The 5 A’s of the Commerce Digital Marketing Maturity Framework
Digital commerce maturity brings up to a 30% decrease in cost and 20% higher revenue, offering a clear, sustainable competitive advantage in today’s market. Our digital performance marketing clients at Adlucent often ask for strategic recommendations on how to grow revenue efficiently, and this framework is meant to provide just that by breaking down the needs and activities of commerce-focused businesses to achieve desired growth. Privacy changes – including rising consumer expectations and new global regulations – combined with changes to the retail landscape due to COVID-19, mean advertisers must adopt new techniques to continue maturing. Google estimates that only about 2% of brands have achieved an advanced state of marketing maturity. So, this presents an enormous opportunity for most companies to evolve their digital marketing strategies to connect with customers and outperform competitors.
There are five elements to this commerce marketing maturity framework: audience, ads + assets, access, attribution, and automation. Keep reading to understand opportunities and digital marketing tactics for each. These recommendations will focus primarily on Google-centric solutions. Google tends to offer the most opportunity for retail advertisers, in particular, to improve, and it also has the solutions most readily available to all advertisers, whether you are using Adlucent’s performance marketing services or not. We are privileged to be named by Google as their largest shopping ads agency in the U.S. for years running and to work with hundreds of trusted retail brands. As such, Adlucent has made significant developments in our own advertising technology, so we will also highlight the proprietary solutions we provide.
The first element of mastering your performance marketing for commerce is organizing audience data to identify, understand, influence, and grow your most valuable audiences throughout the customer journey. You’re figuring out who your most profitable audiences are and which audiences you should focus on growing. Then, you’re activating data management to monetize these audience segments in the most efficient way possible. The ideal approach to this process includes using analytics to target based on predicted customer lifetime value and continuously updating audience segments based on real-time inputs to optimize toward this.
Sound tough? Well, it is. That’s why marketing technology solutions, like Adlucent’s Deep Search™, and ad networks, like Google, have developed features to help you mature your audience targeting strategy. At Adlucent, we find most commerce-focused advertisers are not achieving this ideal level of audience maturity and fall somewhere within what we call the “emerging” phase. We’ve designed our services and technology with the goal of accelerating our clients’ commerce maturity – moving them from the stages of nascent to multi-moment. They have audience segments defined by personas, remarketing, or intent, and occasionally update their audience lists across channels and ad types. Even small steps in evolving your audience strategy, especially across full-funnel digital advertising solutions like Google, can lead to significant gains in marketing performance. So, how do you achieve the ideal scenario of – get ready, this is a mouthful – continuous audience maintenance, across multiple segments, based on predicted lifetime value, built using your company’s first-party data?
Here are the digital advertising tactics and technology we recommend, laid out by maturity stage, to achieve an optimal audience strategy:
2. ADS + ASSETS
Next, delivering attention-driving, relevant touchpoints is key for any retail performance marketing program. You’re probably thinking, sure, Adlucent is a performance marketing agency; of course this is your recommendation – but, you’d be surprised how many advertisers are missing easy gains that come from leveraging media and creative solutions, especially across paid search and shopping.
The ideal version of achieving ad + asset maturity entails serving ultra-relevant messaging, making your ads useful to the person receiving them. The more relevant your ads are to their current or future needs and wants, the more likely the consumer is to engage. You’re automatically showing personalized product recommendations across multiple touchpoints and formats with dynamic creative to cater to the user’s experience. Luckily this is made easy with Google Merchant Center, which powers free product listings, paid Shopping Ads, and buy/sell on Google. Google Shopping Ads drive 89% of non-brand paid search clicks. They have a highly visible format, various connotations such as “curbside pickup”, and are strong at driving both online and foot traffic (via Local Inventory Ads). Our team leveraged Google Ads features for Blain’s Farm and Fleet, including ad customizers and multiple bid adjustments, to improve impressions by 122% and clicks by 86% year over year, ensuring Shopping Ads were relevant to shoppers.
Hopefully, you are starting to see why step number one was audience maturity – you’ll need to use the first-party data and audience insights we covered above in order to succeed here. Ad and asset best practices also include continuously A/B testing ad formats and assets to derive insights and improve digital media performance. For example, our digitally native apparel brand client, Mizzen + Main, achieved a 379% better click-through rate (CTR) through our scientific approach to asset testing based on custom audience segments.
Lastly, maturity in this bucket also involves having solid product feed management with fully optimized product attributes and minimal disapprovals to reach your omnichannel customer. Delivering product data to the Google Merchant Center is the foundation for powering Shopping Ads and Local Inventory Ads (LIA), both highly engaging steps in the customer journey. Below is a summary of Google’s top-performing ad products and when to use them:
- Shopping Campaigns: Promote online and local inventory, boost traffic to your website or local store and find more qualified leads.
- Shopping Automation: Use machine learning to drive simplicity, performance, and reach.
- Local Inventory Ads: Drive omnichannel sales by making your products and pick-up options visible to customers.
- Local Campaigns: Designed to help businesses provide their potential customers the information that they need to decide when and how to visit their local stores.
- Discovery Campaigns: Deliver rich, personalized ad experiences to consumers who are ready to discover and engage with their brands – all through a single Google Ads Campaigns.
- Video Campaigns: Keep users engaged and consistently reminded of your product or offering across YouTube and more.
Here are our digital marketing best practices to accomplish commerce maturity in the ads and assets category:
Access entails reducing friction across the customer journey, reaching both new and existing audiences, and utilizing both push and pull digital marketing solutions. This step basically ties together the previous two steps and is focused on researching, analyzing, and selecting the best keywords to drive qualified traffic from search engines to your website. The best way to achieve access maturity in your digital performance marketing is to have comprehensive, full-funnel keyword coverage leveraging automation. The most restrictive practice we see on new, incoming paid search marketing clients at Adlucent is focusing too heavily on branded keywords and generic lower funnel keywords (ex: “buy Nike running shoes”) with replication of keywords by match type. If this sounds familiar, it may be time to evolve your paid search keyword strategy to maximize ROI while maintaining the right level of control. Our client, Woodcraft, was able to achieve a 50% revenue increase year over year with a 40% lower cost-per-click (CPC), along with a 76% increase in CTR, when we overhauled their paid search strategy and leveraged just a few of these best practices.
Ideally, you’ll deploy the following tactics to evolve your access to existing and new relevant audiences:
Attribution is one of our favorite challenges to help solve as a performance marketing agency. This step in this marketing maturity framework is often considered the trickiest by commerce companies since today’s sales funnel involves so many channels across siloed networks, and recent user privacy changes in the advertising industry make tracking more difficult. Accurately measuring and valuing customer touchpoints across the omnichannel path to purchase will help budgeting, media planning, and resource allocation to ultimately grow outcomes efficiently.
Mature commerce attribution entails developing a complete measurement ecosystem across channels and devices, measuring online and offline ROI and linking performance to lifetime customer value to make media optimizations. We rarely meet retailers and brands who are achieving this, so don’t stress if this sounds daunting or improbable. In fact, we find that many clients using our performance advertising services, especially in search engine marketing (SEM), still rely on last-click data to make media decisions. This is why we developed Model-Driven Planning, an incrementality testing program, to test, measure, and scale media programs. For any retailer with brick-and-mortar locations, we recommend implementing solutions like this for omnichannel measurement and optimization. To achieve maturity in attribution, measure the success of digital commerce activity including offline KPIs, such as store visits and store sales, to gain a holistic view of omnichannel customers, and optimize ads based on this omnichannel ROAS. More on this is below, along with more best practices to achieve commerce maturity in the attribution category.
The newest player in the digital marketing strategy game, quickly gaining widespread trust, is automation. Knowing when and how to leverage automation to optimize marketing operations is our final key to driving profitability and growth. If you’re resisting the use of automation in your digital marketing strategy for whatever reason, consider this as your official invitation to start testing across three main areas: audience targeting, creative assets, and bid/budget automation.
Now, we will never tell you to rely on automation alone, since one of our value propositions at Adlucent is Human + Machine: the marriage of retail expertise and critical thinking with the machine learning and intelligence Deep Search™ provides. We deeply believe that any strategic, sustainable performance marketing program needs human decision-making and oversight. But, leveraging automation intelligently can certainly lead to incremental performance gains, saved resources, and scale, as well as an advantage over your competitors, who may be slower to adopt certain tactics.
Facebook advertising has used automation pretty much from day one, especially in targeting, since they are basically an audience auction. Google Ads, on the other hand, which is traditionally a keyword auction and is overall more mature, has slowly been rolling out automated bidding options over the last couple of years. An ideal version of achieving digital maturity includes leveraging automation across channels if – and only if – you have made significant strides in the previous four steps of this framework. If not, go back to step one and set up your foundation properly in order to allow automation to do its job. Algorithms are only as good as the information and data being put into them.
Google has introduced Smart Shopping to help solve for the complexity and time it takes marketers to manage campaigns. Smart Shopping campaigns maximize conversion value based on your business goals across Google’s full reach of customers, using machine learning to optimize according to both their insights and advertiser data. Basically, you set a target ROAS goal and let Google do the rest. These campaigns combine shopping and remarketing, and serve across Search, Display, YouTube, and Gmail. Adlucent implemented Smart Shopping campaigns for our client, Gardener’s Supply Company, last year to help break the performance plateau typically experienced in their traditionally slower winter season. The results were stellar: a 756% profit increase and a 465% increase in revenue from their holiday gift collection year over year!
Another easy-to-implement solution from Google that drives conversion value is Omnichannel Bidding. This automated solution allows you to support brick and mortar performance with digital, using both offline and online purchase intent signals to optimize toward customers who are shifting between channels. Remember when we painstakingly had to manage bids on every device and channel separately? Luckily those days are behind us thanks to machine learning. Smart Bidding with store visits or store sales values automatically adapts to fluctuations in online and offline conversions for each auction, so as store traffic shifts, bidding dynamically adjusts to favor signals most predictive of a conversion.
Commerce marketing maturity in this final section means you’re running full auto-bidding, optimized based on profit margin, predicting omnichannel customer lifetime value, while executing dynamic media buying. Now, you see how all five of these steps are necessary to achieve full-fledged maturity. Here’s a breakdown of the steps you’ll adopt to achieve this:
Achieving commerce marketing maturity requires partnering with companies that know your business, prove outcomes, and work transparently with you hand-in-hand. If you’d like to discuss the elements of your success or learn more about our marketing services and technology, get in touch.
Laura is a creative problem solver and innovative marketer with 15 years of experience spanning business strategy, marketing, and client services. Currently serving as Adlucent’s VP of Marketing, Laura heads up B2B marketing including branding, communications, lead generation, and product marketing.
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