You likely don’t need a blog post to tell you that the digital marketing and ecommerce landscape has seen a seismic shift in the last 18 months. Nearly every brand has been impacted by declining ad performance and rising acquisition costs — and it’s safe to say the golden age of easy (and cheap!) customer acquisition is dead.
But where does that leave brands? How can they pivot their strategy and spend to reach their customers? At Coast Digital, we’re riding the wave of this new era of digital marketing and helping clients thrive in markets that are more competitive than ever. Here’s a look under the hood at how we do it.
Before we get into how brands can adapt to make the most of this new era, it’s important to understand how we got here — as well as the new lay of the land.
The first domino to fall was Apple’s launch of iOS 14.5 in April 2021. This update fundamentally shifted Apple’s relationship with third-party apps by introducing App Tracking Transparency. The tool allows users to decide which apps get to track their activity — if any at all. When it was released, industry experts braced for nearly all users to ask apps not to track their data. In reality, it is estimated that 75% of users have opted out of tracking.
Many saw Apple’s update as a blow to Meta, as it cut off the supply of data essential to its ad targeting and attribution tools. Though Meta has since introduced the Advantage+ update to its ads platform to combat these restrictions (including eliminating many of the levers performance marketers used to pull, which I’ll explore later in this article), the effectiveness of campaigns has undeniably decreased. Because of this, brands have begun relying less on Facebook and Instagram ads to reach their audiences.
Then, in June 2022, Google introduced its new Performance Max campaigns as a response to an increasingly restricted data landscape. Like Meta’s update, this new campaign type eliminates a lot of the levers SEM teams are used to pulling and replaces them with automated targeting and placement based on the asset groups (ads) a brand provides. Performance reporting for this new campaign type is much narrower than marketers are used to — there is currently no audience or demographic reporting, keyword reporting, or asset group performance reporting.
In addition to updates that have changed the tools marketing teams have access to, audience behavior has also fundamentally changed over the last two years. The rise of platforms that appeal to hyper-niche interests like TikTok and Twitch have fragmented audiences (and brands can no longer assume their target audience spends hours a day on Facebook, for example), while also breeding a new class of hyper-effective influencers.
As the dust kicked up by these changes settles, the defining features of the new digital marketing playing field have come into focus.
So what can brands do about all of this? Let’s get into it.
Digital marketing has never been easy, but the changes we just walked through have undoubtedly made it harder than ever for brands to break through and find success. But, it’s not all doom and gloom — for the savvy and the strategic, there are plenty of ways to create campaigns that scale.
Here are the four key things to keep in mind to help you craft a successful acquisition strategy.
The days of anonymous dropshipping brands printing money on Facebook are long gone. Today, brands need a strong foundational brand story and a smart messaging strategy in order to build ad creative that effectively communicates their value to potential customers.
For example, Coast Digital’s most successful partnerships come when our clients are focused on building the brand and our team is focused on amplifying it. When clients are clear on their unique story and value to customers — and when they’ve created a solution to a customer’s unique problem — we can pour gas on the fire through paid campaigns.
Critical to this is relentless creative testing and iteration. Our in-house creative team partners with tools like Motion App (I’ll dive deeper into the importance of partnerships in a minute) to constantly test content to understand what is and isn’t working in order to optimize content quickly. Our focus is on building the asset libraries that Meta and Google need in order to let their automated creative tools be as successful as possible.
Advertising is only as effective as a brand’s entire digital footprint. It doesn’t matter how optimized an ad is if there are gaps in the ecommerce experience once a potential customer clicks through to a brand’s website.
That’s why it is crucial for ecommerce brands to set themselves up for success at every stage of the customer journey by aligning themselves with the right partners. Though we focus on performance marketing and creative at Coast Digital, we pride ourselves in being able to connect our clients to the best tools in the business to ensure their entire digital footprint is optimized for success.
Our partners include:
Because CPMs are not expected to decrease anytime soon, it is more important than ever for brands to be smart when it comes to nurturing and retaining the leads they acquire through paid placements.
Email marketing is one of the few hold-outs from the early days of digital marketing, and for good reason too — when done right, it works. Brands with a strong foundational brand story are able to use email and SMS marketing to parse out the right elements of their story and value props to customers at the exact right time. These two channels remain the best way to nurture customers through touch points along the funnel as they are an efficient and effective way to communicate brand story and value props through promotions, educational content, collaboration announcements and more.
Like I discussed above, the key here is constant creative testing and iteration. By leveraging A/B testing and segmentation tools, brands and marketers can understand which creative concepts resonate with which customers, creating a personalized and optimized experience. All of this leads to a highly engaged base of both new and return customers — driving up LTV and strengthening brand presence.
The recent changes across iOS, Meta, and Google have reminded ecommerce brands of one thing: if you’re not careful, your entire business can be at the mercy of third-party platforms. Brands that relied on Facebook ads for 100% of their customer acquisition three or four years ago are struggling or dead.
In order to protect themselves, brands need to diversify their marketing investment across many different channels. If they discover that one channel is the most profitable, then that profit should be reinvested into finding another channel that they can scale and find success on. This is the only way to stay ahead of the privacy and platform changes that the future will undoubtedly bring.
It’s clear that the strategies and tricks brands have relied on to efficiently scale performance marketing efforts no longer work. At Coast Digital, we’re ready to help brands adapt to the new rules of the game so that they can thrive.
We aren’t the typical performance marketing agency that launches campaigns and sends faceless weekly reports. We’re a holistic partner to our clients, and our mission is to empower e-commerce brands with the traffic, data, creative, and tailored recommendations they need in order to succeed in today’s increasingly competitive landscape. Our all-in-one combination of paid marketing, comprehensive growth strategy, and performance creative allows our partners to focus on what is most important — their brand, their product, and their customers.
Ready to learn more? Let’s talk.