How brands can make their online Christmas wishes come true

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Ian Dowds, UK vice president of Specific Media, explains how behavioural targeting can better connect brands to online Christmas shoppers

Last year, more than 7 million UK adults shopped online for Christmas gifts, according to Mintel data. With online shopping more popular than ever before, brands cannot afford to leave targeted advertising off their Christmas list.

As the transition to life online continues to sweep our society, the opportunity to target consumers in a more strategic way has presented itself to today’s marketers. We are now able to target advertising based on actual user interests and recent online activity, identifying users who are in-market for a particular product or service at any given time – rather than purely targeting consumers based on their traditional demographic profile.

For example, take the average gift shopper in the lead up to Christmas, who may be in-market for all manner of different products as they shop online for gifts. Utilising traditional targeting methods such as demographics based on that gifter’s profile has no relevance to their actual purchase intent. Rather, by utilising a combination of reach and sophisticated targeting techniques, this enables brands to identify in-market gift shoppers, showing them adverts more relevant to their recent online behaviour. In all cases, there is also the opportunity to target ’inspiration shoppers’ at the top of the purchase funnel, who are open to options on which direction to take.

While it is easy to focus marketing efforts at the bottom of the funnel, on users nearing the point-of-purchase, this narrows the opportunity for brands to grow their customer base. Marketers need to ensure they are communicating with consumers at the optimum points along their paths to purchase, actively seeking out new customers within the awareness and consideration stages of the marketing funnel, in addition to those users deemed more likely to be in-market for their product or service.

Marketers are constantly challenged with finding new ways of reaching customers and one of the most effective ways of achieving this online is through the application of sophisticated targeting techniques.

Employing what we call ’Behavioural Discovery’ techniques, which is the trialing of different online behaviours to identify additional targets, allows us to seek out consumers who may be interested in a brand’s message, but may not have necessarily been looking to purchase their product specifically. By building anonymous user profiles based on recent browsing patterns, behavioural targeting enables brands to not only identify and communicate with those already in-market for a product or service, but also those who are more likely to have an affinity for the types of products and services a brand has to offer.

In the case of gift shoppers, by engaging those in the upper funnel with an intelligently targeted advertising campaign, brands have an opportunity to create awareness early on and throughout the purchase cycle to drive sales of their product over a competitor product.

This is especially important in the build up to key shopping periods throughout the year, for example around Valentine’s Day or Christmas, when the online market is full of ’gifters’ who are acting outside the expectations set by their demographic. By leveraging anonymous behavioural data intelligently, retailers have the ability to identify and communicate with prospective buyers who would normally not fit their target audience profile. By doing so, brands are giving themselves a real advantage in the competitive seasonal markets.

Despite it being an invaluable tool for advertisers and ultimately beneficial to the consumer, there is still work to be done within the industry to provide greater clarity for consumers around behavioural targeting. The UK IAB’s Good Practice Principles, of which Specific Media is a signatory, is a fantastic step forward in creating consistency within the market and providing transparency and control for internet users.

By understanding consumer behaviour, advertisers are able to target them with products and services that are relevant to them at any given time, which is ultimately a mutually beneficial arrangement. As the busiest time of the year approaches, I would urge brands and marketers alike to ensure that their ad campaigns are driven by the intelligent use of data and targeting technologies.

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