Think of the last time you entered a brick and mortar clothing store. What was that experience like for you?
Generally, it is a static experience. You seek out products without much information to back up your decisions. You spend an enormous amount of time looking for clothes and trying them on. Most of the time, it is an inconvenient process. Because of this, most people have shifted to purchasing products online which has left physical retailers scrambling. Yet, retail brands still have a few tricks up their sleeves.
Brands like Lacoste, Holition, and Timberland have begun using Augmented Reality (AR) to increase consumer interactivity during their shopping experience. Lacoste created an AR app called LCST which you can use to virtually try on shoes and interact with window displays and other store signage. Holition even created a “blended reality” mirror that allows you to try on make-up and other beauty products digitally. Timberland uses this AR technology in their window displays to show what you would look like in their latest winter clothing.
86 percent of consumers say they want in-store technology to help them visualize products on themselves pre-purchase. This represents an incredible opportunity for brands to distinguish themselves amongst the competition and maybe even help stave off the retail industry apocalypse.
Interactive Experiences and the Ad Apocalypse
To survive, brands need more interactive experiences. The irony is that physical retail brands, which have been pummeled by online sales, are the ones taking the lead in designing more interactive experiences for their consumers. This need for interactive brand experiences has only accelerated in the past year when the “Ad Apocalypse” descended upon the digital marketing industry.
The “Ad Apocalypse” started last year when major brand advertisements began appearing in front of incendiary and terrorist videos on YouTube. The consequences were swift and dire for YouTube. Big brands like Starbucks, Procter & Gamble, McDonald’s, and BBC all pulled their ads from YouTube, costing the platform over $750 million in lost revenue.
Facebook exacerbated the apocalypse when they announced they would be changing their news feed algorithm in response to the “fake news” shared on its site. The algorithm was changed to favor content shared or engaged with by users. This means news articles, which receive far fewer comments and likes, will be supplanted by user-generated content. Your mom’s picture with her cat will get more airtime on your news feed than, say, a news article she shared.
So what does this all mean for brands? They need to get more creative with their approach in light of the changing marketing landscape. Whether it’s digital or not, too many brands are overloading consumers with generic campaigns that fail to inspire anyone outside the marketing boardroom.
Digital Advertising Isn’t Working
There is increasing evidence that digital advertising is not working, and the ad apocalypse has accelerated this line of thinking in the industry. Recent digital marketing studies have shown that people aren’t being influenced by ads anymore, and almost no one clicks digital ads.
Take brands like Procter & Gamble as an example. P&G decided to pull nearly $200 million in digital advertisements from platforms like YouTube in the wake of the ad apocalypse scandal.
Their conclusion? Spending too much on digital advertising is a huge waste. P&G looked at their digital advertising metrics and saw they were not getting value out of their ad dollars.
New studies show that search companies like Google greatly exaggerate the effectiveness of digital advertising. One study with eBay showed that heavy internet users were not any more likely to purchase a product after seeing a search ad. These users were already going to purchase, and they were shown redundant ads which added nothing to their experience.
A few culprits stick out when examining why digital ads have fallen out of favor.
- Boring Ad Formats
The static “banner” formats from the early days of the internet have not evolved at all. As people have grown with the internet, people have gone blind to most banner ads, thus reducing their effectiveness.
- Low Click-Through Rates
Industry-wide click-through rates dipped to less than 0.1 percent in 2017. Consumers simply do not engage with ad content like they did during the internet’s early years. Some have even wondered if clicks matter at all.
Consumers have become so blasé about internet advertising that there is an entire industry dedicated to blocking ads. Nearly 25 percent of US internet users have an ad-blocker running, which means digital ads are even less effective than most realize.
- Savvy Consumers
Consumer behavior evolved as the internet matured. Just as people changed their ad-watching behavior with the advent of Netflix and digital streaming, people have also begun to see digital advertisements differently. Today, consumers are better at discerning between authentic content versus advertising content.
- Advertiser Fraud
The recent Cambridge Analytica scandal emphasized how digital ads can be taken advantage of and used dishonestly. This erosion of trust has reduced consumer confidence in advertisements and ad-serving entities like Facebook and Google.
- Irrelevant Ads
When it comes to ad servers like Facebook, the old “chicken and egg” question applies: Was the consumer influenced by the served ad to purchase an item, or were they already going to purchase the item despite the ad? Often, people purchase an item only to see advertisements across the internet for that very item, post-purchase.
How Can Advertisements Become More Creative and Interactive?
Brands seem to be losing value for the money they spend on advertising. It’s no longer effective to push your brand message further, wider, and louder, as was the case of Facebook and YouTube. These banal advertising campaigns based on previous consumer behavior are quickly becoming a losing (and dangerous) strategy. How can brands change their strategy to align with consumers’ current behavior?
Brands should be thinking about how to create more excitement through the customer journey. Consumers aren’t looking for brands to define their journeys—they want brands to design experiences that help create their own journeys. It’s all about the “why” for consumers when it comes to purchasing a brand’s products.
Brands have a few different strategies at their disposal to put themselves ahead of their competitors. They can create “gamified” experiences that turn the mundane aspects of life into interesting tasks that fulfill our desire for achievement and reward. If you have a brand based on creative content (movies, TV shows, books, etc.), you can create branded playgrounds where consumers physically experience your medium. Think Disneyland or The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. High-tech tools like VR, as we talked about before, can have a huge effect on the interactive brand experience and will be a huge force in the future of the digital marketing industry.
The “Ad Apocalypse” was a huge wake-up call for brands. The old method of broadcasting your brand’s message across the internet has become obsolete. In its place, a need for creative and interactive brand experiences has emerged.
To deliver results in this new “post-apocalyptic” age, brands need to create emotionally rewarding moments that have a lasting impact on the consumer. Modern brand trust demands a personal relationship. Instead of relying on ad servers like Facebook and Google to do the leg-work, maybe it’s time for brands to put in the effort to win your trust and bring truth to advertising.