Are you wasting money on digital?

How digital transformed spend

When digital transformed marketing it was immediately the traditional marketing executions – TV, radio, print and direct mail – that came under scrutiny.

Initially the biggest driver was cost and it is hard to argue against fulfilment measured in pounds, dollars or euros for traditional executions such as direct printed mail through the post, against a matter of a few pence for a mass email campaign for example. As customers have moved online en-masse so the transfer of resources to digital channels has been fuelled by both its cost effectiveness and wider audience reach. It is also extremely versatile, offering video advertising, advertising on social networks, mobile advertising, email advertising, banner advertising and Google Search advertising and more. For marketing professionals, the key benefits of digital are perceived as:

Given these widely accepted benefits, it is no surprise to see the continued growth of online marketing spend as a percentage of the total. Data from the Publicis Group published in 2013 looked at reported spend globally in 2012 and forecasts for 2015. Figure 1 summarises their data.

The report suggested that mobile advertising was growing seven times faster than desktop with mobile ads increasing by 77% in 2013, 56% in 2014 and 48% in 2015. However, some care needs to be taken about the definition of mobile as it includes tablets as well as smartphones. In our experience of looking at eCommerce performance, desktops and tablets perform very alike and whilst it is true that a tablet is 'mobile', so is a laptop. It is a very different experience from a smartphone and their eCommerce functions to date look rather different with browsing being far more associated with smartphones and transactions still taking place more often on tablets and desktops.

Effective digital marketing businesses have learnt that whist you can produce and transmit significantly more online than in traditional channels, you cannot do so at the expense of quality. Targeting, segmenting and developing a reason to contact are as important as ever and perhaps more so as competitive propositions that could not afford to compete with established players in the traditional channels, can do so online. Persuasive copy and applying the principle of 'test and learn', the topic of my previous article, are essential weapons in creating a compelling online campaign.

The key question that businesses need to ask themselves – whatever channel they are operating in – is this: are you confident that you are doing enough to persuade people to buy from you?

Why Google is the online high street

For the vast majority of products and services, online has created a virtual high street where you can buy what you are looking for from any number of vendors. Today's customer is supremely well equipped to be able to take advantage of this. This has presented businesses with the major challenge of today: How do you stand out in the Google high street?

We have chosen to use the phrase 'Google high street' as we believe from our time working in eCommerce that today and for the foreseeable future whilst search engines drive customer access to the marketplace, Google is the internet.  Early internet pioneers waxed lyrical about a 'level playing field' and developed the appealing story about retail 'Davids' being able to compete against – and beat – their respective 'Goliaths'. In reality, this internet utopia existed briefly and only for a very few quick, agile and highly responsive companies. Figure 2 shows the UK market shares of the respective search engines as at June 2014.

So Google, and the analytics ecosystem that sits around it, is the key to understanding how effectively your website is competing in the marketplace for which it is the only major access point.  What follows is a brief guide to the Google Analytics ecosystem and the key terms and definitions you need to know as far as digital marketing is concerned.


The traffic on your website is vital in understanding where your audience is being directed from, and knowing what traffic sources work well. Within Google Analytics traffic sources are reported in five areas:

There are many ways to monitor traffic on your website. The most important thing is to pay attention to all sources of traffic and think about what you can be doing better to increase numbers both in terms of visits, users and conversions. Using the acquisitions section in Google Analytics, you can produce a summary report showing acquisition, behaviour and conversion (ABC). These ABC reports were introduced in 2013 as a way to summarise the important data about how users reached the website, how they behave on it and where the conversions to sale or lead came from.

Google Analytics has a range of sophisticated reporting capabilities and your eCommerce team should have an expert analyst who is able to conduct the analysis but also equally importantly communicate the commercially important information in a way that engages both digital marketing professionals and business leaders and empowers them to take decisions about where to invest and how to grow the business.

This is the fourth extract from Leading Digital Strategy, a comprehensive book on the challenges of digital leadership, written by Professor Chris Bones and James Hammersley. Over the coming months, Essential Retail will be reflecting on the main themes from the publication, via a series of articles written by James.

Click here to read article one, 'Why are you so far behind in the digital revolution?

Click here to read article two, 'Customers are key to your growth: just ask them'

Click here to read article three, 'Make certain that your retail proposition sticks'