Key Takeaways: CIM Digital Marketing Conference
The CIM Digital Marketing Conference took place online again this year, allowing a greater and more flexible audience than ever before. Over the course of the two days, four speakers presented insight into different areas of digital marketing and what to expect in 2022 and beyond, particularly in a 'post-COVID' society. In this article, we will take a look at what was discussed at the CIM Digital Marketing Conference on Day 1 and Day 2, and summarise some key takeaways to consider about future trends in digital marketing.
Digital advertising trends - Getting the best out of digital in 2022
Hannah Bewley is a senior research manager at IAB UK and offered some key insight at the CIM Digital Marketing Conference into what to expect within digital marketing in 2022. Digital media is by far the largest media type and thus plays a key part in any marketing strategy.
Hannah began by taking a look at the digital advertising landscape. Digital ad spend reached £16.47bn in 2020. However, this was only a 5.2% increase, which is the only period of time since 2009 that there has been single digit growth. With that being said, the growth from 2020-2021 was more significant than ever, which was during the first COVID-19 lockdown that began in March. This was a 49.3% increase over a year on year analysis. It will be interesting to see in April the further changes where there will be upcoming figures on digital ad spend.
IAB conducted research about popular consumer activities called IAB Real Living. The goal was to understand how digital lives have changed and the effect of COVID-19 on digital consumption. The study was split into a quantitative and qualitative section. Part one of the research was a quantitative study of 2000 people with different behaviours during their digital day - such as when they access digital media, how they access it, and what they do with it. The qualitative part of the research goes a little further in depth and takes a look at 27 individuals over a course of 5 days, to learn about their attitudes and habits towards advertisements. These individuals were also passively tracked on 2 of their devices over 2 weeks to see their general activity.
The general public is now constantly connected to digital media, which means that the potential for advertising is limitless. Hannah compared the UK's digital activity between 2015 and 2021 and found that during 2015 there were activity spikes in the morning and and evening, peaking during the evening. Conversely, 2021 digital activity starts slightly later than in previous years, and stays ongoing at a lower level throughout the day. This change demonstrates how COVID-19 has impacted our daily interactions with technology now that there has been a significant increase in people working from home.
There isn't just an increase in time using digital media. The survey participants were revealed to be digital multitaskers. On average, people use 5 different devices a day, showing how technology has been integrated into our lives. The variance of activities have increased too, with online grocery shopping increasing by 36%.
Hannah suggested that it's still too early to know if COVID-19 has changed the way we use digital media permanently, but with that being said, 2 in 5 of the participants in the study said that they were desperate to use fewer screens once COVID-19 becomes less present.
The next section makes the point that the digital engagement mindset has grown. Advertisers have to cater to different customers based on their digital activity. Despite having countless opportunities to advertise, the ad windows available for consumers to show interest is actually too short. The average time that people spend dwelling on a page is 24 seconds on a web browser and 109 seconds on an app before they go elsewhere. While this sounds like a lot, this is a limited window for businesses to create a positive impression - users are not hanging around for long, and therefore this time is usually not spent looking at advertisements.
The results showed that during breakfast and lunch hours, gaming experienced a peak in activity, whereas in the late evening digital audio had a significant peak. This gives insight as to where people’s attention is and how advertisers can cater to that audience. For example, gaming is a highly immersive activity, and therefore ads should not be intrusive or take away from the experience if they seek to encourage clicks.
It's not just advertisers who have the digital expertise - consumers now have a more sophisticated understanding of digital adverts, and therefore also have greater expectations. 61% of people accept online advertisements as a reasonable trade to be able to use free online services. However, people are now more picky about the things that they like or dislike about advertisements, which steps up the standards that advertisers have to achieve.
Consumers want some degree of agency. In addition, they expect there to be a reasonable frequency cap, to have the ability to skip advertisements, and that advertisements should not be intrusive and invade their space.
So what does this all mean for marketing? With the increase of digital usage, there's a corresponding increase in the potential for advertisements. However, the general public is now better adjusted to technology and therefore have their own expectations in place. While there is definitely a growth in opportunity to be grabbed by advertisers, the standards have raised and customer experience has to be considered at all stages of the advertising strategy process.
Neuromarketing - How to tap into the customer's thoughts
The next speaker at Day 1 of the CIM Digital Marketing Conference, Katie Hart, took a different approach to marketing through neuroscience and provoked some discussion points that may be even more relevant to marketers in the future.
What is Neuromarketing?
Neuromarketing is the application of neuroscience and cognitive sciences to marketing. Katie has found that most customers don't actually know what they want, as 95% of decision making is unconscious, meaning we don't know why we make those decisions. This becomes a staggering statistic when you consider that we have 30,000-50,000 thoughts per day, and 95% of those are the same as thoughts from yesterday. The idea is that there's a lot going on in your brain and far more than you could recall in a qualitative study - the power of neuroscience is being able to understand that 95% of your thoughts you could not analyse otherwise.
Heuristics are shortcuts that your brain makes based on processes you have carried out before. Katie demonstrated live that when you cross your arms one way and then try to cross them the other way, it can actually be quite difficult. Trying to go against the unconscious processes that are second nature to your brain shows that there's a lot going on that you don't actually think about.
A large part of neuroscience is the usage of EEGs to measure brain activity. EEGs are very precise and can record 1000 measurements per second. Being able to have this quantity of results means that the analysis can be a lot more targeted. Part of neuromarketing is connecting this to how consumers receive different stimulants. For example, Katie found that consumers reaching a broken page on a website would lose engagement permanently, even if they continued to use the website. This tells marketers that broken pages are to be avoided at all costs, as the damage it causes to prospects is likely permanent and will have an impact on conversions.
Another example was that by changing the order of a menu, a canteen was able to increase healthy consumption of foods available by 28% due to the order that the brain processes information. So what does neuromarketing offer marketers? We can't always trust our customers to deliver the most accurate response when prompted, however unconscious actions or EEG results are a lot more accurate in finding out more about what customers' needs and expectations are. FMRI equipment will only become more accessible to everyone as time goes on, so we can expect neuromarketing to become a bigger component to marketing in the future.
Latest trends in digital Marketing
Successful brand growth begins with knowing who your target audience is. Daniel Rowles, the CEO of Target Internet, began by saying that one of the greatest powers of marketing is to understand the user journey as this will help businesses understand how they can promote their brands digitally. He encourages listeners not to follow statistics simply for what they state, but instead to think about why they have changed over time.
What are the types of content and what place do they have in digital marketing?
Hero content is defined by Daniel as top tier content that everyone should strive towards. This could be a blog post that in 5 years' time is still driving traffic to your website. This has the highest return on investment as the work you put into this content will give you ongoing traffic even after the peak of interest. Hub content follows trending activity and strives to become hero content. Unfortunately, as time goes on there is less and less hero content as hub content dies out quite quickly.
There is a growth in the amount of content being posted online, however the quality of that content is on the decline, and this is not likely to change. Hygiene content is regularly created content that is designed to cater to your target audience and show that you're an active business. While not the most exciting or groundbreaking content for SEO and audience impact, this is certainly an important factor to keep on top of competition. Daniel suggests that marketers should aim to do less, but do better. As the general digital content trend is towards a decrease in quality, the better content you can output, the more traffic you will receive to rise above the crowd.
He also stresses that different content types should be used to cater to as many types of user as possible. Some people are video-orientated and would prefer to watch something rather than read. Instead of simply posting a link on social media to a written piece, try creating a short a video that talks about your blog topic that could bring in more of an audience. So how do we improve content? Daniel suggests aiming for making your content 10x better, as any less won’t have a significant effect and therefore doesn't justify the time spend on it.
- Gain insight - do research into what your audience wants to see from you.
- Consider what makes a successful page unique. What is your page missing that a large competitor has?
- Format and presentation should be flawless and easy to look at and navigate.
- Evaluate SEO impact. What are you doing to make sure you're at the top of the search engine results page (SERP)?
As with most digital areas, marketing is increasingly being influenced by AI technology. There are a variety of ways marketers can use AI to optimise their content, but how does your audience feel about this? There is currently an increasing brand suspicion among consumers, and businesses should aim to be trustworthy to their audience. For example, 76% of Instagram influencers hide ad disclosures in their posts. While this is currently legal as long as it is included in the post somewhere, is this ethical? Daniel suggests that brands must emphasise a focus on owning relationships and building their community.
Brands should talk to their customers, ask open-tailed questions that allow qualitative feedback to help them understand what people like in order to better themselves and improve their products. Daniel encourages brands to 'show themselves' - allow customers to connect a brand with a face, as this humanises a brand and makes customers more comfortable and willing to trust you.
Analytics are constantly changing, and everyone will have to move from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 soon. GA4 is being planned around the privacy-focused future where third-party cookies are banned and will use machine learning to paint a picture of visitor behaviours where there is no data available that would usually be collected by cookies. While there are no plans to stop Universal Analytics, it's worth considering that GA4 is making its move to build around the future, and we can expect Universal Analytics to be stopped at some point. Even so, there is no need to rush, and using both pieces of software side by side is a good place to be right now.
Analytics don't tell you the whole story. When looking at analytics, ask yourself why there is a difference or trend towards certain behaviours. An example of this is reformatting a website and finding that people spend longer on your homepage. While that sounds great in principle, it could actually be a sign of confusion where people may not be able to find the page they're looking for. Daniel uses the example of Microsoft Clarity as a piece of software that can record on-site activity such as dead clicks and excessive scrolling. Software like this allows you to investigate how people behave on your website, how they go about completing their task, and any of the difficulties they encounter during it. An excessive amount of dead clicks could be related to a misleading image that looks like it has a link attached to it, or it could be people copying and pasting that image.
Daniel concludes by saying that marketers should aim to focus around the user journey and optimise this experience as that is the most targeted we can be. He adds that by having just 5 people doing usability tests, 85% of your website's problems can be revealed.
What’s new in search engine marketing?
Ann Stanley, founder and CEO of Annica Digital outlined that there are four key digital marketing channels which form the acronym POET:
- Paid - Paid searches, display, shopping ads and so on are a key method of digital marketing and work around an investment in order to increase incoming traffic.
- Owned - Optimising your websites for SERPs, email lists, webinars and events require your own assets to further draw in an audience as well as keep your current audience engaged.
- Earned - Traditional and digital PR, social media and marketing are just some of the examples of ways you can earn customers.
- Technical - Analytics, voice search, AI and machine learning are some areas of technical digital marketing.
First organic results are not high up on the results page. They are underneath text and shopping ads which actually means the organic click-through-rate is only 50% on desktops, and an even lower 22% on mobile. In September 2021, Google's search engine market share was 86.3%. It is slowly increasing every year, whereas the search engines such as Yahoo and Bing are reducing in activity. Although Google has the majority of the market share, using other advertisement software such as Bing ads will mean that your brand is spread across multiple search engines. duckduckgo.com also uses Bing ads which is increasing in popularity in recent years.
Even if it requires you to pay money, Ann states that getting found in SERPs is the best way to attract attention to your brand. Building your brand is what increases direct traffic and searches but it's important to note that some sectors have more paid searches than others, where the competition may be more intense. However, she also outlined that even if someone searches for your brand directly, it is quite likely that they won't make it to your website. With the amount of advertisements, often your traffic can be stolen. Google also has a Q&A section on the results page that can mean your click-through-rate doesn't rise, even if your content is found in that Q&A section and helps to resolve their query. An important thing to consider about your marketing is that social media actually drives very little traffic, despite social media still being a really important part of increasing brand awareness and can be responsible for future organic searches.
Search engine optimisation is based off three categories:
- Off-page - These are actions taken that are not based on your website that will increase your SERP rankings, such as creating direct links.
- On-page -The more direct side of making sure your webpage is optimised for specific keywords, as well as basics such as careful formatting and text alignment.
- Technical - Being able to optimise your website to be faster and easier to crawl. Technical SEO links in with on-page SEO as it's about making your own webpage function well.
The Google algorithm rates your webpage based on three measurements, and having a good score on each of these will improve your SERP ranking.
Largest contentful paint
The time that it takes for the largest piece of content to load on a page. This is usually the main part of the webpage, and therefore it's important for that item to load quickly so that users aren't left with a blank screen or sub-information.
First input delay
How long it takes the site to react to the first click of a button. This essentially measures how responsive the site is. If a site has a long input delay, it will be unresponsive and therefore frustrating to use.
Cumulative layout shift
The visual stability of the site. Do the elements shift around as the site loads? If elements are moving as the content loads, it is very likely that someone will accidentally click something else such as an advertisement which can detract from the user experience.
Recent and upcoming digital marketing changes
duckduckgo.com reached 100 billion searches. duckduckgo has increased in popularity significantly and shows how users are beginning to care about their privacy when browsing online. This could shape how search engines will adjust to function in the future. DDG had a significant growth during 2020 which is likely due to the increase of digital usage, along with users becoming more aware of being tracked online.
Yoast has launched their Shopify application. This is significant as support for Shopify shows that there is a greater emphasis on e-commerce. The growth of Shopify during the pandemic has been huge and this is now a more significant market to play around.
Google Page Experience ranking will roll out to desktops in 2022. Google Page Experience looks at how users experience interacting with a webpage outside of its pure informative value. It uses a set of criteria called page experience signals where the ranking of the webpage will increase if they are all scoring highly. Adding Google Page Experience to desktop will ensure that websites that are highly ranked on search engines are running smoothly and increase priority towards well optimised websites.