TargetClick Invades San Francisco in Search of Infinite Optimization

Infinite Optimization...With a View!
Infinite Optimization…With a View!

Everyone remembers their first time…experiencing something new.  In early September, I too enjoyed the pleasure of not one, but many novel experiences during an eye-opening adventure to San Francisco.  Thanks to TargetClick’s recent partnership with “The Searchinator” – Kenshoo Local – our Search Engine Marketing (SEM) team (Doug, Dave, and Me) earned three coveted spots on the roster for the K8 Kenshoo Global Client Summit – “The Pursuit of INFINITE OPTIMIZATION.” The Summit, which took place in Sausalito, consisted of multiple presentations on the latest trends in Digital Advertising, Keynote speeches by Shar VanBoskirk (Forrester Research; VP, Principal Analyst) and Sir Michael Moritz (Sequoia Capital; Chairman), a “fireside chat” with David Fischer (Facebook; VP of Marketing and Business Partnerships), and a client “Eco-System Challenge” on the beautiful Cavillo Point resort grounds.  More importantly, our trip to San Fran offered an opportunity for me to engage in many activities for the first time at both a professional and a personal level.  For instance, I:

  1. Visited San Francisco for the first time; I transformed its city streets and bay area trails into my own personal playground during a couple of early morning runs
  2. Attended an Advertising-related conference for the first time; I listened to and met many key influencers in the industry and learned many new concepts that will allow me reach unforeseen heights in my career
  3. Rode in a yellow taxi cab for the first time; to be honest, I found myself disappointed and fearful for my life each time I entered one of those brightly-colored death traps
  4. Ate Spanish Tapas and drank Spanish wine for the first time; thanks to Dave, I not only realized that Spanish cuisine is delightful, but I also reaffirmed my utter detestation for all types of wine, no matter its place of origin
  5. “Doodled” with a world-renowned painter – Rami Meiri – for the first time; I discovered that no matter how hard I try, I absolutely cannot bring a canvas to light via paint and paintbrush
  6. Felt that I stood on even ground with all participants in the Digital Advertising industry for the first time; I finally understood that my peers face many of the same daily challenges that I do, and that we are all constantly endeavoring to uncover valuable solutions for those struggles

Actually, number six above highlights a very important point about my short jaunt to San Francisco: While I certainly experienced many things for the first time, I left the K8 Summit with an all-too familiar feeling; a sensation that I (as well as nearly all other digital advertisers) have much room for improvement – I can/need to do better.  This thought began to emerge during Shar VanBoskirk’s Keynote speech, “Agile Innovation.”

According to VanBoskirk, we have reached an era of global change marked by “Digital Disruption” – a concept related to the growth of innovation, commerce, and consumer power within the online space.  In general, Digital Disruption has engendered new business models and has altered “competitor dynamics;” it “threatens [the] business norms” that we as marketers have become accustomed to.

A Room Full of Digital Advertising Dynamos!
A Room of Digital Advertising Dynamos!

Similarly, the growth in smartphone and tablet usage has resulted in what VanBoskirk refers to as the “Mobile Mind Shift: The expectation that any desired information or service is available, on any device, in context, at your moment of need.”  Such developments highlight the fact that companies must welcome the risk – and potential reward – of constant, agile innovation in order “to stay in front of Digital Disruption.”  Marketers, entrepreneurs, and members of entire firms must ask themselves the same question that I posed to myself on the plane ride back to the Iowa cornfields: “Am I ready to embrace change?”

After tuning in to Shar VanBoskirk’s Keynote about agile innovation, I then had the pleasure of listening to two presentations pertaining to utilizing both Search and Facebook Advertising for Direct Marketing; specifically, to drive conversions – desired actions such as lead form completions, calls, and sales.  Although I already knew that both of these mediums retain the capacity to generate online engagement and action, I learned that Facebook in particular exists as a great asset to Direct Marketers.  For example, from Q1 to Q2 in 2013, on average, brands that utilize Kenshoo Social (Kenshoo’s Paid Social platform) saw impressive improvements in Facebook Advertising performance:

  • An 18.5% rise in Ad Click Through Rate, coupled with a 16.4% increase in Click volume, as well as a 15.9% decrease in Cost Per Click
  • A 56.9% spike in Conversion volume
  • 28.3% revenue growth

More specifically, many companies have also seen great results when employing some of Facebook’s top Ad formats:

  • Jack Threads has enjoyed a 6X return on advertising spend by utilizing Facebook’s Custom Audiences targeting feature
  • Fab.com recorded 50% greater LTV for customers acquired through Facebook’s Lookalike Audiences versus standard targeting; “Fab.com scaled its Facebook activity to Europe and achieved a 10-fold increase in people’s purchase intent”
  • Across one billion Impressions on the Facebook Exchange, participating brands have witnessed a 8.1X return on advertising spend via Facebook Retargeting
You Know You’ve Reached Star Status When You Have Your Own Fireside Chat
You Know You’ve Reached Star Status When You Have Your Own Fireside Chat

Despite the above success stories, further research by Kenshoo and Facebook revealed that, in terms of conversion attribution, Facebook is often undervalued as a direct marketing medium by 12-30% because many marketers assign conversions to the final click (Last Click Attribution) on a user’s conversion path – the steps towards completing a desired action.  Given that SEM and Paid Social optimization focuses/relies on conversion data, this attribution slip-up indicates that many campaign decisions (bid policies, budget allocation, etc.) made by Account Managers may be less than ideal.  If Facebook fails to receive the credit it deserves for stimulating Conversions, those responsible for managing SEM and Paid Social Campaigns will not know when/how to leverage Facebook to its greatest potential.  So as to not fall victim to such mistakes (and to avoid self-frustration, at least for me), TargetClick has begun testing different attribution models; we plan to move away from the Last Click Attribution Model in favor of a more logical means of valuing conversions.

A few hours after Kenshoo/Facebook’s insightful data dump, Yahoo!’s Edwin Wong (Senior Director, Product & Media Insights and Kenshoo’s Josh Dreller (Director of Marketing Research) took the stage to discuss the astronomical growth in mobile device usage, and how businesses are (or are not, as you are soon to find out) aligning their marketing strategies accordingly.

Actually, of all of the great speeches and presentations I had the opportunity to sit in on at the K8 Summit, Wong and Dreller’s commentary had the greatest impact on me; their research truly led me to believe that I have a lot of work to do as an online marketer – that I had to do better.  How so, you might ask?  Well to begin, as Wong shared results from multiple Yahoo! studies, I faced the harsh reality that what I thought I knew about mobile represented just the tip of the iceberg in this ever-changing landscape.  To illustrate my surprise, consider the following tidbits of Mobile usage data (among many) that I did not know:

  • Consumers tend to have an emotional connection to their devices; participants in Yahoo!’s investigations viewed their tablets in the same light as a “cool older sibling (cutting edge, powerful, and enticing; always has neat tricks up his sleeve),” and they saw their smartphones  as akin to a “younger sibling/teenager (cute and useful; always tags along; constantly growing and surprising)”
  • Mobile devices provide consumers with a sense of “freedom” through “Digital Connective Consciousness” – a summation of communication, community, content, and culture
  • When multi-tasking with their Mobile devices, particularly while watching television, 94% of consumers engage in some form of communication, while 60% consume content related to what they are viewing on television (including advertisements)
  • “67% of Mobile owners believe their Mobile is critical to daily life; more than 50% say their mobile devices make them browse the Internet more”
  • Mobile “shoppers are behaving in new ways” thanks to the availability of “instant information at their fingertips, improved mobile and tablet site usability, shopping apps, and improving technology;” the adoption of shopping via mobile has had the effect of “increasing consumer confidence and demand”
  • Marketers must optimize their mobile strategies and websites – 52% of consumers are disappointed when companies do not have specialized sites for their Mobile Internet browser; 75% of companies have no clear mobile strategy.”  Furthermore, consumers have found faults with their experience while on mobile sites, citing difficulties in accessing/filling out applications, redeeming coupons, and making mobile-based payments; 38% of mobile users are “less likely to re-visit a brand’s site if it wasn’t optimized for [mobile devices] the first time [they] visited it”

While Wong’s Yahoo! discoveries certainly lit the mobile fire from within, Josh Dreller’s ensuing exposé fed those flames with straight gasoline.  Dreller shared with the K8 crowd the results of a study that he had organized: A Kenshoo client survey (300+ Agency and Advertiser participants) containing questions pertaining to paid Search on mobile devices.  Compared to Wong’s findings above, the outcomes of Dreller’s investigation suggested that many brands seem to be somewhat unaware of consumers’ love of mobile and their contrasting qualms with marketers’ mobile strategies.  In particular, the Kenshoo survey demonstrated that, of those questioned:

  • 19.2% believed that consumers are “not comfortable” making purchases on their smartphones
  • 38.8% felt that consumers are “not comfortable” filling out forms on their smartphones
  • 64.7% rated their cross-device paid search strategy as “somewhat aligned” with consumer trends;” only 18.8% believed that they were actually “very behind on consumer trends”
  • 15% write mobile-specific ad copy for their paid search campaigns; only 35% engage in mobile-specific bidding strategies
  • 50% claim to provide “a rich, smartphone optimized web experience for [their] visitors”

If you compare Wong and Dreller’s findings, you can see that a slight gap exists between consumers’ mobile expectations (how they perceive mobile branding/experiences) and marketers’ methods for capitalizing on those expectations and perceptions.

I think you can now understand why Wong and Dreller’s presentations had such a profound impact on me, and why their research transformed the already burning fire for improvement inside me into an inferno of volcanic proportions.  I mean, not to ramble too much, but I fail to understand how over half of my SEM peers can rate their cross-device paid search strategy as “somewhat aligned with consumer trends,” while at the same time admitting that they fail to write mobile-specific ad copy.  (For the record, I answered that I did not feel that my cross-device paid search strategy aligned with consumer trends, but I did answer “yes” to writing mobile-specific ad copy; I’m just as much at fault here as everyone else.)  Also, if 52% of consumers are disappointed when reaching non-optimized mobile websites, and if 38% of users are less likely to return to those sites because of that fact, much more than 50% of companies should claim to provide “a rich, smartphone optimized web experience for [their] visitors.”  Actually, let me re-phrase that: 100% of companies should claim to provide a rich, smartphone optimized web experience for their visitors.

Dave and Me – The Real San Francisco Treat
Dave and Me – The Real San Francisco Treat

Obviously, my visit to San Francisco for the K8 Kenshoo Global Client Summit not only supplied me with a great personal/professional experience; it also left me impassioned about the work I do each and every day.  And, more importantly, the trip helped me understand that I am not alone on my quest to constantly innovate and improve.  Actually, Aaron Goldman, CMO at Kenshoo, made that notion very clear to me during the K8 dinner reception.  During a conversation between Aaron, Doug, and myself, Aaron inquired about how I felt the Summit went and if I had enjoyed the day’s presentations and activities.  I told him that I had had a fantastic time, and that, thanks to everything I had learned, I felt armed and ready to really dominate the digital advertising campaigns that I manage.  I also informed him that many of the discussions had left me with the somewhat unsettling, yet inspiring sensation that I needed to hone my skills – I had to be better.  Aaron responded by simply telling me that we all have room for improvement, and that “we’re all trying to figure it out” so that we can truly excel.

Aaron’s answer influenced me greatly, and coincides with a concept that I had aligned myself with earlier that day, and that has also appeared multiple times throughout this post.  During our “painting” session with Rami Mieri (mentioned above), all K8 attendees were asked to draw what inspires us on a large white board.  Since I am no artist, I opted for the text route, and managed to scribble out just two words: “Be better.”  In my mind, this painfully straightforward idea pairs well with the needed areas for advancement outlined above, as well as the statement Aaron made to me during the Summit dinner.  Whether we are prepared for it or not, change in the digital landscape is inevitable; new platforms and tools will continue to surface that provide value to consumers, and we as marketers have but one thing to do in order to capitalize on these marketplace shifts and developments: We must be better.

Me Somehow Managing To Scribble Out “Be Better” on the K8 White Board (Doug Drew the Green Growth Arrow)
Me Somehow Managing To Scribble Out “Be Better” on the K8 White Board (Doug Drew the Green Growth Arrow)

 Note:  All of the information and citations included in this blog post can be found in the presentation decks made available by Kenshoo.

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