Earlier this year, Ad Age proclaimed, "ROI Is Dead." It's certainly true that the digital age has given rise to many more tools measuring ad engagement and tracking consumer behavior, so it makes sense to create new metrics. But where to start? The sheer number of variables — Are your customers using mobile or desktop? Are they on Twitter or Instagram or Facebook? — makes for a daunting list of factors to consider. It's tough to know what really constitutes ad engagement in this complex new marketing world.
Defining ad engagement as a two-way communication between a brand and its consumers seems like it should be straightforward enough. But in a recent Digiday article, marketing managers each had a different answer to what constitutes engagement. While all managers agreed that sharing and discussing brand content was the ultimate definition, they also agreed that, depending on what you're trying to accomplish, you might use different measurements.
Say for instance you're trying to educate or inform your customers. In that case, engagement may mean page views. If brand awareness is your goal, likes and shares and comments might be your measurement. And of course, you can't overlook clicks as an engagement measure in a straight-up marketing campaign where you're trying to sell products. Develop guidelines specific to the results you desire.
Keep in mind that your own objectives will define what constitutes engagement, and there is no one-size-fits-all formula for measuring ad engagement. A recent Forbes article urges marketers to ignore "vanity metrics" and focus on activities that lead to customer acquisition, sales and revenue. The key here is in finding patterns. Once you begin tracking the campaign's results, you might find repeat page views is a better indicator of performance than overall page views. Comments and shares are much better indicators of brand engagement than a new follower on social media. A page with a million followers is only as strong as its active participants.
The ongoing quest for marketers wishing to drive conversions will be to understand the correlation between consumer behavior and consumer actions. A study by Adobe showed that consumers who were exposed to interactive ads had stronger purchase intent than those who saw static ads. The study equated these higher levels of message engagement to the stronger purchase intention.
Navigating a New World
As the Interactive Advertising Bureau illustrates, the traditional linear sales funnel has evolved into a nonlinear, interconnected set of gears that represent the behavioral, cognitive and emotional aspects of the process. Building a keen understanding of how these gears work together will be the key to success.
What advertisers agree on today is that brand loyalty comes from the emotional bonds consumers develop. Online platforms, particularly mobile, are in an interesting position to deliver this type of experience. By developing holistic, cross-platform views of consumer behavior and tracking performance according to expected outcomes, you can begin to move beyond traditional ROI.