Brands closing disconnect between mobile and customer path to purchase

Advertisers and media owners are getting closer to demonstrating the true value of mobile in the customer journey following advancements in analytics that could herald a wider industry acceptance of cross-device behaviour.

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Consumers to date have been underwhelmed by brands attempts to engage on their smartphones and tablets. Pressure to deliver a direct mobile return through banners and push-notifications has failed to visualise the customer path in its entirety and ultimately stunted the impact of the channel.

The lack of progress has sapped marketers’ enthusiasm for mobile. More than half (52 per cent) of CMOs plan either no change or a cut to their mobile marketing outlay, according to recent report from the CMO Council, as marketers pull back to rethink how it connects to the wider customer experience.

To overcome the hurdle, technology and media companies have been developing attribution models and ad formats to offer deeper insight into the winding road to conversion. Most recently, Facebook’s prioritisation of user IDs over cookies to drive mobile budgets through the new Atlas ad network alongside Google’s ability to deliver and measure the impact of richer ads everywhere have promised better accountability and measurement integrity.

The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) expects the innovations alongside wider developments in the programmatic space to usher in a sustained period of experimentation from brands. It is planning discussion panels, reports and best-practice guidelines in 2015 that educate its members on improving the quality of automated advertising, native content and location-based offers on mobile.

Alex Kozloff, head of mobile at the IAB, says brands are realising that mobile is not just a channel and needs to be used in concert with other physical and digital touchpoints If they are to demonstrate the business value of future initiatives.

“Advertisers are now taking mobile seriously as a brand building platform that they can invest in at scale. The challenge for brands is going to be how they measure cross-screen campaigns and develop creative that is more engaging in different formats and on different devices. Understanding mobile’s role at the nexus of all those channels will provide a massive benefit to acting on those insights”, she adds.

The concerns are shared by FMCG business Mondelez but it claims, through its ties to Google, to be “pretty close” to a sturdier cross-platform measurement model. It is more focused on the bigger buckets of data than granular forms, believing that once it has unlocked a critical mass in terms of digital media spend there will be more of a natural migration to where the eyeballs are.

Beacons, online video and native content initiatives will quicken the pace of data collection when the business partners with retailers, publishers and media owners in the coming months. The recent appearance of Facebook videos in newsfeeds has also been signposted as an area for future investment.

The efforts will try to liberate the in-store and online experience, says Mondelez, paving the way for more sophisticated targeted offers to improve trackability.

Gerry D’Angelo, media director for Europe at Mondelez, says: “We’re seeing a lot of experimentation by publishers, advertisers and technology companies on what the right ad formats should be and creatively how do you address being in [mobile]. Clearly you can’t transport over a 30 second TV spot. It needs to be considered whether it would work better as Vine or as a shorter 5-second video. The only way you can work out how best to repurpose ads for the platform is through trial and experimentation.

“I think that the barrier to measuring very specific channels and ad formats is just making sure you’re matching it with the granularity of data.The marketing mix model algorithm is already in place doing the heavy lifting it just needs to ingest more data.”

US broadcaster the Weather Channel said the ability to track identities at universal level across devices on Facebook would help crack the path to purchase. Speaking on a panel at Advertising Week on Monday (29 September) the media owner’s senior vice president of digital ad sales Jeremy Steinberg, told delegates it was managing mobile data in a different way to achieve “moment engagement”.

“Sending messages at the right time, to the right person on the right device is about capturing that moment engagement so that [consumers] get that wow moment from us knowing their state of mind.

“For us, that mobile metric is about using location as a proxy for understanding consumers. We’re using the date to determine who the consumer is rather than where they are. If you take a step back and do things this way round then there’s a lot more value in location-based advertising.”

Mobile is moving into uncharted territory and industry observers warn there is still plenty of work to do turn it into a premiere advertising channel. More creative ad formats, richer advertising incentives to move beyond the banner and case studies such as Heineken’s recent mobile native ad trial are three key areas that need more attention.

Ilicco Elia, head of mobile at DigitasLBi, says: “These have been recurring themes for mobile advertising over the last few years. The treatment of mobile as an extension of the desktop, rather than a new canvas, has reduced the impact of the channel.

“Advertisers have understandably prioritised solutions that can deliver a direct mobile return. However, with the ability to measure and the increased recognition of mobile influenced outcomes it is becoming easier to provide a business case for brand-awareness campaigns. Advertising works especially well when paired with accurate targeting. Only then will the advert be regarded by consumers as content and organically fit with the user experience resulting in ’engaging’ native advertising.”

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