By Elliot Mark, Senior Copywriter at Ecommerce Platforms
Ever been able to recite a YouTube pre-roll ad or found yourself annoyed at a poorly timed pop-up? Then you know how powerful a presence advertising is across our digital experience.
The online advertising industry has a number of difficult challenges before it. We live in a world where online shopping is quickly becoming the norm. COVID has accelerated the long-promised take over of the Amazons and eBays of the world and introduced an entirely new generation of shoppers to the wonders of virtual marketplaces and next day delivery.
While you would think this would mean business is booming for online advertisers, it has actually changed the game and forced many enterprises and agencies alike to sink or swim.
But what exactly are these obstacles? How do you overcome them? And how do you keep up with a landscape that changes at the drop of a hat (or algorithm)?
In this article, we’ll look to answer some of these questions to help you make the right decisions when it comes to promoting your business, brand or clients online.
Competition inflating costs
2021 is sure to mark yet another year where digital ad spend increases, especially after the pandemic led to less impressive numbers in 2020.
As businesses look to get back on their feet they’ll want to pump funds into getting themselves in front of consumers again. What they’ll find though, is there are many new sharks in the pool.
Whether it’s bidding on search terms or competing across social media, competition is the single biggest influence on online ad price. The owners of key platforms and even smaller webmasters know the value of their traffic and social pages, and don’t make it easy to slap your banners and posts up there.
To really make an impact and get seen you have to be willing to spend big at first, or make a serious run at intuitive customer research.
Now is the time for search engine competitor research. If you’re being outclassed take a look at Google and Bing and see what your closest competitors and even leading brands are doing to get themselves to the top of results pages (both in terms of paid and organic ads).
To ensure your results are skewed by your search history, consider using a free VPN to assist your research and get more accurate feedback (finding a free VPN that actually works is easier than it sounds). This will block previous search history and give you a clean slate to work from.
As more and more businesses go online and audiences turn to virtual shopping while trapped indoors, prices are only going to increase. Finding alternative (ideally free) methods is key, but having a data-driven strategy is even more important.
Finding the most engaged audience
Without the right data to hand, it’s hard to get online advertising right. That being said, even the most adept markets are struggling to find an engaged audience in today’s saturated market.
With many new customers choosing to shop online for the first time, whether it’s for household essentials or hobby tools to pass the lockdown hours, it’s becoming increasingly hard for advertisers to ensure they’re online reaching genuinely interested users.
Digital advertisers face the unique challenge of separating the wheat from the chaff and getting their content in front of the right eyeballs again.
While targeting ads is still a useful way of segmenting audiences, this new influx of users is essentially starting the process from scratch, with a new marketplace full of people who both don’t understand the online experience and might feel overwhelmed by the choices on offer to them.
This makes formats such as remarketing less fruitful, as users are visiting sites with reckless abandon trying to find the right one for them. This makes the presence of ads across their favourite news sites more of an irritant than a reminder.
Advertisers need to re-analyse their assumptions about their audiences. It’s easy to advertise online when you have a userbase that hops onto Google every day. But when you’re dealing with an audience that is more nervous, you need to go back to basics.
This might sound ironic after recommending a piece of tech that blocks tracking forces, but the existence of adblockers poses a significant threat to those who need online advertising to stay competitive.
Every year, this easy-to-download tool is costing businesses all over the world billions.
Ad blockers have become such a familiar part of the online experience for many people that they don’t even realise the significant damage they’re inflicting on their favourite news sites, stores and online celebrities. An influx of new shoppers runs the risk of them being attracted to the idea of a cleaner, ad-free experience.
By stopping ads from appearing they don’t just eliminate monetizing options from platforms such as YouTube but limit a brand’s opportunities to make their case to new audiences.
Other than advertising exclusively on platforms that resist the use of ad blockers, what can companies reasonably do?
Many brands have found success through nature advertising and the use of advertorial content. By infiltrating news sites desperate for material in more conventional ways you bypass the triggers of an ad blocker while offering more value to the reader or viewer. Likewise, partnering with online platforms and figures with huge audiences offers a way to get your ads directly into their content, be it through videos or podcasts.
The changing nature of social platforms
There was a time when social media was almost lawless, a safe haven for anyone with the right budget and a creative idea to reach consumers in a way never before thought possible.
Then people got tired of the ads.
Recent policy changes from platforms such as Facebook have made it extremely difficult for new companies and new accounts to find audiences in quite the same way businesses could across social media in the early days. Features such as Facebook marketplace and the Instagram stores have made social platforms into major players in the ecommerce sector, especially for small sellers just starting out. This makes ads that send people away from these platforms less appealing to the people who run them.
Not only are ads no longer free in the way they were when these platforms first launched (and free posts now find themselves struggling on the algorithm), but they’re getting more expensive every day.
Other than coughing up more than your biggest competitors, only creative targeting and thinking are viable solutions. Trying to go viral in ways that fit the social media of 2021 rather than leaning on old ideas of what catches fire on the internet is equally important. How can you interact with influencers, micro-influencers and other brands to give your ads a more natural appearance on the user’s feed? What can you learn from brands that have become almost meta and played against the conventions of social media to promote their business?
This is not to say online advertising doesn’t still have significant power. These changes have only proved the staying power of ads and their importance in the digital landscape. Things may be getting difficult, but creatives and data experts have solved problems like this before, and will continue to reach new audiences in exciting and (hopefully) less irritating ways.