by time spent

Many marketers seek to reach their most engaged customers by targeting users who have actively signed up to reward programs or within the CRM. While this audience tends to be the most engaged, it’s surprising to see the level of overlap with users who are spending the most amount of time on site. 

We’ve seen as little as an 8% overlap between the 5% of users spending the most time on site and those within the CRM, with a level of performance that rivals the CRM audience. Using these two audiences in tandem can allow marketers to reach a much larger group of high-intent users that, without the custom audience tool, would otherwise have been difficult to reach. 

Purchase Frequency

Our last example concerns frequency; the Facebook Pixel stores repeat purchase data from users that are readily available to be retargeted, if you know where to look. 

Screengrab of Facebook audiences by purchase frequency

This tool can be very handy for businesses that sell consumables. Should a business ever wish to promote these in a 3 for 2 deal, then understanding which customers already frequently purchase, and therefore may be likely to capitalize on a sale of this nature, can make all of the difference.

Alternatively, there is also value in understanding which of your past purchasers have failed to make a repeat purchase in a given time frame. Users within this audience may well warrant bespoke promotional targeting to prompt them to make a repeat purchase. Where there is data, there is opportunity.

Make the most of your own resources

Nothing in digital ever stays still. In an era of unprecedented concern for data privacy, laws such as GDPR and CCPA will continue to be introduced across the globe. As marketers, it is more important than ever that we are reactive to these changes that threaten to challenge routine. 

We have only scratched the surface of the targeting opportunities that are available with the apparatus provided by Facebook’s Pixel and custom audiences.  These examples should be used as motivation to explore new innovative avenues to maximize the utility of transparent, first-party data. Granular targeting is still very much possible, but instead of seeking external help, why not consult your own resources? Innovating with your own first-party data is a hugely rewarding exercise in terms of the performance it can drive.

Webinar Wrap-Up: Driving Facebook Growth

Paid social advertising helps brands connect with their customers where they already are. Given its status as the second-largest digital ad seller in the world, Facebook warrants a specialized strategy outside the general social media landscape. NMPi’s Head of Delivery, Craig Brown, explored the full-funnel approach and how it can drive Facebook growth in 2020 and beyond in his recent webinar.

Top of the Funnel: Awareness

At the top of the funnel, brands should be looking for the right way to tell their story to consumers that may not be familiar with them. Both video and experience ads are effective creative formats that grab attention and can leave a lasting impression. When producing video content, be sure to include your brand name and value early on, or else users will skip your ad without ever being exposed to you in context.

Stories are one of the best ad placements to build awareness, especially as they have grown in use on Facebook and Instagram. The cost-per-view and CPM for stories are significantly lower than other placements, making them a cost-effective way to reach users that are already engaged in watching short videos.

The creative formats, placements, and KPIs vary for each stage of the funnel.

Awareness is often difficult to measure when compared to the other stages of the funnel, but it’s all about using the right KPIs. Metrics such as new site visits and page engagement are the most important to monitor, as they position you to have a continual conversation with the new customers you’re bringing in. Brand lift studies can also help prove the success of your campaigns by directly asking consumers about ad recall and brand interest.

Middle of the Funnel: Engagement

Many brands already prioritize engagement on Facebook, and there are a number of creative formats and placements that are relevant for this phase of the funnel. In addition to videos and carousels, experience ads are a great way to drive engagement. The customizable, mobile-optimized ads provide a more in-depth interaction on Facebook, without having to worry about slow internet connections or page load speeds.

Facebook Experience Ads are effective in driving engagement.

News feeds are an effective placement to foster engagement, but marketers often overlook the Audience Network. Similar to the Google Display Network, the Audience Network allows you to run native display ads on websites outside of Facebook, while still having access to Facebook’s targeting tools. Although CTRs decrease on the Audience Network, CPCs and CPMs are also lower than feed ads.

When it comes to KPIs, engagement is best measured by site visits and site engagement. With data privacy laws like GDPR and CCPA at play, customer sign-ups have also become an important metric and way to grow your email database. Lead forms within Facebook are a great tool to boost sign-ups since users never have to leave the platform and fields auto-populate with existing profile information.

Bottom of the Funnel: Conversion

The work you’ve put into Awareness and Engagement campaigns ideally brings consumers to the final stage of Conversion. In the home stretch, Dynamic Product Ads (DPAs) are incredibly effective at converting customers. By retargeting users with the products or categories they’ve previously viewed, many are driven to take the last step of purchasing. Marketers can leverage single image and carousel ads to encourage conversion as well.

Facebook Marketplace offers the opportunity to target users that are already in-market to make a purchase. With over 800 million worldwide users, the platform allows for extensive reach. Integrating your products into the Marketplace feed lets you capitalize on the ‘buying mode’ many consumers are in and helps convert in a convenient space, especially for the users that have previously interacted with your brand.

Since every business has different goals and definitions of a conversion, the KPIs of this phase vary from sales to lead generation. Similarly to brand lift studies, conversion lift tests can help you understand the value and success of your campaigns. By comparing the conversion data between a test group that has received ads and a control group that has not, marketers can observe the uplift in sales and determine if it’s worth it to run their ads.

The Conversion Lift Test Process.

Facebook advertising is powerful and robust, but it’s important that brands find a balanced strategy that takes the entire funnel into account. A comprehensive plan allows marketers to effectively and seamlessly guide users on the right path to conversion, while also measuring the success of their campaigns at each step.

Marketing in Times of Crisis

Read Time: 6 mins

This post was originally published on Incubeta’s blog.

Seeing stores close and all the doom and gloom on the news, you can completely understand why brands are becoming increasingly panicked about the state of their business and as such are rethinking their media strategies.

Industries like travel and entertainment have been forced into shutting up shop as leaving the house becomes more and more discouraged around the world. The retail world, however, is a bit more of a mixed bag; some verticals are in decline, while others experience somewhat of a mini-boom, but with constantly changing governmental regulations, can we expect this to continue?

As the situation develops, with new policies and fluctuating consumer confidence, how can you promote your businesses while minimizing risk? We’re going to take a look at 5 things businesses can be doing right now to improve efficiency and ensure the profitability of marketing campaigns, both in the short term and the long.

Margin

One of the most obvious steps to guarantee return on your ad spend is to factor product margin into your campaigns across all levels. This may seem obvious – of course you’d want to promote your higher-margin products more aggressively – but you’d be surprised how few businesses are set up to do this.

Pushing the cost of producing each product into the product feed allows you to make more intelligent business decisions throughout your marketing efforts. You can optimize Shopping campaigns towards profitability and you can ensure high-margin products are the ones getting displayed in carousel creatives.

This is hugely valuable in any situation, but with the profitability of your campaigns under a microscope, particularly with a lot of retailers running various promotions in an attempt to liquidate their stock, it becomes even more important now. Incorporating margin into bidding and creative decisions should be one of your highest priorities, but it’s also important to incorporate other factors. Does one product happen to have a higher lifetime value than another? Does a particular product often lead to sales of complementary goods and increased basket value? These are all things you should consider when implementing your product bidding strategies.

Stock

In a similar vein, incorporating stock levels into campaigns is vital to ensure campaign efficiency. Platforms such as Google will help you to stop running ads for individual products which have run out of stock, but should these campaigns have been shut off before this point? Do you want to be wasting your ad spend on a product that’s only available in an XXXL that no one wants to buy? Conversely if a product is selling itself via organic channels, do you want to be using up valuable budget promoting these products?

Product stock levels can even be used for goal setting and planning. If liquidity is an issue for your business as the economy begins to slow, you can also leverage your stock levels to dictate the ROI goals for various products, loosening efficiency targets for product ranges with a stock surplus to help sell them quicker. 

Pay It Forward

Since the start of Covid-19, many advertisers have had to completely rethink the way they use their resources. As brands reduce spend in certain areas they may now have some saved ad spend as well the human resource that was required to deliver it. How can businesses repurpose that resource, in a manner that will benefit the company in the long run?

This is a great opportunity to pay your money forward, where possible, to longer-term success. We’re seeing brands invest their spare resources into training and upskilling their staff, investment in bigger SEO and CX projects, and even running in-depth Analytics projects. These kinds of activity mean that when business returns to normal, ad spend is being utilized as efficiently as possible.

External Data Sources

We as marketers have a tendency to believe that any change in campaign performance was driven by the little tweaks we made, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. More often than not, a big swing in performance is down to an external factor beyond our control. Being able to factor those drivers of demand into campaigns will allow for far more efficient use of ad spend.

For instance, performance can live or die based on where competitors prices are set. There are tools available that will collate the pricing levels of your competitor set, benchmark against yourself and push this data back into your feed – allowing you to make the most of your comparative advantage.

Demand for some products is largely dependent on things like the weather or even sports schedules. Sadly for all of us, weather and sport are most likely not having quite the same impact in the current climate, but again setting up campaigns to ingest this sort of data is another example of long term projects that can be tackled now!

Performance Models

The final thing to explore when seeking profitability from campaigns is actually oft-overlooked, and that’s pure performance marketing. Continuing to stump up the money to meet minimum spends or committing to platform fees for top-of-the-line campaign management technology can be a daunting prospect during times like these. Performance marketing offers an alternative. By engaging partners on a pay-per-sale format, you can guarantee marketing campaigns at a risk-free, fixed return on investment.

Affiliate marketing has often been dismissed as nothing but cashback and voucher codes. Today though, you can get everything from search to display to social campaign management at fixed costs per acquisition (CPAs). In this arrangement, all media costs are covered upfront and brands are only charged a pre-agreed commission based on total revenue (or action) driven. Not only does this give peace of mind in uncertain times but it also incentivizes your partner to drive the best results they can within that fixed ROI goal, as the more sales they drive the bigger their fee.

Just like the more traditional agencies of the world, many businesses operating in this space utilize elite technology like the Google Marketing Stack or Kenshoo. Where they differ is that performance agencies often cover these costs themselves too, and also regularly include services like feed management or creative execution free of charge as it’s in their interests to do so.

This sort of model might not work for everyone and now may not seem like quite the right time to switch over a particular channel. However, the beauty of the performance model is that it can act very much as an extension of your current campaigns. Brands can engage agencies on a performance model to support territories or channels that aren’t getting the attention required and often on shorter-term contracts.

These are incredibly uncertain times for advertisers, and for a lot of brands, marketing their business might be a luxury they don’t think they can currently afford. Hopefully, by implementing some of the steps above, marketers can return to trying to grow their businesses, safe in the knowledge their campaigns are driving effective, profitable returns.