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Discussing Ad Blockers on NPR's On Point

I was on NPR/WBUR's On Point with Tom Ashbrook radio this morning discussing ad blocking, ad fraud, and other nefarious goings-on in the digital area.

Here's a link to the interview.

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Leveraging Content For In-Store Sales

It’s a little-known but impressive fact: Despite the rise and seeming ubiquity of e-commerce, a stunning 90 percent of consumer purchases are made in-store. That’s feet-on-the-street, brick-and-mortar, shopping cart, cash register, old-school type buying.

Yet retailers and CPG (consumer packaged goods) brands still rely largely on print circulars to spur traffic and sales, despite off-the-cliff print media circulation.

This week, I published research on the topic of how forward-looking retailers and brands can drive in-store traffic with digital media, most specifically with content marketing in digital channels. The full report, “From Web Traffic to Foot Traffic: How Brands and Retailers Can Leverage Digital Content to Power In-Store Sales,” is available here as a PDF download.

Retailers and CPG brands aren’t having an easy time adapting digital marketing to their goals, particularly when it comes to creating seamless omni-channel customer experiences. We learned that only 60 percent of them have implemented strategies that are geared toward creating a local or in-store outcome, such as making a brick-and-mortar purchase.

In fact, only 59 percent say driving an in-store sale is a goal.

While nearly all of the 200 executives we surveyed recognize mobile’s growing importance — in fact, dominance — just half (51 percent) use mobile to bridge the online and offline customer experiences. Far fewer (37 percent) plan a seamless experience across channels, e.g., mobile, the Web, social media and in-store.

What’s to blame for these strategic shortcomings? Measurement is one big problem. Most retailers and CPG brands still measure traffic and clicks in digital, rather than linking metrics and KPIs to desired outcomes, such as foot traffic and purchases.

Their budgets are limited, and they’re unsure of where to invest the digital dollars they do have.

Local” is insufficiently defined, and it can be so much more than a ZIP code. It can mean proximity messaging via beacons and sensors, or it can be tied to a customer loyalty program to generate personalized offers or promotions on-site, such as coupons for items consumers repeatedly purchase.

Additionally, retailers and CPG brands lack content strategy, as well as skilled digital talent and the interdepartmental ability to coordinate promotions, offers, content and advertising across paid, owned and earned media teams.

So how can retailers and CPG brands make a shift and leverage their digital content to bolster in-store sales?

Here are the recommendations that emerged from my survey of more than 500 retail executives, as well as interviews with close to two dozen senior retail and CPG executives. (I conducted the research, which was sponsored by Cofactor, for Altimeter Group.)

Tips For Using Digital Content To Drive In-Store Sales

  • Incentivize visits to retail locations, with features such as order online, pick-up in store and store returns. These can be used in addition to sales, coupons and other promotional activity designed to attract foot traffic.
  • Be mobile first, or at least primary, when it comes to formulating a content engagement strategy. When it comes to reach and opportunities for right-time and location targeting, few channels are better than mobile.
  • Leverage the mix of paid, earned and owned media to maximize value from the budget, and engage customers outside the usual realms.
  • Think online-to-offline when mapping the customer journey.
  • Rethink the print circular. While it can’t yet be wholly discounted, the circular can provide more value when used in conjunction with other modes of communication. Circular content can be amplified across online channels to reach customers where they are actually gathering information to make a decision, rather than remaining static in one medium.
  • Plan for online cross-channel content with similar teams and processes that are in place for delivering offline content. This enables a coordinated strategy across paid, earned and owned channels, without having to start completely from scratch.
  • Eliminate silos. The biggest challenge is to break down silos between departments and between channels. This makes it easier to get a unified effort for the best customer experience.
  • Reconsider budget allocation to devote more towards digital spending, and identify the digital marketing tactics that give the most return on investment.
  • Implement a measurement plan to track the effectiveness of local multi-channel campaigns. Discard vanity metrics like impressions to focus more on customer actions.
  • Leverage loyalty data to personalize/contextualize offers.
  • Define local at every stage. Does it refer to 
a region, city, state or ZIP code? This can vary by the business, but also on a campaign level. More importantly, is “local” restricted only in the geographical sense, or can it be applied to Who, What and When, in addition to Where?
  • Remain sensitive to customer privacy by not bombarding them with overly personalized messages. It’s important to balance relevance against creepiness.

This post originally published on MarketingLand.

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Why Content Budgets Are So Hard to Quantify

There's no debating the fact that content is not only a hot topic, but an essential part of digital strategy. Advertising effectiveness is on the decline, a trend fueled by a myriad of factors ranging from consumer control (and a subsequent unwillingness to be interrupted) to banner blindness, click fraud, and ad blocking software -- very much in the news currently thanks to Apple's new iOS 9.

As ads in paid media diminish in effectiveness, marketers are forced to confront new ways to connect with customers. This can be via owned media, i.e., pure content marketing; earned media, defined as social or PR, when sharing and/or input is requested from the audience; or forms of converged media, such as promoted posts in social or native advertising on publisher channels; or paying influencers to promote owned and earned content.

Regardless of the channel or medium, content is the one element that cannot be absent from the marketing equation. Paid, owned, earned -- without content, there's nothing. Advertising without content is empty time or space. What else is advertising, after all, than renting time or space from a publisher or broadcaster to inset a message in the form of content?

Social platforms, search, email, websites and microsites, apps, all are mere containers for content. If there's no content in these channels, it's the digital equivalent of dead air.

Where things get murky, however, is the cost of all this content. It's surprising how many in this industry see cost as a straight apples-to-apples comparison. The prevailing fallacy is if you take a dollar out of the advertising budget, and that means an extra dollar for the content budget. But it just doesn't work that way. That dollar gets reduced significantly. What trickles down to content is only maybe five to 15 cents.

Content is just plain cheaper than advertising, which is why that dollar is subject to a hefty exchange rate. Both content in earned and owned media require an investment, just as does creative (which is, let's face it, just a fancier word for content) in advertising. But strip away the cost of the media buy -- the highest-ticket item in marketing, and there's most of your budget right there.

Content isn't cheap. "Just hire a blogger" has long since ceded to videographers, developers (both web and app), graphic designers, photographers, and others skill sets more technical and specialized than basic writing ability. But absent that media buy, content will almost always, without exception, be cheaper than advertising.

Content requires tools, however. I've mapped the vast vendor landscape. However, this investment, which can be significant, isn't generally part of a budget line item for content. Instead, it's filed under marketing technology or a similar line item.

Few organizations have content departments or divisions, another reason it's so difficult to tease out those content numbers. Jobs with "content" or "editor" in the title are sharply on the rise, but they tend to hover at the manager or director level. That will change, and roles will become more senior, but not for another year or two.

Content remains more everything than it does its own thing -- in other words, until it's cordoned off into a defined discipline with a budget, a staff, and its own line items, it will remain extremely difficult to quantify what content budgets really are. From company to company, sector to sector, budget to budget, your mileage will vary.

Still, no matter how you slice it, more and more marketing dollars are pouring into content. Less into paid, more into owned and earned. And there's no end in sight to that trend.

This post orginally published on iMedia.

Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca Lieb is a strategic advisor, consultant, research analyst, keynote speaker, author, and columnist.


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