Implementing a Full Funnel Strategy

When we think about measurement strategies, especially with a full funnel approach, it’s not always a direct path from plan to implementation. So, what comes next once you’re on board with a full-funnel strategy? It’s not enough to just check the boxes of various funnel stages to make sure you have a presence in each part of the consumer journey, from upper to lower funnel. It’s vital to think through the user experience and how your brand interacts with new, prospective, and existing customers when developing the framework. As you’re working toward a full funnel approach, here are a few things I like to think about during the measurement planning process as it relates to how you’re showing up for users. 

Creative Messaging

Messaging can and should be different for users depending on where they’re at in their journey and their relationship with your brand. It’s a crucial piece of the puzzle to pay attention to the messaging you’re serving to new vs. existing customers. A new customer needs to be exposed to a different experience with advertising than a repeat customer that is already brand loyal. Similarly, creative messaging for retargeting is going to be served to an audience that was already exposed to your previous messaging or took a certain action, so you should speak to them differently with ads that are tailored to a lower funnel conversion that is highly relevant to that user. 

Market Share

Along the same lines of creative messaging, it’s key to understand your brand’s market share if you have a local or regional presence across various markets. You shouldn’t have the same rinse-and-repeat strategy that is a blanket approach across those markets, especially if you’re introducing your brand to new locations. If you hold the highest share among your competitors in certain areas, your channel and measurement strategy should be different from markets that have a lower level of awareness for your brand. Brand awareness studies can be a great way to keep a pulse on this.  

Landing Page Experience

Once you get users to your website, how are they experiencing it? I like to go through my clients’ landing pages from a consumer point of view during the planning process to make sure that experience is seamless. If we’re asking users to fill out a form, but that form is buried five pages deep within the website, you’ll struggle to get conversions. The URL that your ads lead to should be reflective of what you’re asking customers to do in your creative messaging, which will ultimately lead to a positive user experience – a win-win for everyone!

Journeys Are Not Linear

With all this being said, a key consideration of the user journey and developing a full-funnel strategy is that the customer journey is not linear. We often visualize and present the journey as a top to bottom, one-time process, but it’s more of a continuous (and sometimes indirect) path. Customers don’t all behave the same way because no two customers are the same, making things a bit more unpredictable. But this is all the reason to show up for customers no matter what part of the journey they may be in, which is why full-funnel strategies are so beneficial. By casting a wider net at the top of the funnel to promote awareness, you’re priming that audience to hopefully turn into long-term customers.

Take note that this doesn’t necessarily mean that only certain tactics can be used to drive awareness, while others can only drive sales. Any tactic could find a place within any stage of the journey, but a good media partner will use research and past learnings as a foundation to develop a channel and tactical strategy that works best for a given client and campaign, and will know where and how to use certain tactics as part of a full-funnel approach so your paid media is working as hard as it can to achieve your objectives. Everything we do at True Media is rooted in data and research so we’re bringing the best recommendations to the table for our clients, which also means every media plan we develop is different. 

Taking all of the above into consideration, this is why it’s so important that creative teams and media teams work together as early as possible in the planning process. These teams are often thought of as separate entities, but both of these teams should be talking to each other at every step of the way to ensure the process is seamless and that creative and media are cohesive. And when the time comes to report on campaign success and performance, everyone will know what that success ties back to because you’ve had a solid measurement framework in place from the very start.

About the Author

Anna Rice, Client Strategy Supervisor

Anna leads strategy and planning for a variety of clients at True Media to promote innovation and drive business results through integrated marketing campaigns.

The Importance of a Full Funnel Strategy

“Do I really need awareness in my media strategy when my only focus is getting conversions?”

This is a question I’ve heard over and over from a variety of clients, no matter the industry or brand. And to be honest, it’s a valid question. If you already have an established customer base, or you have no apparent issues with brand awareness, why would you want to put dollars behind upper funnel tactics when you can reach repeat customers or people that already know about you, and see results quickly? 

To answer this question, we need to take a step back and think about measurement and how the customer journey plays a role in that. As an agency, we ground our thought process in understanding what success looks like to our clients, and how that ladders up to our clients’ business goals. Aligning on goals and objectives upfront allows us to develop a stronger measurement strategy that we use as our source of truth throughout the lifetime of the campaign to measure success, but even more importantly it holds our teams accountable and ensures we’re driving the best possible results for our clients and spending their money effectively. Our goal is to develop a measurement strategy with channel objectives and tactical key performance indicators (KPIs) that fully support the business goal and will ultimately move the needle for our clients. Understanding what key action we want users to take will help us get there.

Once we understand what success looks like from the perspective of measurement, let’s go back to the original question. If you’re trying to drive lower funnel activity and encourage users to take action against your business goal, you could very well allocate 100% of your budget to capture the low hanging fruit of an existing customer base. This will garner short-term success by quickly converting users that already have some level of brand awareness. However, as time goes on and you cycle through those users, your cost-per-action (CPA) will eventually rise. If you’re looking for long-term results, finding the right new customers to begin the journey allows you to build new relationships that will continue to feed the lower funnel.

The visual below showcases how pure sales activation efforts lead to short term results with a continuous yo-yo effect, while brand-building efforts result in more sustainable, long-term sales growth over time.

The next visual explains how as you go further up the funnel, those long-term brand-building effects are more apparent.

Incorporating brand-building tactics into your upper funnel strategy doesn’t always have to mean utilizing high-budget channels, though, like traditional broadcast or out-of-home. Awareness can be accomplished in a variety of ways, like utilizing targeted, cost-efficient connected TV or a non-branded paid search campaign. The key is that the media plan is supported by data and research based on audience behavior and media consumption, and has clearly defined KPIs to optimize toward and measure success along the way. Strategy should be thoughtful and have solid rationale to support it, as opposed to making your best guess based on assumptions and hoping it works.

This is the essence of a full-funnel approach, but our work here isn’t done just yet. It’s not enough to simply have each stage of the funnel present in your media plan to check the boxes of awareness, consideration, conversion, and everything in between. Cross-channel optimization is vital to tying your strategy together, as well as understanding how each channel plays off of and impacts the others. Is your audience Googling your brand or product after they hear an ad on Spotify? Does organic traffic increase after users see an ad on Hulu with a QR code that drives to your website? These types of learnings all provide insight into correlation and attribution of your media, and can help develop test and learn strategies that allow you to pivot and optimize as the campaign progresses.

We were able to put the above into practice for a Global Fortune 500 company that was focused on generating leads from small business owners by proving the correlation between a decrease in upper- and mid-funnel ad spend and an increase in cost-per-acquisition (CPA). As indicated below, a decrease in awareness-level spend resulted in lower average order revenue and smaller intent-level pools to drive to conversion.

Sound funnel strategy with this campaign led to a 6.5% increase in daily site visitors and delivered over 60,000 attributable visits with an estimated value of over $1 million.

About the Author

Anna Rice, Client Strategy Supervisor

Anna leads strategy and planning for a variety of clients at True Media to promote innovation and drive business results through integrated marketing campaigns.

True Media Appoints New President for U.S. Operations

Ad Industry Veteran Executive Chris Actis to Lead True Media Across Four Offices, Build Agency Growth

Effective immediately, industry veteran Chris Actis joins our six-office media firm with responsibilities for all operations across Columbia, MO; St. Louis, MO; Kansas City, MO and Minneapolis, MN. The appointment follows transition planning which has been underway for some time and the amicable resignation of Preston Waller, who has stepped down to pursue other opportunities of both a personal and professional nature.

Actis brings extensive industry, agency, client-side and international management experience to the role, arriving at a time of continued growth for the Columbia-based network of media strategy, digital and programmatic agencies across four U.S. locations (plus two Canadian offices in Calgary and Toronto.) He takes the reigns following revenue growth of 20% from 2020 to 2021 and a 13% increase in personnel following both organic client growth and new business acquisitions.

“Job number one for me at True is to continue building on the incredible momentum and smart growth, we’ve seen year-on-year,” says Chris Actis, president, True Media U.S. “It’s also a tremendously forward-focused time for the agency. We’re evolving our service offerings across every client strategy and service sector, introducing the next evolution of the True brand and are being asked to the table of an increasing number of real, industry-defining brands – and winning. I’m excited to help our teams across all four U.S. offices continue to integrate with our Canadian offices under the leadership of my counterpart Bruce Neve to pull together and reimagine what media agencies can do today.”

Actis brings 20 years of international and U.S. agency leadership experience to his new role. He spent five years in Asia, as president of Mediacom’s China agency as well as president and managing director at Neo, Ogilvy’s performance marketing agency, headquartered in Hong Kong. Beyond management duties, at Mediacom he also oversaw strategic growth, evolution and scaling of FMCG’s media investment in the complex and enormous Chinese digital marketplace. At Neo he led the strategic direction, business operations, product and innovation roadmap, growth strategy and overall media investment for performance marketing clients.

“We’re at a significant juncture in our business growth at True Media,” says Jack Miller, CEO True Independent Holdings (parent company to True Media). “But we’re not interested in growth for its own sake and we hire talent accordingly. Chris is one of those rare industry success stories that truly brings together incredible international and big brand leadership with a deft client service touch and the ultimate, boots on the ground leadership to guide and mentor our teams during exciting times.”

Actis was most recently president at Kruskopf and Co. in Minneapolis and before that Midwest regional president at Initiative, Interpublic’s global media group in Chicago. He got his start in the industry with agencies including JWT and MRM/McCann as well as at Messner where he was part of one of the industry’s first digital departments.

Six Questions to Consider for a Strong Measurement Strategy

The old adage goes, “you have to spend money to make money.” But as we all know – an important distinction is that you have to spend money wisely to make money. Not all advertisers spend their money in wise ways. Whether that means not being able to attribute success to their channels and tactics to learn and grow or not having a definition of success in the first place.

This is why a strong measurement strategy is key to both short and long term success. Without a clear measurement strategy in place, you may find yourself looking at your campaign in a year (or sooner) wondering what your dollars got you in the first place while having no meaningful results or learnings to show. No matter what you are trying to achieve, clearly defining your measurement plan will allow you to tackle the challenge and make the best, strategic choices for your campaign and ultimately drive business success.

Our teams don’t just develop media plans, we bring in our full selves everyday to stretch our clients’ dollars as far as they can go to achieve their unique goal. We try to think beyond data and technology to challenge the status quo and build upon previous learnings to continue fine tuning every campaign. Measurement is a topic I am extremely passionate about so when I was asked to share how I start every measurement strategy for this blog series, I couldn’t have been more excited to geek out over it. Below are the key steps I take with every measurement strategy that can help you hone your strategies as well.

  1. What are my business and marketing objectives?

If you don’t know the problem you are looking to solve, there is no way to determine the answer. I always encourage my clients to identify both their business and marketing objectives. It is important to do both, as sometimes they are not the same. Sometimes there are multiple steps needed to achieve a business goal, other times media can’t actually be optimized for a particular objective.

Generally, the business goal represents the way a company brings in revenue and/or a grander vision of how they want to see the world. Marketing goals represent the steps your marketing will take to achieve the ultimate business goal.

For example, a business goal may be to drive YoY growth in sales, but you may have three marketing goals such as driving awareness of the brand, driving consideration of the brand, and ultimately driving first time trials of the brand… Again, while you could just focus on final conversions, it is important to consider the entire user journey and how you build demand for your product or service. Focusing only on lower funnel initiatives may prove fruitful at first, but building a strong brand is key for long term growth. The KPIs and tactics you consider for each of these are completely different, so this is the foundation for a good media plan.

  1. What KPIs

Your KPIs (key performance indicators) should directly connect back to your marketing objectives. If you want to drive website sessions or online actions, looking at impressions or CPM as your KPI doesn’t get to the heart of what you are trying to accomplish. Looking at the wrong KPIs can cause you to make decisions that ultimately hurt your business.

I always ask myself, when it comes to my KPIs, what action do I want them to take next? That answer ultimately should become your KPI for each marketing objective. Some goals can be answered directly by media metrics such as sales, sign-ups, and website metrics, but others may be more nuanced and go beyond what media can measure alone. This may be a time you incorporate or invest in advanced measurement. Whether it is a brand lift study, a foot traffic study, or a sales lift study – these studies can help prove out the value of media. We will be dedicating a separate post to advanced measurement later on in our series to help you understand the best times and ways to integrate this type of measurement. 

  1. How will I compare performance across time and channels?

Volume KPIs (impressions, site sessions, sales) have their place, especially when setting goals for your organization. However, it will be important you also establish a metric that is normalized despite the amount of spend/impressions so that you can compare performance. 

For example, let’s say I said search traffic dropped 10% year over year. At first blush, you may think that is a negative thing. But if I followed it up by saying our total search budget decreased by 55% year-over-year, then this paints a very different and positive picture. The same thing can be said as you start comparing differing channels and tactics that have differing costs. So, as you build out your strategy, it will be important to determine how you compare both quantity and quality in your campaigns.

Quantity metrics are generally based around cost (cost-per-X). These are great for measuring efficiency of tactics. This removes spend as a variable (as budgets between tactics or campaigns could vary widely) and compares on more like terms to determine the best use of dollars to drive volume.

Quality metrics on the other hand focus on rates. This could be things such as video completion rate (video completes divided by impressions) or pageview rate (pageviews divided by impressions). This is similar to Quantity metrics in that it compares tactics with both large and small volume in a more similar way. What percentage of the time did the user do the desired action? This is important especially for lead campaigns where driving high quality leads is more important than driving cheap leads that don’t convert.

  1. What performance do I want to see?

Once you know what you want to do and you know how to measure it, the next step is understanding what you will define as “performing well.” Firstly, it is important to understand benchmarks. This is generally defined as the performance baseline and what you can expect to see. Every tactic has different benchmarks, so it is important to take that into consideration.

Going one step beyond benchmarks is setting goals. This is the performance you would love to see in an ideal world. While it is important to set realistic goals that are achievable, this is where we generally push our boundaries and challenge ourselves. This is especially critical for campaigns that are based on conversions, as benchmarks are likely hard to come by, knowing every sale and conversion are different. If you clearly communicate your goals with your agency or team, they will be more likely to deliver results.

  1. How will my creative strategy and media strategy work together?

Creative strategy that mirrors the ultimate media strategy is absolutely critical to media success. At True Media we work with both in house teams and creative agencies to ensure that assets developed follow our measurement strategy. This means that your call to action should be very clear (and directly related to your KPI). This helps ensure the consumer understands what their next step is and has a good user journey and experience.

  1. What is new?

It can be easy to just keep doing the same approach every campaign with the same tactics; however, the media landscape is constantly changing. An approach that worked three years ago (or even 6 months ago) may be outdated, with new measurement solutions and metrics becoming available. This evolution ensures you are on the cutting edge and moving the needle with your marketing dollars. While doing this can take time, in my experience, cookie-cutter plans rarely outperform campaigns that regularly adapt and are custom to an organization’s goals.

This list is by no means exhaustive. Every campaign has its own unique challenges to be met, but no matter the campaign, these six questions can be the start of a strong measurement strategy that will align with business goals and lead to long term success. By defining success and understanding what metrics will indicate success, you can create a wise paid media strategy leading to overall growth for your organization.

About the Author

Kallie Hagerman, Client Strategy Supervisor

Kallie leads strategy and planning for a variety of clients at True Media to promote innovation and drive business results through integrated marketing campaigns.

True Media Awarded Google Premier Partner Status

Columbia, Missouri-based digital agency, True Media, one of the fastest growing media agencies in North America has achieved 2022 Premier Partner status in the Google Partners program.

True Media’s team of experts, across six offices, provides comprehensive media strategy, data analysis and all forms of media buying from traditional to programmatic across six offices in Columbia, MO; Kansas City, MO; St. Louis, MO; Minneapolis, MN; Toronto, ON and Calgary, AB. 

“Only a small percentage of digital and media agencies are awarded Premier Partner status,” said Preston Waller, president, True Media. “While we’re, of course, delighted by the honor and recognition from Google, our real reward comes simply from doing high quality, innovative work with our clients day in and day out. That’s what drives our team.”

This month, Google recognized the achievements of top performing digital marketing partners across the globe by awarding Premier Partner status as part of the new Google Partners program, which was not True Media’s first time receiving the designation – marking a years long commitment to maintaining Premier Partner status.

The Google Partners program has undergone significant changes for 2022, including redefining what it means to be a Premier Partner through new, advanced program requirements and offering new Premier Partner benefits to support growth and success with Google Ads.

“Congratulations to our Premier Partners for being among the top 3% of Google Partners in North America. These companies stand out based on their commitment to developing product expertise, building new client relationships, and helping current clients grow. We look forward to supporting them as they help their customers succeed online.” – Davang Shah, Senior Director, Google Ads Marketing.

True Media is part of a select group of Premier Partners in the Google Partners program. This program is designed for advertising agencies and third parties that manage Google Ads accounts on behalf of other brands or businesses. Its mission is to empower companies by providing them with innovative tools, resources, and support to help their clients succeed and grow online.

True Media was founded in 2005 with a simple mission: creating strategic, innovative and impactful ways to connect clients with their customers in the evolving media landscape. Starting as one office, True is now a network of six locations across North America, delivering best-in-class media and engagement programs, strategic partnerships and a combination of the power of big agency buying with start-up entrepreneurial flair. Each client program is tailored, custom and designed to immediately ignite business results where they matter most.

St. Louis Legacy Media Agency, DICOM, Purchased by True Media

Deal Makes 30-Year-Old Media Buying Agency Part of Fastest Growing Independent Media Groups in North America

St. Louis’ longest running media agency will begin an important new era at the end of January. DICOM Marketing Services, the three-decade-old media buying agency has been purchased, it was announced today, for an undisclosed sum by True Independent Holdings, one of the fastest growing media groups in North America. Following the successful closing of the acquisition on January 31, 2022, DICOM will become part of True Media, the flagship media buying and planning agency within the True holdings group.

Effective February 1, 2022, all DICOM management and employees will join True Media and relocate to the agency’s St. Louis office located in the Westport area. The deal requires no layoffs and will bring the total True Media headcount to over 175 media strategists, planners, analysts and buyers across six offices, including Columbia, MO; Kansas City, MO; St. Louis, MO; Minneapolis, MN; Toronto, ON; and Calgary, AB. DICOM co-founders Jim Steward and Dave Travers will join the new, combined True Media leadership team.

“DICOM has been a recognized name and real force in shaping the media strategies and growth for St. Louis-based companies and other businesses across the Midwest for 30 years,” said Jack Miller, chief executive officer, True Independent Holdings. “Jim, Dave and their whole team have built an enviable reputation for long-term client relationships, stellar service and consistent success. Those are values we obviously share at True Media but beyond that this agreement makes total sense as we strengthen our group of media strategy, analytics and digital agencies to provide even greater value and services to our growing client portfolio.”

DICOM becomes the third agency purchased by True Independent Holdings as part of a nationwide strategy to grow an integrated group of specialty agencies able to offer integrated media strategy, programmatic, analytics and buying services to a growing list of industry leading clients in finance, healthcare, tourism, agriculture, retail, and CPG.  In addition to True Media, the holding group also includes the digital programmatic agency Coegi, recently ranked as one of Adweek’s top 75 fastest growing agencies, and data analytics specialty agency RADaR.

The move also follows the appointment in October 2020 of new True Media president Preston Waller. Waller’s first year saw across the board organic client growth and a focus on senior talent development. In late 2021 appointments included Nisha Chandrashekar, who joins True Media as the firm’s first director of performance media – a new role that highlights True’s focus on driving quantifiable success for all clients. At the same time, True added senior leadership team personnel including Brian Kieser as activation strategy director and Mike Oelhafen as associate media director. 

“We share a common vision for excellence with Jack and his whole team at True Media,” said Jim Steward, partner at DICOM. “But more than that, as we transition over the coming weeks and months, each and every one of our, formerly DICOM, clients will enjoy access to an increased bench of industry-leading talent, national and global capabilities and an even greater ability to negotiate and buy the best media solutions to help their businesses at scale. It’s a win win all-around.”

True Media was founded in 2005 and is the flagship media agency in the True Independent Holdings group. DICOM was founded in 1989. For more information visit truemediaservices.com.

About True Media (www.truemediaservices.com)

True Media was founded in 2005 with a simple mission: creating strategic, innovative and impactful ways to connect clients with their customers in the evolving media landscape. Starting as one office, True is now a network of six locations across North America, delivering best-in-class media and engagement programs, strategic partnerships and a combination of the power of big agency buying with start-up entrepreneurial flair. Each client program is tailored, custom and designed to immediately ignite business results where they matter most.

About True Independent Holdings (www.trueholdinggroup.com)

True Independent Holdings is one of the leading, privately-held, fiercely independent marketing companies in North America. We invest in and help develop other entrepreneurial marketing and communication companies with unique go-to-market strategies. Our portfolio of firms includes some of the industry’s top experts who specialize in targeted marketing and media segments. Collectively, our companies provide marketers with the ability to collaborate and access best-in-class services by leveraging technology, data analytics, and a deep understanding of consumer behavior in order to help grow business for clients. Our structure enables the companies in our portfolio to exist independently, yet collaborate when needed in order to meet client needs. This integrated approach ensures our clients receive more holistic and effective solutions in less time, from true experts.

CROWDPHARM ANNOUNCES PARTNERSHIP WITH TRUE MEDIA

Global best-in-class data and technology with real-time optimization provides deeper, actionable insights 

KANSAS CITY, MO – July 21, 2021 – CrowdPharm, an independent full-service agency with one of healthcare’s largest networks of global talent, announces a strategic partnership with True Media to provide integrated, data-driven media strategy that influences customer behavior. True Media, a subsidiary of True Independent Holdings, is one of the fastest-growing integrated media strategy and communications agencies in North America. 

“Consumers today don’t just expect to receive content seamlessly across all of their preferred media channels—they’re looking for meaning, relevance, and personalization without compromising privacy,” said Preston Waller, President, True Media. “That’s especially true in markets like healthcare and pharma, where consumer experience and the way we market to patients and prospects is changing rapidly.” 

The partnership leverages True Media’s more than 16 years of excellence in data-driven media strategy, audience planning, media activation, and data analytics. The agency analyzes the impact of trends on media and consumer behaviors, in order to best connect brands with the right customers at scale and with accountability. True Media is the only media agency in the Advertising and Marketing Independent Network (AMIN), a global collective of more than 50 entrepreneurial independent agencies across 30 countries. And, as a preferred Google and Facebook partner, True Media is in the top 3% to 5% of global agencies.

“True Media has worked with numerous pharmaceutical and healthcare brands, efficiently breaking down media channels to deliver optimized marketing strategies and highly measurable results,” said Mike Myers, Managing Director and partner, CrowdPharm. “Our clients will benefit from True Media’s proprietary AI platform that tracks both campaign progress and performance efficiency across numerous key performance indicators, including budget and media vehicle, and allows for real-time adjustments.” 

CrowdPharm is built to work both directly with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, and as well as a white label resource for agencies looking to enhance their clients’ brands with fresh global perspectives. The agency’s 3,600+ network members work across 32 time zones to deliver original solutions more efficiently and cost effectively.

About True Media

Founded in 2005, True Media is a media strategy and communications company that specializes in helping corporations determine efficient and effective marketing and advertising plans, including traditional, digital, social and mobile media. With offices in the United States and Canada, True Media develops advertising plans, manages media relationships and conducts media negotiations for some of North America’s most reputable companies. True Media is the flagship media agency within True Independent Holdings one of North America’s leading independent marketing and advertising networks.

About CrowdPharm

CrowdPharm is an independent full-service agency led by industry veterans and fueled by one of healthcare’s largest networks of global talent. This new agency model delivers an abundance of original strategic and creative solutions across time zones and provides a flexible force of talent with experience that spans from startups, orphan products, blockbusters, and primary care. With 3,600+ members across 97 countries, the agency is ready to develop compelling brand communications in healthcare, medical, and pharmaceutical marketing for pharmaceutical and biopharma companies. Visit crowdpharm.com.

Pandemic Effect On Local Marketing

To say that the last 12 to 18 months have been challenging for marketers would be the worst of understatements.  But as optimists who are energized by the ideas of what’s next, we are drawn to the silver linings of the many dark clouds that the pandemic blew our way. As ravaging as the pandemic has been, it has also highlighted many consumer shifts that are already transforming the future of marketing. With local marketing, there have been three major shifts that should be recognized and addressed.

Local Search

From 500%+ growth in “Can I Buy” local mobile searches to 3,000% growth in “Curbside Pickup” and 8,000% growth in “Who Has” or “In stock” searches over the past two years — consumers have shown that their new normal is to ascertain what business have the items they want in the digital space before venturing into a physical location. With Google now identifying almost 50% of all searches as having ‘local intent’ this equates to approximately 28 billion monthly local searches — a staggering amount of opportunities for businesses to connect with consumers.

Consumer Activity

By August of 2020 buy online pick-up in store (BOPIS) grew by 259% year over year, additionally, eight in ten consumers expected to increase their use of this service throughout 2021.  Ecommerce went through about ten years of growth in the last year, powered by immense growth in grocery sales, which now make up 12% of ecommerce sales.  This growth is unprecedented and not likely to slow down anytime soon. Google research shows 67% of consumers plan on confirming an item is in stock this holiday shopping season before visiting a store to make a purchase.  These shifts, this merging of physical and digital retail, has created a new concept: phygital retail.

Local Ranking Factors

Since the advent of local search, the most important local ranking factor has been proximity, how close a given searcher is to a given location. As revealed by the MOZ Local Search Ranking Factor report in 2021, this is no longer the case. For the first time, proximity dropped out of the top spot into third place. The top two spots are now Google My Business (GMB) signals and review signals, meaning for the first time ever the most important ranking factors are those that are most controllable by local businesses. This is one of the most significant shifts in local search and is in line with Google’s overall shift in serving as more of the consumer journey themselves, with the Google SERP serving as a “one-stop” for local searchers.

Key Takeaway

Businesses, regardless of size, need to lean into Google’s changes and take advantage of the new opportunities to influence their ranking.

  • GMB is now just table stakes to play in the local game. Claiming, verifying and optimizing business profiles is no longer an option.
  • Utilize all profile enhancements and attributes available for your business and create a regular schedule of weekly activity: posting photos, update posts, Q&As and offer posts. 
  • For retailers, Google Products (i.e. See What’s In Store) is the most powerful tool to influence your ranking in the local pack. Uploading your inventory to each GMB profile can skyrocket performance

WordPress Proposes Blocking FLoC By Default

Google announced they will be phasing out third-party cookies by 2022, which undeniably seemed like a strange move for Google because they surely wouldn’t want to damage the industry that it dominates and is responsible for the majority of its revenue. Shortly after this announcement, they followed up with their replacement plan, Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC).

What is FloC?

FLoC is a different way of targeting advertisers that is interest-based. Instead of identifying consumers individually, you’re associated with a group of people with shared interests. Google is making this change all in the name of privacy, one of many privacy-based changes that have been made over the last year. With FLoC, an individual’s information is kept private while the browser will look at the history and assign users to specific groups.

WordPress Proposal

WordPress has proposed blocking FLoC on their websites by default. Essentially all website builders have the ability to block this technology with the entry of a few lines of code. The difference is, many people aren’t always aware of these changes when they are happening and simply don’t get around to implementing the code. This would leave the users of their site open to having their data tracked and placed in one of Google’s groups. As of now, this is simply a proposed idea, and WordPress is not expected to be close to a decision.

Why we care?

This would be a huge blow to Google and online advertisers because an estimated 40% of all sites use WordPress. That is a massive share of user behavior that would be lost to advertisers, dramatically impacting the ability to reach potential customers. 

Final Thoughts

The end of third-party cookies is overdue and having a more private internet is definitely important. Google publicly says that FLoC is a step forward in regards to privacy and that may be, but it’s a very small step forward. The biggest issue that comes to mind is the type of cohorts that will be utilized. It’s not difficult to see how this could lead to the exploitation of vulnerable groups of people which is one of the biggest reasons for these changes in the first place. On top of that, if we begin to see other website developers take the same stand as WordPress, advertisers won’t have access to much user data anyways. This comes across as Google pushing back against privacy while saying the opposite. If Google did push forward with FLoC, my belief is that it wouldn’t be long until we see more privacy protection lawsuits and Google is scrambling for a better solution.