The fragmentation of consumer touch points over the past decade has propelled consumers to no longer follow a linear, traditional journey to brand purchase. In fact, the consumer journey has not only grown more complex due to the sheer volume of information available online, but is in a continuous state of motion, with every purchase based on how well needs are met at multiple micro-moments – according to research jointly conducted by Accenture and IPSOS Singapore on Asian consumers.
While the new consumer journey can be challenging to navigate, it multiplies the opportunities for brands to engage with their audiences. Consumers’ insatiable demand for online experiences – from discovering music or movies on Spotify and Netflix; to exploring videos on YouTube; to browsing product reviews on interest-specific websites – opens up new dimensions and avenues for businesses to build and sustain a relationship with consumers beyond commercial transactions.
Entering the age of discovery
We are currently witnessing the shift from an age dominated by a combination of push marketing formats and search – where users were either interrupted with an ad, or had to proactively look for something – to an “age of discovery”, where consumers are served personalised online experiences that take into account a variety of online behaviours. As Outbrain’s co-founder and CEO, Yaron Galai puts it: “Discovery is when you encounter something wonderful you were not necessarily looking for”.
This organic process of discovery has forced brands to invest in the creation of branded experiences – through various forms of media – across all stages of the funnel, with the resulting need for distribution to align with the consumer’s journey.
However, this also tasks marketers with the new challenge of targeting the right audience while they are in the right frame of mind, and then measuring what, within those multiple touchpoints, or “discovery moments”, will influence the consumer's decision and create the thoughts and conversations that they would want them to have.
This doesn’t mean every brand interaction has to be a sales pitch. In fact, it shouldn’t be. But it does mean that every interaction must be genuine, and of high-quality to “pull” an individual into taking an action, even if there was no intention to engage with the brand in the first place. In essence, marketers must be strategic in their approach and stay authentic.
Delivering personalised brand experiences
Brands need to engage the right audiences, at the right time and at the right stage in the consumer journey. This is where critical consumer insights and data come into play, including when and how consumers are connecting to their mobile phones and what type of content engages them.
The advancement of technology has unlocked immense opportunities for a level of engagement that would have been unthinkable just a few short years ago. Digital content and information are no longer just the province of the technological wonks in a company. As consumers’ appetite for content continues to grow unabated, business leaders cannot afford to ignore the impact of a solid content strategy on the bottom line.
Letting people discover by themselves, and discover well
There are multiple stages along the digital consumer journey where marketers can grab consumers’ attention, engage them, and deliver an online experience that supports their path to purchase.
As customers encounter their content when it is most meaningful – for instance, while they are exploring a leading publisher website and are in the right frame of mind, our data suggests that the choices audiences make about what content to engage with is impacted by what channel they are on, and the next logical step after prioritising discovery is to determine where this discovery will take place.
VisaAPnews.asia, a Tumblr newsroom that features engaging videos on topics such as economics, driving business, viewpoints, and innovation, launched by Visa Asia Pacific, is a clear testament to this approach. As part of the move towards revitalising the way it reached and influenced decision-makers in banks, merchants and governments across the region, Visa worked closely with Outbrain and Click2View to create videos to drive engagement.
More importantly, audiences were able to discover the brand on premium publisher sites, allowing Visa to reach new audiences who were likely to be interested in stories their videos had to tell. The implementation resulted in a higher level of engagement with Visa’s videos; more than 75,000 engaged users daily, 270 percent increase in click-through rates, and 95 percent new daily visitors.
At a time when pretty much everyone on the planet is debating the trustworthiness of information, extra thought should be given to the quality and authenticity of branded content. Precautions should be taken to align the brand only with highly-trusted publishers and platforms to accelerate consumers through discovery and onward.
Isabella Barbato is APAC head of marketing at Outbrain