Companies should aim to strengthen customer interactions with advertisements on the Web, keeping both context and cognition in mind. Unfortunately, most companies provide a generic experience to all customers rather than relying on customer analysis to deliver a personalized experience. They’ve failed to innovate and bring the online advertising experience to a whole new level of interaction and integration that would truly let them achieve effective communication.
A Customer Experience Model for Advertising
As people experience the world and respond to stimuli around them, emotions arise. Their reactions manifest themselves as physiological changes they experience as feelings. Likewise, as people react to stimuli online—for example, to an online advertisement—they have emotional responses that are directly proportional to their reactions to these stimuli.
On the other hand, when customers repeatedly experience the same stimuli, they may not cause any emotional response. People become conditioned to ignore the ever-present ads on Web sites, which is called ad blindness. How can we prevent this?
- Create a new customer experience, using existing touchpoints.
When companies use existing touchpoints to deliver new experiences to customers, the familiar method of engagement lets customers feel comfortable as they go through new experiences.
- Create a new touchpoint for a new customer experience.
When customers experience new interactions, their emotional responses are heightened, and they may have a different behavioral response.
The Cannon-Bard Theory that Walter Cannon and Philip Bard have advocated suggests human beings feel emotions first, then act upon them. When customers visit your Web site, the ads they encounter evoke an emotional response—before they even decide what their next step should be. If ads don’t trigger customers’ emotions, they won’t take any action in response.
Creating a New Customer Experience Using Existing Touchpoints
Here are some of the advertising touchpoints companies often use.
Banner ads attract customers’ attention through color, graphics, and, sometimes, animation. Because banners link to advertisers’ Web sites, they attract customers to your advertisers’ sites.
Companies use the email model of advertising to cross-sell and up-sell their products, to try to acquire potential new customers, to persuade existing customers to buy again, to enhance customer loyalty, and to build long-lasting relationships with customers.
Interstitial, or bridge, ads appear automatically as customers move between the pages of a Web site, making customers wait for another page to load. Customers do not choose to view these ads, but they can choose not to read them and advance to the next page.
This form of advertising allows companies to gain visibility through online directories that help customers find them easily, using a search engine. Online directories don’t actually advertise a company’s products or services, but do provide access to its Web site.
The pay-per-click (PPC) advertising model is the most common form of advertising on the Web. This model occurs on search engines, advertising networks, content Web sites, and blogs. Since advertisers pay only when customers click their ads, the companies that display these ads benefit only when customers click them. Many companies depend on this form of advertising to generate revenues.
Pop-up ads appear in a separate window. They interrupt the flow of customers’ current tasks. The only way to move ahead is to close the window in which the ad appears or click the window containing the site that caused the ad to appear.
Pop-Down Banner Ads
On the other hand, pop-down ads appear beneath the content on a Web page, on a banner at the bottom of the page. Customers have to look at and click these ads to get rid of them.
Search Engine Optimization
This form of Internet marketing seeks to promote a company’s Web site by increasing its visibility on search engine results pages. Customers usually click results that are highly ranked. Companies can target different segments like image search, local search, and industry-specific vertical search.
Sky-scraper ads have the same function and properties as banner ads, but the rectangular boxes containing them have a vertical rather than a horizontal layout. These ads usually appear on the right side of a page and are linked to the advertiser’s Web site.
Companies have begun to advertise and promote themselves and their products and services on social networking sites, where they can get direct access to a community of potential customers. This kind of advertising works best when it results from word-of-mouth or when a group exists for people who want to know what is happening with a company or product.
To gain visibility, companies can sponsor a Web site or a certain section of a Web site where their ads appear. The Web has adopted this concept from the real world, because it provides scope for better business opportunities. The combination of activity-based sponsorship and media-related sponsorship is an interesting mix that innovation has extended in new directions.
Creating Touchpoints for a New Customer Experience
In addition to the existing advertising touchpoints I’ve just mentioned, companies must also begin using advertising techniques that evoke an emotional response from customers as they surf online. Through strategic planning, they need to develop new marketing touchpoints and use them to create emotional connections with their customers.
According to the psychologist Carl Jung, every individual has a primary mode of operation in each of the following four categories:
- our flow of energy
- how we take in information
- how we prefer to make decisions
- the basic day-to-day lifestyle we prefer
Within each of these categories, we prefer to be either
- Extraverted or Introverted
- Sensing or Intuitive
- Thinking or Feeling
- Judging or Perceiving
Advertisers can target their ads to appeal to people with specific characteristics.
Next, I’ll describe some creative advertising approaches you can take to reach your customers.
As the term suggests, behavioral advertising observes customers’ behavior as they move from one Web page or site to another. When following this advertising model, companies target ads to specific individuals, based on each customer’s past surfing behavior. Because behavioral advertising tracks customers’ interests, there is an increased likelihood that they’ll want the product or service advertised and be motivated to click an ad. With this method, different customers do not see the same ads on a Web page. There are several factors that help people to identify an ad that would bring them benefit. These variable factors should be motivating enough to ensure people act on the information.
One clever technique to attract customers’ attention is to lure them with interesting content. One of the ways to do this is to appeal to people’s emotions. Arousing feelings of love, concern, fear, stress, desire, enjoyment, bliss, or satisfaction helps prospective customers feel closer to the company or product that is featured in an advertisement.
As customers pursue their goals on Web sites, they go through task flows within a context that allows them to reach those goals. Providing ads in such a context can help customers move toward their goals more quickly, provide a better sense of what they can accomplish, and perceive the context more clearly. Customers can process information either centrally or peripherally. With the context approach to advertising, customers tend to process the information centrally, so the effect of acting on it is greater, because the information they’re processing is already within context of need.
Customer perception of this kind of advertising can be really subjective, but creative attraction advertising is moving in a positive direction. When an ad has creative visuals and content, customers sense and intuitively take in the information as the ad presents it. The information in creative content reflects customers’ desired next steps. It lets people react and feel before they start thinking and making judgments.
Advertising today is rarely humorous. Customers are engaged by humor, which involves sensing what is not ordinary. Humor sells well, because it gets customers’ attention and is memorable.
Information is the most important factor driving customers through their tasks. When an ad provides valuable information, customers want to know more. It gets them interested. It lets people think and feel and moves them toward making judgments.
When ads are interactive, customers become engrossed in them. Interactivity achieves the first mode of operation I mentioned earlier: the flow of energy. It then moves customers in the right direction, depending on the context and content of the advertisement. When you provide customers with interactive content, they want to find a reason to move ahead.
When companies present ads to the right target audience in the right location, their awareness of cultural differences can ensure customers make the desired moves online. When ads present information that is of cultural significance to customers, those customers are more likely to be receptive to and take in the information. The next level of sensing and intuition is likely to move them in a positive direction.
By making advertising less intrusive, product placements in movies, television serials, books, songs, and magazines are greatly appealing to the customer’s psyche. Rather than selling products, advertisers place their products within a context that plays on customers’ desires. Because they present a product within an almost real-life scenario, product placements make complete sense.
This technique of persuasion is very successful, because the special offers, add-ons, and freebies that come with a product or service motivate customers. Special offers are lures that encourage customers to buy more. Again, what special offers are appropriate depends on the context of customers’ needs and behavioral patterns.
When browsing online, most people have a tendency to behave and react with emotions that are appropriate to the context. However, the basic, day-to-day lifestyles we prefer affect our judgment and perceptions. So, even when companies target advertising to particular audiences to which customers belong, people tend to judge products and services according to their needs. But if companies target their ads at the right audience, they’ll be well received.
The visual allure of an advertisement can attract customers, making this one of the most important aspects of an ad. An ad’s look and feel an sway people before they’ve even taken in its content. It’s the customers’ first impression that moves them toward their next step.
An advertisement’s welcoming imagery is important in gaining customers’ attention. Welcoming imagery includes people and real-life contexts and is a vital first step to luring customers with interesting content.