Customer Acquisition Beyond Search and Social

October 26, 2021, 04:10
By Steven Poss

Our recent Ad Age panel focused on direct-to-consumer (DTC) customer acquisition strategies beyond search and social, an especially timely topic recently. We heard from three major challenger brands, Hippo, Blume and Thistle, about their unique marketing efforts, in addition to how their overall approach to customer acquisition has been impacted by the pandemic.

When it comes to challenger brands, marketing is an invaluable tool to reach consumers in direct and personalized ways. Andrea Collins, VP of Marketing at Hippo, shared that she sees the pandemic as the Great Equalizer among legacy and challenger brands. Due to the fact that consumer behavior has shifted so dramatically, it became impossible for brands to leverage the same marketing strategies and still expect the same results. This leveled the playing field when it came to learning how to evolve strategically to effectively communicate with audiences in this new reality. 

Aaron Magness, CMO at Thistle echoed this thought and added that he enjoyed the shift as it forced brands to take a step back to focus on truly providing value to their customers and strengthening the voice of their brand in order to stand out in a crowded market. 

Here are some additional key takeaways from this insightful conversation.

Using customer data to drive marketing strategy

With the looming death of third-party cookies, it seems that first-party data has become more important than ever for brands and their marketing efforts. Many believe it has become the most important currency for marketers trying to understand who their customers are and how they behave. Working with a partner that helps leverage your first-party data to more accurately identify and reach customers in the most cost efficient way is a necessary step in this current advertising landscape. 

There is also the notion of ‘zero-party data’ that has emerged throughout the pandemic. This refers to the data that you get directly from customers such as surveys, rather than  data that is collected on their behalf. This data is extremely important to understanding the customer’s wants and needs, ultimately helping drive consumer-first marketing efforts. All of the marketers on the panel mentioned the importance of communicating more directly with their customers as it helps to more accurately inform product innovation and strategy. 

Cutting edge technology solutions for acquisition 

Magness noted that not all consumers are equal in terms of potential investment and engagement with your brand. Even if they look very similar to the group you’re already targeting and your current customers, it doesn’t mean they are just as likely to be a customer. So while you’re wasting impressions trying to convert them, you could be missing out on valuable, not-so-obvious, customers that are actually much more likely to convert and become a champion of your brand. Using partners that can intelligently identify these customers by leveraging technology like deep learning AI has become especially valuable over the last few years as major changes in consumer behavior have occured. 

At Cognitiv, we use custom deep learning algorithms and apply them to the world of programmatic to help marketers discover new prospects, while intelligently and dynamically bidding on consumers based on conversion probabilities in real time. If one prospect has a higher probability of converting, they shouldn’t be priced the same as someone less likely to convert. Sophisticated partners, tech and tools allow marketers to use their budgets more efficiently, make smarter decisions, and acquire valuable customers that they may not have thought to target in the past. 

Marketing diversification 

Another realization that many marketers had over the last 20 months is that it’s important not to over rely on any single partner to reach consumers. This was highlighted further during the recent Facebook apps outage where businesses all around the world lost money and campaign control due to not being able to reach billions of consumers on the world’s most used social networking and messaging apps. 

The need to distribute budgets across channels in order to learn the most about your consumers is key to any successful marketing strategy.  Relying solely on one channel or platform is going to limit your marketing effectiveness due to the fact that you’re going to miss out on tons of consumers that, based on their past behaviors, historically discover brands through different channels or by other means. Diversification will only help strengthen your marketing mix and allow channels to mutually benefit from each other’s success.

Final thoughts

While the panel had a focus on customer acquisition for DTC brands, there were helpful insights that can apply to almost all brand marketing strategies. Using customer data to drive strategies, leveraging cutting edge technology, and diversifying your marketing can be a great way to reach and retain customers. Marketers that are already tapping into these tactics are most likely leaps and bounds ahead of the competition when it comes to connecting with their audiences and understanding the journey of each customer. 

Steven Poss, Business Development, Cognitiv

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