Online ads are killing traditional media: Here's how retailers can avoid dying with it

By Declan Kennedy, StitcherAds CEO.

Historically, the Internet's ability to rapidly disseminate news has made newspapers and magazines obsolete, with the demise of print ads following suit.

The rapid level of innovation in online advertising has accelerated the exposure of just how far behind print, TV, radio and other 'offline' channels are in relation to their ability to inform savvy customers' buying journeys. However, it seems CMOs and budget holders have yet to grasp this reality, which raises certain burning questions: Do retailers realistically expect customers to trawl through pages of circulars, to listen to and watch ads for products they will never need or want? How do retailers retarget a customer with relevant products in a radio ad? How do they cross sell in a TV ad? How do they efficiently target 22 to 26-year-old university graduates with product promotions in print?

Customers like to view, review, discuss, touch, sample, compare and seek recommendations about products — smart retailer ads should be focused on making it as convenient as possible for customers to complete these activities. Print, TV and radio ads can be geo-targeted at best — delivered to cars, households, offices, addresses etc. — but they cannot deliver an interactive, personalised experience the way online ads can. To date, advertisers have tried to bridge this gap by making traditional ads interactive with QR Codes, SMS Short Codes and NFC. But these attempts have fallen flat because ultimately consumers find them inconvenient.

As customers, we have likely all experienced 'smart advertising' that delivers highly relevant and personalised ads that have significantly raised our expectations. The more data retailers have access to about us, the better they can meet these expectations, but only if they exploit it. Ecommerce giants like Amazon have excelled at exploiting online buyer data to more efficiently target and inform customers, but the majority of buyer data is still generated in-store. Retailers need to invest in leveraging in-store data to retain their customers, using fully integrated omnichannel advertising solutions that better inform customers during the purchase process.

Google and Facebook now have solutions that enable retailers to link their first-party, in-store customer data with online data to enable unified commerce. Facebook has recently introduced the ability for retailers to use customers' real identities to prove that their ads have generated in-store sales. Through these new tools, retailers can leverage offline buying data in online campaigns, which opens doors traditional media can't access and provides opportunities for increased online and in-store sales.

Outlined below are three advantages online ads have over traditional media when building a campaign strategy:

1. Omnichannel opportunities

By identifying customers in different channels and merging that data alongside location awareness, you can deliver ads that not only provide customers with the information they need, but also with convenient options to buy products in store or online. By having the ability to leverage in-store customer data, online ads have the leg up on traditional media.

Facebook's Offline Conversion API lets you use real customer identities to accurately measure in-store purchases after being exposed to Facebook ads. Recently, Facebook made that data more actionable through custom audience building and retargeting. These and other related capabilities allow businesses to match in-store customers to online users, which can then be leveraged to build audiences for retargeting or prospecting, and to optimise and measure campaigns that are focused on increasing foot traffic.

2. Hyper-targeted to customer preferences

Channels like Facebook allow you to leverage customer behaviours and third-party data from your website, apps, and bricks-and-mortar stores to more accurately target customers with truly relevant products that fall within their budget. Facebook's highly-targeted ads not only allow customers to purchase online, but also include directions to the nearest store, empowering customers to buy wherever they want. Online ads also give you the ability to react in real time to customer buying behaviour, versus traditional ads, which lack built-in analytics to pull customer purchasing data.

For example, you can use dynamic ads to promote your entire product catalogue and draw in customers with ads customised to their preferences. These ads work full-funnel, pulling in products most relevant to the Facebook user based on expansive omnichannel purchase and behavioural data. On top of accurate product matching, dynamic ads can be built with dynamic creative elements.

3. Higher returns and a lower CPA

By definition, traditional ads appeal to a general audience across the board —attempting to serve as a catch-all to several audience segments at once, versus online ads, which have the ability to be hyper-targeted. The main downside to traditional ads' lack of ability to be custom-built for individual shoppers is evident in the comparative ROI of online ads. According to Hubspot, consumers that are retargeted online are 70 percent more likely to convert. Average spending for online advertising by a brand is about half of that of print advertising spend, with more than 750 percent higher conversion rates for online ads over print ads. Customisation and real-time targeting is key to the success of online ads over traditional media, and the proof is in the results. Plus, you can automatically reallocate spend to online ads that are performing particularly well, whereas course correction for other channels is difficult to impossible.

In today's data-driven world, traditional advertising does not have the level of sophistication required to support the customer's journey. For maximum ROI, retailers need to adopt a campaign strategy that effectively leverages unified customer data to optimise their advertising, improve the customer experience, and ultimately, raise the bottom line.

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