Digital Works to Lift Brand Awareness and Sales -- Without Direct Response

It's a Myth to Say We Can't Measure the Internet's Role in In-Store Purchases

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What better time than the holiday season to burst some popular digital retail-advertising myths? The beauty of digital is that you still have time to make last-minute changes to your campaign, if you need to.

Myth 1:It's impossible for marketers and advertisers to measure the effect of consumers' online activity on offline sales.

Reality: Not true. Advanced in-store tracking can measure everything -- from increases in basket size and sales of items by household segments -- and connect it to the performance of online video, rich media, display and other formats.

For example, grocery retailer Supervalu recently partnered with Nielsen and my company, PointRoll, to measure Internet users who shop in stores. The campaign featured banner ads within digital circulars in two formats -– standard display ads and expandable ads -– with localized pricing and product information. In-store sales increases were three times higher with the more-engaging expandable ads than with static standard display ads.

General Mills has received a lot of press about the marketing of its Betty Crocker products. To reach a new generation of consumers, General Mills stepped up its presence in 2011 at, on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as well as on mobile and within apps. The 1.4 million fans on the Betty Crocker Facebook page are affecting sales. In General Mills' first fiscal quarter, June through August, sales at Betty Crocker rose 5% from the same period in 2010.

Myth 2: Marketers can't create locally targeted advertising for digital media, as they do with local newspaper and television ads, to drive a target audience to nearby stores.

Reality: Advanced application program interfaces (API) make local data scalable across digital media. This technology can digitize retailer print circulars to incorporate localized retailer promotions to shoppers. Consumers can be reached through online circulars, display advertising, search, Facebook and digital out-of -home ads. The technology can be customized to include store events, clearance items, inventory, catalogs, coupons, ratings and reviews and buying guides.

Brands can use the data collected by advertising-technology partners to deliver ads locally at scale and in a more personal way than in television or print. Ford used Pandora's growing customer base to deliver iPhone ads that considered a listener's location and music preference while providing vehicle information, localized offers and a way to find the nearest Ford dealer via the phone.

In addition, brands no longer need to think about that 15- or 30-second window before the start of online video as a home for repurposed TV spots. This passive viewing can include interactive features and audience-relevant, localized messages that are automatically assembled at run time. On Facebook, retailers can present local offers via geo-targeting.

Myth 3: Digital advertising is most effective for direct-response retail campaigns.

Reality: Digital retail advertising has proved effective in direct-response and brand-awareness campaigns. TJX's "excuse to go to Home Goods" didn't feature enhanced direct-product and pricing information to draw shoppers into stores, but it generated word-of -mouth interest through social networking. Twitter users could tweet their reasons for visiting a store directly from an expandable banner ad.

Bacardi's holiday campaign, called "Unwrap the Night," is about personalized interactivity. The campaign mimics walking into a house party and uses Facebook data to show a user's closest friends at the party, drink menus and a DJ booth. The result? An immersive and personalized interactive experience that focuses on brand awareness.

Recent research by KN Dimestore shows that users exposed to expandable banners ads are 34.4% more likely to recommend advertised products, versus 25.1% with preroll online video and 10.9% with standard Flash banners. Formats like interactive preroll can only increase performance, as will more relevant, dynamic Flash and interactive ads for PC display, mobile devices and tablets.

But whatever the format, efficiently delivered, locally tailored digital advertising will produce big results for major brand retailers this holiday season -- and with 45% of all retail sales expected to be web-influenced by 2014, according to eMarketer, in the future.

Catherine Spurway-Hepler is senior vice president of strategy and marketing at PointRoll.
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