Last updated:

In 1994, AT&T ran the first banner ad on the site now known as Wired.com, asking, “Have you ever clicked your mouse right here? You will.” 

Image: Wired

It reportedly had a 44% click-through rate (CTR) — and from there, the digital advertising industry was born.

 Today, the average CTR is somewhere around 0.2%, so the time has long gone since marketers could rely on sheer novelty for clicks. But that’s not to say the format hasn’t evolved in the past 25 years. Programmatic advertising, or the automated buying and selling of online advertising, allows brands to deploy display ads with dynamic content that adapts in real-time to whoever sees the ad and wherever they are in the purchase journey based on predefined parameters.

This isn’t science fiction — it’s digital marketing in 2020, and it starts by segmenting users based on how they interact with your website.

Discovery

New customers are in the discovery phase, which means they are learning about your product or service and whether it suits their needs. As an advertiser, you want to target these customers with ads that increase brand awareness — and eventually, the likelihood they will convert at a later stage. That means providing information about who you are and what your brand stands for — but not directly asking them to buy. They’re not ready yet. Don’t pressure them. That being said, high-performing brand awareness ads can sometimes include promotions to engage new site visitors.

Now is the time to set your brand apart from competitors with bold, engaging, brand-focused ads. HTML5 creative, which has supplanted Flash-based ads as the medium of choice for animation and interactivity, can also help boost clicks. These engaging ads are particularly useful for driving brand awareness. And, where appropriate, pull in review-based data from sites like Trustpilot and Feefo.

Ocean Bottle

Consideration

After awareness, online shoppers move to the education, or consideration, phase. While these customers are technically dubbed low intent because they spend less time on the site and view fewer products, that doesn’t mean this will always be the case. That’s why you should focus your efforts on turning them into high-intent customers as you build brand recognition. However, you still don’t want to be overly aggressive in your targeting strategy yet.

Because these are not customers who have given signals they are ready to buy, you’ll want to use lower calculated bids to avoid needlessly wasting budget, as well as shortened cookie duration windows since the likelihood of a sale diminishes over time anyway. I also recommend using a mix of HTML5 and dynamic ads to ensure the user does not see the same creative repeatedly, resulting in ad exhaustion. It’s hard to win them back after that, so it’s best to avoid it altogether.

Lounge Underwear is a great example of a brand wooing customers with engaging digital ads without a hard sell. With AdRoll, the lingerie brand has created a range of digital ads featuring product scroll, allowing viewers to see an extensive product assortment to better familiarize themselves with the brand — far more than anything you’d see with even a traditional banner ad. Each in-ad product image also includes a call to action, inviting viewers to click through to the brand site and to customize the product for themselves.

Lounge Underwear

Purchase

By the time customers are ready to buy, they’ve surveyed their options and narrowed the field. At that point, they are high-intent users, spending more time on brand websites — and viewing more products. By now, they are also more familiar with brands, products, and services in their desired category and have a higher propensity to convert. This means brands can be a bit bolder in their messaging and nudge those customers closer to conversion. 

To do so, brands should tap into dynamic video ads that keep the audience engaged. Use the opportunity to remind them of the products they have seen before and why they are the right choice.

Pet food brand Lily’s Kitchen encourages in-market consumers to buy with an offer for 20% off and a “Shop Now” button. Similar to Lounge Underwear, the ads feature product scroll. When viewers hover over each product, they see a wealth of information, including price and size, and they can easily click through for even more information — and, of course, to purchase.

Lily’s Kitchen

Loyalty

These customers have bought products before, so the focus of digital advertising is less on awareness and more on seasonal offers and events. These promotional messages serve as reminders to re-engage with the brand. With Adroll’s API, you can easily create retargeting campaigns from more than 30 CRM platforms.

That’s what Lily’s Kitchen seeks to do with its Black Friday messaging. It updated the digital ads we saw above with some seasonal flair. Now, the static block showcases its Christmas Spectacular Holiday Treat for Dogs, while the dynamic features retain the product scroll, the offer for 20% off, and the Shop Now button. The product scroll feature has also been tweaked slightly to encompass more of the brand’s holiday fare, such as its advent calendars for dogs and cats and Christmas Spectacular dog treats. This is a great reminder to existing Lily’s Kitchen customers to stock up on special holiday treats for their dogs and cats.

Lily’s Kitchen

A Better Tactic

Customers are now wise to AT&T’s old tactic to entice viewers to click on banner ads. But, thankfully, 21st-century marketers have other tools up their sleeves to get clicks from consumers who are interested in their products. By implementing a programmatic advertising strategy, advertisers see a far greater success rate by offering sequential messaging unique to individual users based on their customer journey stage. In the end, that’s better for everyone involved — including customers and advertisers.

Jack Keegan
Author

Jack is a New Business Sr. Account Executive at AdRoll.