Rules for online ads across channels

For online advertisers who are also retail merchants, giving customers a consistent, positive experience at each online touch point is critical to the development of brand, customer base and revenue.

Whether shoppers connect with a seller through a branded e-commerce site, a network of affiliates, a comparison-shopping portal or a transactional online marketplace such as, each exposure to product and brand is a chance to bolster the customer relationship.

Online retailers looking to optimize and scale the performance of their data feed marketing campaigns across disparate channels face ongoing challenges involving technical infrastructure, business processes and marketing performance. Merchants who overcome these obstacles stand to gain greater attachment of products and offers on ad channels, greater product exposure, higher click-through rates and better conversion through more qualified clicks.

Consistent marketing across online points of presence begins with a common source of product authority. At scale, online retailers may rely on the combination of e-commerce catalogs, warehouse management systems and dedicated content or catalog management systems to manage product titles, descriptions, price points, brands, manufacturers, keywords, categories and detail page URLs.

Generating complete, error-free ad copy from these systems requires that the expected fields for each ad channel are mapped to a single, definitive source, if one exists, and supplemented with new product metadata as required.

A predictable source for each descriptive field helps ensure accurate cross-channel ads even as content evolves, as new products are introduced, prices change and merchandising offers are published.

As content is edited or appended to support specific ad platforms, it is important to retain unmodified base catalog content for the purposes of A/B testing and roll-back capability even in cases where new content is generated for channel-specific fields. Once reliable data sources are established, product data are integrated into ad copy through a process of cleaning and transformation.

A template-based approach to content transformation helps merchants generate unique per-SKU ad copy at scale even when catalog size exceeds millions of SKUs.

Timeliness and precision are important drivers of relevance for any online advertiser. Timeliness is a function of efficiency in editing the product content and merchandising offers reflected in ad copy as well as the automated delivery of ad copy across channels.

Merchants can improve editing turnaround time by using formula-based, bulk editors to override product data fields. More advanced text and XML editing tools provide additional control as needed for single SKUs and small assortments. Scheduled transport of timely ad content to multiple channels is made easier in light of the ongoing technology shift toward structured XML Web services, which support better auditing and transaction integrity.

Precision in retail advertising means grouping and optimizing ads by performance characteristics of the SKUs they represent and updating ad content based on dynamic product characteristics. For example, it may be appropriate to promote limited-inventory products with ads that note the quantity on-hand in the ad copy itself.

Also, made practical with the advent of automated content management tools, discount coupon offers can be promoted through ads that convert the most profitable products within the catalog while full-price offers promote lower-margin SKUs.

Because each online marketing channel is a proxy for the consumer shoppers it supports, A/B and multivariable testing across product SKUs and offers is necessary to reach each channel’s potential.

Performance gains are possible and expected long after the first set of ads is published. To realize ROI despite rising noise levels from competitors, ensure that you populate all optional as well as required data fields for each ad channel. Seek to automate product syndication across the greatest number of marketing channels, refining product assortments and ad copy regularly to capitalize on the unique performance profile of each.

Many online marketplaces accept product feeds every 15 minutes. To keep costs low and maximize scalability, insist that your ad agency or in-house marketing team integrate advertising tools directly with your product catalog and e-commerce infrastructure.

Integrating accurate, relevant and quality catalog content into your ad campaigns will help you reach more qualified shoppers and deliver a better customer experience, resulting in lower costs of acquisition and higher customer lifetime value.

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