The evolution of digital is resulting in ‘opportunity paralysis’

Emilia Chambers
By Emilia Chambers | 18 August 2023
Emilia Chambers.

Emilia Chambers, Head of Strategy, The Pistol

Experiencing opportunity paralysis? These themes will help you focus on what’s important.

The digital media landscape is evolving at a pace we haven’t seen before. We’re seeing consumer expectations of omnichannel experiences increasing, data opportunities are no longer just for large direct-to-consumer brands, and the gap between the real world and the virtual world is closing fast. And that’s not even mentioning the hottest two words in the industry right now - artificial intelligence.

Navigating these changes and the opportunities associated with them can leave brands and agencies with ‘opportunity paralysis’. Too many moving parts to understand and too many opportunities to assess are leaving them paralysed in the current, instead of moving forward into the future as they simply don’t know where to start.

To help push through the paralysis, here are my top three topics that all brands and agencies should be thinking about both now and into the future to set them up for success in our ever changing industry.

The filtered self vs. The unfiltered self

We’ve all done it; a filter here, a slight extension of the truth there. All done in an attempt to build a persona online that is based on us, but not identical to us. These differences can be to reflect who we think we are, who we would like to be or to fit who we think others want us to be. But it is these versions of ourselves and our identity that are becoming more prevalent and are creating challenges for how brands talk to consumers online when their ‘online self’ may be very different to their real world self.

Identity formation is shifting and is no longer predominantly established in childhood. Who you are when you’re young can shift significantly based on the feedback you receive throughout your life and now this feedback is delivered more significantly online and more consistently throughout our lifetime. Feedback informs how a person evolves, when taking feedback received into consideration. However, digital curation and the filtered self impacts the value of feedback as it is being received for your filter and not the real you, making that feedback less valuable to informing personal change.

When targeting consumers is such a fundamental principle in media strategy, what is the implication when a person can have multiple selves? When brands reach a consumer's filtered self online, it can drive a purchase but create a disconnect between what consumers think they want based on their filtered self and what they actually want in the real world. This disconnect can be blamed on brands when they don’t meet the needs of a consumer's real self, and the consumer sees the result as being due to the brand not delivering against their need, when in actuality, the need was established based on a filtered version of the consumer and in turn a filtered need.

There is no way to completely overcome the disconnect between our filtered and unfiltered selves but one way to manage this is through the use of offline data points. We talk a lot about the importance of bringing online and offline data points together in a usable way but this is increasingly important because the view online of a consumer may not be the reality. Building consumer journeys and targeting strategies based on offline data points, combined with digital touchpoints, reduces the impact that a filtered presence online can have on the real life experience of a service or product.

Building and sharing data should not scary if done right

The importance of capturing and utilising data is increasing. For brands who have first party data, they want more, and those that don't have any, want some. But with complexities around data privacy and accuracy, building data pools can be difficult on your own.

There is a value in partnering with a like minded company and sharing data in a way that is valuable to both parties. Value doesn’t need to be in the form of just paying for data, and could be in providing a point of difference through data sharing, so both brands can reach consumers that they couldn’t before.

The success of a data partnership comes down to both parties committing to respecting the data. A lot of money goes into building good consumer journeys and brands need to respect this when using another's data so that their advertising efforts do not result in lost customers for the brand whose data they are using. Brands often are unwilling to share data because of the risk of the relationship that they have built with the consumer through that data but by both parties agreeing up front on parameters of use, this can be overcome and the risk reduced significantly.

For brands moving more into the data space, the first step is to audit your data and the opportunity. Consolidation of first party data is important to understand what data you have, how you can segment it and how your tech supports your current data and data maturity ambitions.

Data transformation needs to begin with what you have versus where you stand compared with others in the same market. From there, understand what gaps you have in data and challenges in tech (eg. platforms that don’t talk to each other) and build a plan to address these gaps and challenges. The main reason data transformation fails is that there is not enough focus on people and processes. Taking people from across the company on the journey so they understand what you’re trying to achieve and why is important, especially when requirements impact them but the output doesn't. They are more likely to support it when they understand the wider impact it will have on the business.

Having valuable and rich data is not out of reach for any brands. Building your base, being prepared to share data with the right partners and collaborating through mutual value, gives all brands a chance to build their data footprint and capitalise on the opportunity.

Commerce media is not just the future, it’s the now

The beginnings of retail media centered around stores and coupons, but through the rise of digital, retail moved beyond the store, bringing apps and ecommerce sites into the mix. This repositioned retail media as a bigger piece of the marketing mix.

But where we’re heading is moving beyond retailer media and into commerce media. Retailer media and commerce media is at times used interchangeably but there is a difference between the two, or more an evolution. Commerce media is a combination of performance, brand and retail media. It incorporates elements from all three to deliver against full funnel objectives using a wide range of formats and channels, with a focus on utilising large-scale first party data for targeting. Retail media networks (RMN) are a big part of commerce media, due to the scale and quality of first party data made available to advertisers.

With almost any media channel, the challenge is always around proving the success, and commerce media is not immune. The ability to answer the question “If I wasn't paying for that ad, would I have gotten that sale regardless?” is a barrier to growth in this space but the solution sits with having complete, intelligent measurement.  Closed-loop measurement is key in determining the incrementality driven by commerce media. Closed loop measurement is where you can measure the full user journey, both online and offline, including touchpoints in the lead up to the conversion and the final conversion itself. Without this, measuring success can be a grey area, as the impact commerce media had on the final conversion will not be clear.

What is most interesting in commerce media is that it is not just for retail and FMCG brands. Sure they’re big players in the space, but non-retail and non-endemic brands can find value in commerce media too. Commerce media allows these brands to connect with audiences who align with their category or brand and gain new business insights to inform future strategy.

For brands, success in commerce media, especially when working with RMNs, comes down to who you partner with and how you learn. Focus on selecting partners that are scalable, underpinned by identity and who are willing to work in partnership, not purely transactional.

Commerce media is relatively new and in Australia we’re still in a formative stage, where opportunities and advancements are continuing to surface. Keeping this in mind, and taking learnings from testing and retesting, will drive the greatest success. A clear test and learn agenda, supported by robust reporting and measurement capabilities, creates the best opportunity to learn, evolve and see success in commerce media.

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