Why international e-tailers should re-visit the top of the funnel

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Author: Matt Owen, Oban International

The role of brand awareness is increasingly critical to international expansion, and social platforms offer better reach and targeting than ever before.

Industry commentators are increasingly highlighting the power of branding and emphasising that market entry and expansion require consumer demand, AKA folks who have heard of your brand and thus have at least some inclination to purchase.

 

This is of course a natural result of market evolution – customers in both mature and developing markets enjoy broader choice, keener pricing, and require brand definition and differentiation to assist in their buying decisions. Obvious stuff, marketing 101 even? Well yes, but many international digital marketing conversations kick off on the basis of CPA calculations, last click attribution, a focus on ‘non-brand’ (because brand takes care of itself), and ignore the obvious relationship between brand momentum and sales. After all, who wants to talk ‘top of funnel’ when simple conversion metrics are so much easier to gather and analyse?

 

It is worth considering Facebook’s latest financial results which showed the social media platform almost tripling its profits in the third quarter of 2016. As reported in The Guardian, Facebook reported a 59% year-over-year increase in advertising revenue with mobile phones delivering 84% of the ads, an increase of 78% on last year and generated $5.7bn over three months.

 

It is not long since the marketing press reported consumer packaged goods (CPG) businesses like P&G moving away from Facebook’s hyper-targeted ad offering, but I say that a billion dollars is rarely wrong. For every old school media planner who can’t be bothered to create a media plan with more than three ATL elements to target a ‘mass’ audience, there are many agencies who are very competent in the detailed business of using paid media to drive ‘top of funnel’ brand focused results.

Brand awareness marketing in eCommerce

In case you’re in any doubt, Facebook is still very much a brand marketers’ platform; although direct response components are starting to happen, such as click to buy buttons.

 

How is this relevant? Well, in emerging markets, where ‘traditional’ media reach is flaky at best, where brand cynicism is prevalent, where today’s (and tomorrow’s) consumers’ mobile devices are a core component of their lives, the brand promotion challenge can only be solved by digital means. In these markets paid media offers:

  • Massive global reach – Facebook and its siblings alone account for almost three billion monthly active users (MAUs) across the planet. WeChat MAU’s are trending towards one billion. Line has grown into a global platform with users in more than 230 countries and an active user base of 218 million MAUs. In India, Hike claims over 50 million users.
  • Audience profiling is already good, and will likely improve as alternative platforms strive to compete with Facebook.
  • Media opportunities across both chat, social and image / video platforms will also evolve, delivering brand message delivery options that are seamlessly integrated into content and conversations.
  • Digital delivers an incremental and low risk approach to brand building; we can experiment, test and learn with modest budgets, identify best performing messages and most responsive audiences, then deploy at scale, while localising at a super-granular level.

 

Revisiting the top of the funnel creates a compelling picture – international brand building is now more affordable, achievable, measurable, scalable and can be tightly integrated into an e-tailer’s in- market strategy. If you’re selling via a marketplace, you can build brand awareness to drive sales, and still enjoy low risk and no long-term commitment to your own in-market infrastructure.

 

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