consumer journey ad tracking

Ad Tracking Defines the Consumer Journey

Ad tracking across devices has empowered marketers with ways to track the full customer journey and its complexities, but ad blocking poses a growing threat.

Ad tracking across devices provides crucial insight into each touchpoint and helps marketers define how customers navigate their path to purchase.

Taking a look at a limited portion of a customer journey can cause headaches. For years, paleontologists argued about whether or not the brontosaurus actually existed as a distinct species because they only had a limited fossil record to look at. Unlike paleontologists, marketers have the chance to complete their record of a customer journey by using tools like ad tracking.

Without ad tracking, marketers get an incomplete picture that robs them of the information they need to create more effective advertising strategies. And while paleontologists have the luxury of time on their side, marketers have to make decisions in real-time to keep up with the pace of modern commerce. So, instead of second-guessing or making assumptions, they can turn to ad tracking to quickly and accurately fill in the blanks of their consumer profiles.

Ad Tracking and Mobile’s Role in Customer Journeys

A consumer purchase decision can involve tens, maybe even hundreds of criteria for the consumer to weigh. Consumers can marinate on these decisions, finally making a choice after several delays.

Targeting models can reflect this lengthy journey more accurately by tracking the consumer as they first begin researching their intended purchase. 90 percent of consumers will use multiple devices in a sequence in order to accomplish a task. Almost a third of all purchases start on mobile, while over half finish on a desktop. So, if an advertiser is not tracking a consumer identity across devices, then the data will tell an incomplete story of a consumer’s path to purchase.

To understand all parts of the consumer’s journey, marketers need to consider their mobile actions along with other actions the consumer may take on their desktop. By looking at a consumer’s mobile actions, the marketer could learn that the consumer was first exposed to ad content on a particular adventure travel blog, for instance.

Since the consumer will likely switch to a desktop environment to search for and learn more about the offering, taking the initial mobile exposure into account can give advertisers more detailed information about the searcher’s preferences. Advertisers can then serve an ad via desktop that combines the right creative and messaging, such as using outdoorsy imagery and a motivating CTA. In this way, ad tracking across devices makes ads more relevant to the individual’s values and needs.

While the example above only describes a few touchpoints, the actual modern customer journey will likely include far more. Most people need to be exposed to an ad 10 times before they heed its call to action. This long, winding journey reinforces that being able to track every stage accurately and translate that to an appropriate trigger becomes critical.

Ad-Blocking Threatens to Disrupt Accurate Cross-Device Journey Mapping

When marketers do not or cannot include ad tracking in their digital marketing toolset, they miss out on a huge portion of what actually goes on during a customer journey.

More specifically, marketers can be misled on which channels are performing the best for their brand, potentially leading to misallocation of their media budgets.

Many advertisers have these insights taken away from them in the form of ad-blocking. Ad-blockers have the ability to remove all ads from a webpage or restrict the information that it passes back to the marketer, such as a visitor’s page activity.

Additionally, when ads are blocked on mobile, advertisers are left with an obscured view of the full journey. While the limit-ad-tracking mobile feature is on the decline, more people are still using ad-blocking software than ever before. Over half of people claim that they block ads because they were “annoying or irrelevant,” so finding ways to make ads pertinent and resonate with consumer values can help marketers avoid losing another prospect to ad-blocking.

The IAB is aiming to help mitigate the rise of ad-blocking by ensuring ad standards are non-invasive and non-disruptive via its LEAN principles. This could reduce the volume of consumers who opt to block ad content and even win back those who have already implemented ad-blockers.

All in all, marketers will face increasing challenges and diminishing returns in the years ahead if they do not find ways to maintain insight into every stage of the customer journey and offer value with every touchpoint along the way.

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