Sam Barnett, chief executive officer, Struq
Sam Barnett, chief executive officer, Struq
A view from Sam Barnett

Think BR: The future of digital advertising is true ad personalisation

Consumers are becoming increasingly intolerant of ads that lack direct and immediate relevancy to them as individuals, writes Sam Barnett, chief executive officer, Struq.

Given the level of deep ad personalisation that is now possible, and the amazing results that can be achieved, I find it very surprising that that many marketers haven’t already demanded more from their display, video and social ad providers.

When I first explained my re-targeting business to my Mum in 2008 she asked "aren’t those the ads that everyone ignores?" At that time she just expected the ads she saw online to be largely irrelevant.

Nearly five years later she not only expects to see ads that reflect her interests and needs, but she gets increasingly annoyed by the brands that advertise products she really has no interest in, over and over again.

Her perception is that those brands are wasting money, and that this directly equates to higher prices for the products she does want. This attitude will inevitably become more and more pronounced over time.

Consumers now live in a personalised world. Over the last decade, brands like Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Apple, Google, Pinterest and LinkedIn have set the benchmarks for personalized content, products and services.

Consumers now expect online brands to understand their individual needs and to personalise their customer experience accordingly. This applies as much to advertising as it does to anything else and is why I am absolutely sure that the future of digital advertising is in true ad personalisation. It is great for consumers because it puts them at the heart of advertising decisions, and it is great for advertisers because it delivers fantastic performance.

Truly personalised ads should be different for each individual user based on where they are in their unique purchase journeys. This means individual content, messaging, calls to action, ad style and product(s).

A shopper who visited a site last week should be shown very different ads from a shopper who bought from the same site yesterday, or one who made a purchase four months ago but hasn’t revisited since. Every one of these shoppers has the potential to be converted into a sale if they are shown highly-relevant ads with personalised content and calls to action.

For marketers that need to be convinced, the results speak for themselves. Performance will always vary by campaign and by vertical, but the average onsite conversion uplifts that I see are typically 25%+ for customers starting personalized ad campaigns, and frequently in excess of this.

Additionally, getting ad personalisation right doesn’t just influence short term performance, but it can also improve brand perception and life time customer value too.

In addition to delivering impressive business results, ad personalisation can help uncover powerful consumer insights that businesses can use to optimise other marketing channels and their websites, as well as influencing merchandising and stock control decisions. 

Many of our clients find the detailed information on the products that consumers click within an ad, compared to the products they actually go on to buy very enlightening. In a large proportion of cases, they are not the same.

True ad personalisation is facilitated by the wealth of rich data which now exists within most online businesses. Combining your own customer browsing and purchase behaviour data with contextual data from publishing sites and other third parties creates a very powerful mix of information for creating high quality, personalised ads in real time.

Marketers should be using their data to deliver a positive customer experience and improved business performance rather than just storing it. In the next decade, the businesses that use their customer data in the smartest way will be the ones that win.

Consumers live in a personalised world and expect personalised experiences. The future of display, video and social media advertising lies in true ad personalisation. Marketers should challenge their ad providers to deliver ads that are truly personalised to match their customers’ unique digital journeys. 

Personalised advertising offers brands the opportunity to use their data as a competitive advantage at the same time as being genuinely customer focused. That seems like a win/win situation to me.

Sam Barnett, chief executive officer, Struq