Opinion: The overlooked mid-funnel is a critical piece of the customer journey
Most brand marketing efforts aim to drive brand awareness at the top of the funnel, with the ultimate goal of building purchase intent. Reach and frequency are the traditional measures of brand marketing effectiveness. Very little attention is given to what happens downstream of the initial ad impression or click—yet that’s where the richest data lives.
This is the importance of the mid-funnel, a key area where brands can nurture relationships with consumers who already know their name and products.
Views and clicks on ads don’t offer the deep insight and understanding that marketers need to build relationships with consumers. These top-of-the-funnel metrics don’t reveal key details: Which user segments took the time to share a Snapchat filter with friends? How many people scrolled all the way through a Facebook Canvas ad? Which of those people are already highly engaged with the advertiser’s brand?
In contrast, mid-funnel measurement provides brands with the data needed to understand, and target, their customer’s journey and the insights to ultimately encourage them to convert.
Facebook Canvas, Snapchat filters and lenses and other nascent formats offer new, interesting opportunities that are being embraced by advertisers.
Even under the tremendous scrutiny Facebook has experienced, Canvas, from its early stages, has performed amazingly well. The key? Harnessing the power of mid-funnel to help brands engage prospects. The ads are designed to encourage users to engage (by swiping, co-creating, sharing, etc.) and experience a brand in a way that’s measurable and that drives prospects further down the funnel. These ads target the mid-funnel by inviting users to spend more “quality time” with brands.
Why is the middle of the funnel so important?
The overlooked mid-funnel is a critical piece of the customer journey. A lot happens between the moment a consumer first learns of a product or brand and when they buy. However, in the decades before digital—when the only channels marketers had to work with were analog ones such as print, broadcast and out-of-home—there really was no way to measure the activity between awareness and acquisition.
With digital, social and mobile, we have an overabundance of data, which can help us derive insights regarding consumer decision making—it’s all found in the mid-funnel.
Yes, it’s helpful to see what triggers action and, ultimately, conversion, but the mid-funnel is also where marketers can gather rich insights that can be attributed back to ad spend, and those insights can ultimately drive better returns on that ad spend.
Beyond impressions and clicks, mid-funnel data—e.g., how deeply people engaged with an experience, whether they contributed to the experience or shared it with friends, or whether they signed up to learn more—delivers the insights marketers need to build deeper relationships.
How Canvas (and similar ad types) engage consumers mid-funnel
Social gives marketers so many new, innovative ways to engage people. Canvas, the Facebook mobile ad format that can also be used on Instagram, invites users to swipe up and enter an immersive experience that allows brands to explore and breakthrough creative boundaries.
Canvas is geared toward brands, literally giving them a “bigger canvas” to share engaging narratives with users. Advertisers may choose to use these formats to raise awareness or sell more product directly, but almost any larger-format display ad can do that. Canvas is uniquely positioned to engage the mid-funnel. Consumers who have already interacted with an advertiser’s messages elsewhere can now engage with a native format on Facebook in ways that—in Facebook’s own words—“generate intent,” “nurture intent” and “harvest intent.”
By serving ads with which prospects can deeply interact—by watching how-to videos of home improvement products, engaging with panoramic images of resort properties, flipping through image-filled fashion look books—brand understand how users are engaging with their advertising content.
Metrics go beyond click-through rate, revealing view times, what percentage of the content users consumed and more. These are metrics that reveal exactly what pieces of content users are consuming, and they can reveal how people make decisions about the brands they choose to surround themselves with.
Can these metrics be used to measure mid-funnel engagement to see how it maps back to conversion? Sure. But they can also be used to inform the marketing and product decisions that can create lifelong customers.
Of course, Facebook isn’t the only platform to recognize that larger, more engaging formats drive better advertising results. Twitter has enhanced some of its formats to increase engagement. LinkedIn is also trying to raise its game to pull in more of the business-to-business budget and engage buyers along their much longer path to purchase. While both have made incremental improvements to existing formats, the player to beat in this game is Snapchat.
Snapchat’s WebView format gives brands unparalleled creative control and opens up even more creative control than Canvas. While Canvas allows brands to tell stories elegantly, it also constrains the creative possibilities and limits the data that brands have access to. Snap Ads with WebView provide a similar upfront experience—that gorgeous, full-screen ad—but then allow users to swipe to view the brand’s pre-loaded landing page or microsite directly within the Snapchat platform, enabling Snapchat advertisers access to an even deeper pool of data.
These new ad formats are just the beginning of what will likely be a trend toward ads that seek to drive deeper engagement. As advertisers invest more in formats such as Canvas and Snap Ads, it’s likely that a growing number of marketers will better understand and capitalize on the rich data in the middle of the funnel. Only then will marketers be able to build the critical lifelong relationships with their customers.
This article first appeared in www.adweek.com
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