Digital Marketing and ROI – Attract, Retain and Convert

    November 4, 2008


“psst… Hey buddy, ya wanna chant a mantra?”

I have a simple three word mantra that cuts to the heart of successful website promotion. If you are ever asked to describe the essence of digital marketing in three words, use these ones. Attract, Retain, Convert.

The search and Internet marketing sector has been a defining presence in the digital marketing space for over a decade. Most search marketing firms of note have been around long enough to understand the digitalization of all things media. For advertisers, the media is the medium in that its the places advertisers spread their messages.

What used to be the media; billboards, handbills, newspapers, radio and television is now (or soon to be), every surface imaginable. Four years ago, my father treated me to a Blue Jays game at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. Our first-base line tickets gave us a great view of the left-field outfield fence in which a series of massive screens scrolled through ads. These screens were embedded in the outfield fence and built to take the punishment of a 225lb athlete running headlong into them in pursuit of a long fly ball. Even more interesting, the ads tended not to repeat themselves. They were being drawn from what must have been a massive database of digital messages.

We are rapidly moving towards the digital personalization of advertising, much like Google and Yahoo! serve text ads based on user behaviours. A few years from now when you are waiting for a bus, the digital access device you’re using might be fed ads generated by your personal proximity to that particular bus stop. Imagine if those screens at Rogers Centre could be programmed that way. Now, imagine if the ads in the bus or on the subway changed based on the proximity of unique observers. The proximity of web-capable devices sending specific consumer information to the database of ads. Heck, if Google can do it for web surfing, why can’t the digital signal providers do it for subscribers? They can and in some baby-step ways they already are. Digital advertising is increasingly relying on the laws of proximate attraction.

Attraction, Digital Marketing and ROI
The first law of digital marketing is the law of attraction. Because digital marketers know far more about their prospective audience than traditional marketers did, it is far easier to put messages in front of consumers who are truly interested in the product being advertised. It is also far easier for those consumers to find information about products through search engines and social media.

In traditional media channels, the onus was on the advertisers to create compelling images and copy to attract the attention of consumers. That part of the equation has not changed. What has changed is the number of channels or venues available to marketers in a digital age, and how marketers are better able to use consumer information to push messages to consumers.

On the Internet, well designed websites, social media campaign and destination pages are essential to providing an attractive, compelling and generally helpful environment for the consumer to visit. Online advertisers have a larger tool chest available to them to craft and deliver their messages. The art of attraction is actually easier today than ever before though the number of attractive options for advertisers can appear to be overwhelming. Because digital marketing is far less expensive than traditional marketing, a lower investment of hard dollars is required for entry thus making a return on that investment simpler to realize.

Retention and ROI in Digital Marketing
Attraction is one thing, retention is quite another. Digital marketers have one major disadvantage not faced by their traditional media predecessors. In a digital age, the attention span of consumers has declined precipitously. Internet consumers have become conditioned to receiving the information they are looking for instantly and have no problem moving from one website to another to find it.

For digital marketers, this presents design and layout concerns in that we have less time to get the meat of a message to the consumer than in print or even on television. Retention of that attention span is incredibly important.

Have you ever noticed the increasing number of simple games appearing in banner ads or on websites? How about flashy video, moving avatars or audio ads triggered by a page visit? These are all methods used to capture and retain a site visitor’s attention. If you can keep them for five seconds (as the common thinking goes), you can keep them for minutes at a time. Minutes of undivided attention, however rare that might be, is not what we’re aiming at. What we want is for site visitors to find reasons to keep coming back to our clients’ sites. Unique visitor retention is a key to changing a visitor into a convert, someone who performs a useful task (like buying something) on a website.

Conversion and ROI
There are three parts to a typical sale; the opening, the offer and the close. In a digital environment, attraction is the opening, retention is the offer and conversion is the close. What constitutes a “conversion” is unique to the goals of any given website but the general definition is, “… making a website visitor perform specific tasks.” Those tasks might be the purchase of an item, a sign-up for a program, the offer of their email address or even clicking through to view another message. Whatever the goals, it is the job of digital marketers to motivate the site visitor to take the action that creates the conversion.

Good search and Internet marketers understand that design and usability are key components in creating conversions. Offering attractive information is great but less than useful if there is no compelling Call to Action present on the page or if those calls to action are not seen by site visitors. Experienced digital marketers are very good at crafting clever calls to action and designing web documents to feature those calls as prominently as possible. In a digital environment, conversions are the bottom line, the part of the equation in which a true return on investment is realized.

Attract, Retain, Convert
Digital marketing is the way it is. In the coming years, what we see as traditional advertising channels will be fed by digital databases. Given the difficult economic conditions faced by businesses around the world at this time, finding methods of communicating with consumers that offer easily measured and highly accurate analytics is the key to seeing actual returns on dollars invested in advertising. Search and Internet marketing are the fastest growing advertising channels for a reason. Because the entry costs are low and the consumers businesses want to reach are using digital devices more than traditional media (print, radio and television), online advertisers using search and social media are finding far stronger returns on investment.

All media is now digital. To sum up; we see the future and it is us.