OPINION: Six digital performance trends for 2013

Hari Shankar, director of client services and director of Perfomics APAC, highlights the key digital-marketing trends he will be watching this year.

Feb 01, 2013 01:53:00 PM | Article | Campaign India Team

In just a year, an innovative mobile brand is now an 'erstwhile leader' and another has blazed its way to the top in the massive mobile galaxy (pun intended!). Where Symbian has fallen, Android has risen. Where a screen is slowly falling away, yet another smarter screen has come up tops. 

While the digital space continues to throw up new surprises, here is an attempt to capture a few key trends. And although no conscious attempt has been made to list them in order of importance, you may find that possibly ‘digitally exotic’ trends appear toward the end of the list. 

1. Pay per click (PPC) will climb the sophistication ladder

Paid Search has always been the front-runner when it came to efficient online demand generation (sales, revenue, conversions) and it will continue to be so. Unlike mature markets such as the US where growth rates have slowed (albeit on a gigantic base of $33 billion), Asia-Pacific has huge potential for growth. Korea recently created history, with digital spend outgrowing TV spend. Any guesses where 80 per cent of that digital spend went?

PPC will grow more sophisticated thanks to a slew of features being rolled out by Google, including product list ads, click-to-call extensions, location extensions, search within search, PPC-based retargeting and automated bid algorithms.

The bottom line:  Marketers will have the added advantage of using these extremely relevant, timely, meaningful engagement tools via the sponsored ads space and will leverage the massive data gathered to drive quality and quantity.

2. Search marketing will be managed holistically

Despite the development of PPC, however, marketers are increasingly migrating part of the budget from PPC to natural search (SEO), a trend that's poised to grow even larger this year. Integrated strategies encompassing natural and paid search are being touted by agencies as well as marketers.

But hold on. Does this approach provide a fast, efficient and rich way to gain traffic and acquisitions? No. Are there foolproof methods to measure the integrated approach? No. Does it paint a great picture in digital marketing strategy discussions? Yes. Does meaningful integration ultimately create efficiency? Yes. But ultimately is the watch word.

The bottom line: Marketers who understand the value and context of these two arms of search marketing will leverage individual characteristics of these channels, without under-valuing or over-valuing any, to protect their brands or products as well as build brand engagement and awareness in the category brand or product consumer research phase.

3. Social real-time bidding (display) will rise; data driven strategies will get smarter

Last year saw the rise of the next evolution of display advertising: demand side platforms (DSPs) using real-time bidding (RTB) platforms that integrate consumer intelligence data and use intelligent software to deliver sliced and diced audience segments to target with banner advertising. 

2013 will be the year where social display advertising will begin to evolve. Facebook recently launched the Facebook Exchange. Dubbed FBX, this is slated to be Facebook’s first ever strong monetization program. FBX throws open billions of social impressions to RTB platforms, allowing marketers to target (and retarget) custom audiences within the Facebook environment. 

The bottom line: Display will increasingly come closer to the way PPC programs are being treated and managed, and will also be used to complement search strategies.

4. Language markets will make their presence felt, with renewed vigor

Regional and global marketers have so far shied away from having to shoulder the responsibility of venturing into the markets that have gigantic yet under-evolved local search, display and social platforms and practices.

Massive barriers to entry have been made even more complex by language dynamics, as well as the inward-looking attitude of lumbering local search or portal giants such as Baidu China and Naver Korea, for example. The sophistication of these search engines is light-years behind what one would find in Google, despite occupying an almost monopolistic position in their respective markets.

The bottom line: Local engines start out on the global journey. Global marketers will start out on the local journey with a renewed vigor and this will lead to an osmosis and reverse osmosis of benchmarks, ideologies, best practices and possibly, technology.

5. Multi-screening will evolve further; purchase journey will get more complex

Multi-screening, yet another example of marketing jargon, stands for the behavior of users across the four screens (TV, laptop, tablet, mobile). Jargon aside, this is grounded in reality. Evolving behavior will see ‘simultaneous’ screening and ‘sequential’ screening of devices, and it doesn’t take a whiz-kid to predict that the already complex behavior of content search and consumption via engines, social sites, domain sites, review sites, mobile apps, micro-blogs, video sites et al (the list is endless) gets even more tangled when one adds a layer of multiple screens above that.

The bottom line: Advertisers and marketers alike will adapt the new consumption behavior into their digital (and traditional) strategies, and this should be driven by ‘extreme context’ so that delightful experiences may be built when consumers transition from one screen to another. Easier said than done. And what if I were to bring a fifth screen into the mix: the evolving Google Goggles project?

6. Importance of analytics will rise, driven by behavior-digital tech cycle evolution.

As the way online consumers engage, interact and consume content along their purchase journey gets more complex, the need for understanding and interpreting this behavior grows exponentially. Currently, most marketers (save for some pioneers and early adopters) use basic metrics like ROI, conversion rates and cost per action as measurements of success or failure, and these are attached to individual channels.

This is the age where the one-of-a-kind, free tool called Google Analytics is driving increasing levels of deep-end measurability and analytics across all the digital channels available. The tool allows marketers to now understand the different channels that led to a conversion, how they interacted and supported each other, and how much weight to give to each of these channels. Today, marketers can even learn which search phrases were used to drive the user toward that last click before conversion. 

The Bottom line: Old methods of judging media and conversions (such as last-click attribution—giving full marks to the last channel used by the converting customer) will fall away and more sophisticated methods (such as assigning weights to channels based on assist value and using that for channel investment and strategy) will come to the limelight.

As for me, I am waiting patiently for the sunrise that will bring accountability to those traditional media channels where marketers are still investing millions in Asia, due to the age-old ‘comfort factor’ and despite having almost no attribution or measurability (save for metrics such GRPs, TRPs and OTS, for example, that are as old as the aged comfort factor). 

I have a feeling that it won’t be long before I see this interesting graph closer to home as well!


The article first appeared on Campaign Asia