Anil Malhotra
Anil Malhotra 16 November 2022

The Terrifying State of Digital Marketing

Halloween might be an unsettling time for many of us, but it pales in comparison to the daily life of your typical digital marketer. After all, we just need to take our kids trick-or-treating, or bear witness to a bit of annual horror fiction on screen.

Meanwhile, digital marketers have to face down difficult questions from the board, dismal-looking KPIs — and the prospect of their budgets getting butchered in 2023.

For marketers working with apps and data, the reality is even scarier. These poor souls have had to witness the death of cookies and Apple’s IDFA in 2022, all while governments and consumers grow increasingly skeptical of app tracking methods.

These factors have brought about what many are terming “The App-ocalypse”, with app marketers unable to target ads or increase user acquisition. In fact, according to Bango research, nearly two thirds (59%) of app marketers now struggle to acquire new paying users.

An App-ocalyptic Affair

Audience targeting might have worked once upon a time, but the recent crackdowns on tracking methods took hold before the industry could react. This has created an app marketing crisis, where 27% of app marketers are concerned their businesses will cease to exist due to new privacy regulations.

61% of marketers have reportedly lost sleep over this crisis — a real life nightmare!

Yet, for such a dynamic industry, I’ve been left rather uninspired by the attempts to address this catastrophe. Google recently announced its cookies will remain active on Chrome until the latter half of 2024. However, the privacy shortfalls of cookies mean they’ll remain an unworkable targeting method in the long term.

It doesn’t help that the oft-touted alternatives exhibit weaknesses of their own. Initially, Google attempted to roll out the FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts), which encountered widespread criticism from privacy advocates like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, plus Brave, Vivaldi and DuckDuckGo.

The more recent “Topics” API hasn’t fared much better, as it’s compounded an insistence on analysing your browsing habits with a limited range of topics that’s far too broad to produce targeted campaigns.

Then there’s universal IDs and contextual targeting, neither of which cut it if you’re looking to target ads or assuage privacy concerns. Targeting with email IDs doesn’t work particularly well, as one user could have multiple addresses, and multiple people could use one person’s address.

Meanwhile, contextual targeting presents its own shortfalls, with data that’s only relevant for news and entertainment platforms.

The Woes of Search Engines and Social Media

Unfortunately, other advertising channels aren’t faring much better when it comes to producing targeted campaigns. SEA (search engine advertising) is in a sorry state, with research showing 35% of PPC ads don’t even reach their intended audience. That’s hardly surprising, as typing keywords into Google isn’t necessarily the best indicator of search intent.

Most search queries are more informational or navigational, where the user wants to find out general information about potential products or services to buy. Of course, that’s assuming they’re interested in buying anything at all. As it happens, only 9.1% of searches are made with purchase intent.

That leaves a narrow pool of viable transactional keywords to target as part of PPC campaigns. With conversion prospects for search advertising being so low, it’s hardly surprising the research uncovered a $60 billion black hole, where large sums of marketing spend was found to be wasted.

As it stands, SMA (social media advertising) looks equally depressing. While they help with general reputation building and brand awareness, a lot of social media activity simply doesn’t translate into paying customers.

This comes despite the bevy of meaningless metrics that hold little value for campaign success, whether they’re impressions, likes, shares, retweets, or other engagement measures. Speaking as a CMO, I can confirm you’ll end up underwhelming your board if you produce reports that focus on these. Conversion metrics are always the most impressive in the board room.

The shortcomings of today’s advertising methods haven’t escaped notice amongst executives. Board members are painfully aware their campaigns are failing, with 77% of CEOs no longer viewing digital ads as a reliable means of sales, and 59% taking the same view of social media.

Purchase Behavior Targeting Saves Marketers

Today’s marketing environment has become undeniably hazardous, with advertisers beset by promotional horror on all sides, in the form of untargeted campaigns across several channels.

In order to escape this, they’ll need to get back to delivering real value to customers in the form of relevant, engaging ads. Crumbling cookies and retiring IDFAs may have been a point of reference in the past, but growing privacy concerns oblige a new source of valuable data to produce successful, targeted campaigns.

Here’s where Purchase Behavior Targeting stands out as the only viable solution.

This new form of targeting arms marketers with rich purchase insights, presented as relevant audiences that can be used to direct ads at those most likely to buy, based on what they’ve already bought.

This method is accessible via payment companies possessing the commercial data needed to realise this. This unique advertising method is already enhancing campaigns on social platforms like Facebook and TikTok.

Making use of this commerical data won’t be obstructed by the need for cookies, or other sub-optimal advertising methods. Moreover, it only requires purchase data for effective audience targeting, which means a reduced risk of noncompliance with privacy regulations.

App marketers are already acknowledging the advantages of using this data, with research finding 61% consider it an effective means to increase user acquisition.

Advertising doesn’t need to be difficult. When equipped with purchase insights, digital marketers will be able to run engaging ads, remain privacy friendly, and avoid any KPI-related horror, regardless of the time of year.

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