You walk into a store and shelves full of products stretch out before you, all of them designed to scream at you that you should get them: colors, brand design, glamorous name, and wonderful packaging all constitute a veritable arsenal for persuasion. Your brain is bedazzled by the visual bombardment, and you try to remember what you really needed or look at the shopping list and stick to it. But the storekeeper has some lentils which yield a good margin, which need to be taken out of the stock, or which people look at but won’t buy, so he finds a solution. He places a “LENTILS” sign in front of the shelf, featuring a bag of lentils running in panic together with a couple of chorizo sausages because there’s a hungry person behind them and the price below. Automatically, the shelf’s visual bombardment disappears and all you can see is “LENTILS”. Even if they weren’t on your shopping list, you’ll probably buy them, as well as the chorizos that were also running away from the hungry person on the sign.
Back to the digital world. The online equivalent to the storekeeper’s sign is the banner. You have a huge store and want a product to sell more than the rest. You can create a Google campaign, pay a cost-per-click which is often high as competitors have placed bids at a minimum average cost of €1.75, with a flat text because that’s what Google wants, you’ve got to design a landing page including the keywords in the Adwords banners because that’s what Google wants, and what you show is related to what you sell because that’s what Google wants.
We are moving backward in terms of advertising. Advertising is much more than that, and it should perform well, not just be visible. When a famous tobacco company wanted to sell cigarettes in the sixties, it set up a feminist demonstration, and at the end of the march distributed tobacco among the women and photographed them. None of the people there knew that they were being part of an ad, and the media published those photographs not as an ad but as news: women were experiencing a revolution and starting smoking. Would Google allow such a campaign? Of course not, because Google cashes in by saying that it’s a search engine that displays what you’re looking for: it doesn’t convey ideas that will help you sell.
Luckily, other advertising options are emerging. If you have an eCommerce store, you can apply email retargeting. A user who has registered in your store has given you his or her email, permission to contact him or her, and has browsed through your website. You have taken note of what the user has looked at (as the storekeeper in the first paragraph would do) and you are starting to get to know him or her. A few days later, you send the user an email in which, instead of showing the entire shelf, you show the three items in which the user is really interested. Much better than what the storekeeper would be able to do! And you do so by means of a banner, using humorous or professional communication, depending on your business. And Google has no say in this because you’re just selling, not merely being relevant in searches. What does the customer do? He or she goes in and buys. In Adwords you would have spent hundreds of euros on clicks which make people go into webs that were prepared to be relevant for the search engine; by contrast, you have made the product relevant for the customer who really wants to buy it by means of a single click, at a much lower cost.
Gamification for eCommerce
Let’s talk about gamification. People say it’s the future. I suppose you’ll have seen that it’s just another classic advertising technique, which couldn’t be applied because of search engines that only display contents that are relevant for the search engine. When you send out an abstract message like a game, a machine cannot index it: it only works on humans. So you have tried email remarketing and seen that it works, you’ve forgotten about the excessive expense of SEM campaigns and are starting to invest in more affordable and effective advertising. You set up a gamification system in your store. So when a user enters your computer store, a banner pops up and tells him or her that all the store items displaying a pirate have a discount, and that you are doing so in honor of mankind’s second oldest profession: piracy. Automatically, you have grabbed the potential buyer’s attention, because you are not treating him or her aseptically, just saying that there are “10% discounts in computers”: you are sending a message that will make the potential buyer think and perhaps laugh. Then he or she will browse through your store looking for pirates, which are nothing but banners, and when the user finds them, he or she will share it not only on social media, but also, if the message has been strong enough, you will have activated word-of-mouth communication, achieving a much greater impact. In the case of women, it has been found that they tend to prefer being warned that an item will be discounted if they wait long enough. Once again, you can send a banner with a message that captures their real attention, and this will lead to more sales. The cost of these campaigns is lower and more effective.
Finally, the banners which you place in your store tell stories, which is what will make people understand why they should stay with you and not with others: they provide reasons and add unique value to your store. Have you ever wondered why Amazon has started to include in its home page banners that don’t feature products, but rather authors telling the story of how they came to publish their novel? I suppose that by now I don’t need to explain to you why Amazon has opted for these banners.
So eCommerce banners, email retargeting, and gamification, in addition to being an ideal alternative to the proportionally high cost of SEM campaigns, can provide you with three key points: differentiation, simplification, and sales.