COVID-19 and restrictions on in-person interactions have caused brands to place a much greater emphasis on digital marketing and online interactions with customers. Even as digital strategies are prioritised, shrinking budgets have caused marketing and advertising expenditure to be scrutinised, particularly focusing on ROI and conversions for brands. In order to understand just how effective campaigns and promotions are, how can brands and businesses leverage the right metrics to make their digital marketing efforts more successful? Here are five tips.
1. Employ both qualitative and quantitative metrics
An effective way of measuring success would ideally comprise a good balance of both qualitative and quantitative metrics. Qualitative metrics, typically considered at the top of the marketing funnel, are used to determine a brand's social equity across social media. Measuring sentiment online through a third-party social-listening tool is crucial for brands that want to understand how creative, content and messaging are received by their users. Positive and negative sentiment can be analysed by these third-party tools over a specified period of time, enabling brands to understand whether communication is resonating well with intended audiences. Monitoring share of voice is another way that marketers can assess where, when and what type of conversations across brand, service, product are happening online—allowing them to see whether a particular brand is driving awareness and engagement as desired.
On the other hand, quantitative metrics that show commercial outcomes (such as sales or purchases made) are important for most advertisers. A consumer’s journey can be followed through the use of a unique pixel, which is attached to each paid-media ad across a brand’s social-media channels. This pixel will reveal insights into which customers were driven to a brand’s e-commerce site via a particular piece of ad content. This also reveals how often customers are engaging with the brand online, and whether this engagement has achieved the desired quantified outcomes.
With larger businesses, such as Fortune 500 brands across the consumer products, food and travel verticals, social listening has helped reveal critical business insights about what was negatively impacting the bottom line. Some contributing aspects uncovered included poor customer service, poor product quality and packaging; one unique insight even led a brand discontinuing a once-popular brand mascot. These insights can subsequently be leveraged as a point of engagement and connection between a brand and its consumers for future campaigns. This can help audiences feel heard and seen by the brand, often building loyalty with consumers despite the initial negative sentiment.
2. Leverage sentiment analysis for key insights
Sentiment analysis can be conducted manually or through a third-party tool. By integrating this together with owned platforms, customer conversations about the brand in the public domain (such as comments and forums) can be picked up. Detailed insights can be extracted from sentiment analysis, including what customers perceive to be good or bad reasons for these perceptions, as well as causes from a business or customer-service perspective.
Current developments in machine learning also enable the automated application of artificial intelligence to serve this function. Working with third-party tools that have sophisticated machine learning will enable sentiment to be measured over long periods of time. For example, brands will be able to understand what consumers are saying about the brand across six months, what has changed, and why. Reading and making sense of this data is typically done by an analyst. Apart from gaining insights quickly from large volumes of data, automated sentiment analysis will also minimise error or bias that could easily result from manual analysis. Without third-party tools, brands will have to conduct manual analysis and process immense amounts of data across platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and more.
3. Understand brand nuances
When it comes to understanding a brand, marketers should avoid adopting a one-size-fits-all approach and take into account current market context.
Firstly, the relative newness of a brand should be considered. Metrics that measure brand awareness need to be adjusted when applied to newly launched brands. For example, a gaming company approached Nativex during the time of COVID-19, looking to launch a new game to appeal to homebound consumers. In this situation, the new game would have zero social-media equity across any platforms, since it has no brand presence at the beginning. Hence, an adjusted approach needs to be taken into consideration when deciding on which measurement metrics needs to be adopted, compared to a brand with mass appeal or a stronger market presence.
Secondly, a thorough analysis of previous campaigns and metrics should be conducted, especially if a brand has high awareness and an established community of followers and customers. By analysing previous campaign measurements and quantifiers of success (such as number of in-app purchases or cost per installation), brands will be able to achieve a better understanding of what worked and what did not, to inform future campaigns.
Overall, it is important to look at success, but also to benchmark this against historical failures as well, because the nuances and a suitable balance lie somewhere between the two.
4. Define and prioritise which metrics to measure
There are different perspectives surrounding the classification of metrics, relating to importance, urgency, and time frame (short-, mid- or long-term). Often, different departments and functions prioritise different metrics. For example, a business development partner would consider a mid- to long-term metric, while sales representatives would place greater importance on short-term metrics to drive immediate purchases. Occasionally, these are opposing elements, and additional introspection is required for alignment and value creation for the brand.
The effective consideration of metrics over an extended period of time adds value, and this is particularly clear during COVID-19. For example, metric patterns throughout the pandemic can indicate V- or U-shaped movements, which in turn inform marketing strategy. A V-shaped movement suggests a rapid bounce back from a dip in business, which demands a rewards-based marketing approach. A U-shaped movement indicates gradual recovery, which enables marketers to be more creative with content marketing, in order to maintain online conversations and engagement with their audiences over an extended period of time. Ultimately, input from both business and marketing is beneficial, to develop a strategic framework that is able to fulfil both short- and long-term objectives.
5. Consider the evolution and implication of emerging technologies
Emerging technologies are beginning to gain momentum in digital marketing. One increasingly popular type that enhances tracking efficiency is the use of aggregated platforms and dashboards. For example, Nativex’s XMP can track creative campaign performance across a range of different social-media platforms, including Facebook, Google, SnapChat, TikTok and Toutiao, as well as mobile advertising and app-monetisation partners such as Vungle, Unity and AppLovin. This provides an aggregated understanding of which creatives work best across social platforms, throughout campaigns and across all markets. Some advantages of this include an increase in cost savings and a reduction in operational time.
While emerging technologies allow for unprecedented tracking, measurement and customer understanding, there are fears about disruption in the near future due to privacy issues, especially on a policy level. However, should data continue to be shared across devices and technology platforms, customer behaviour and preferences could eventually be tracked and understood on an unprecedented level, creating a whole new level of personalisation. This could be beneficial for brands in terms of customising shopping experiences and personalisation in marketing, but such a level of consumer understanding may not be comfortable for everyone. Brands hence need to keep a close eye on such developments, and consider how policy, technological advancements and privacy concerns impact each other and their brands.
Niky Sakhrani is head of strategy at Nativex.