New DISQO research: Current digital ad optimization methods may depress sales due to increasing data restrictions

by | May 21, 2021

Audience insights platform DISQO launched its New Foundations of Ad Effectiveness series, holistically examining consumer journeys online to illuminate what really works in the quickly evolving digital advertising environment. The first report, “X-Ray Specs for Path to Purchase Attribution,” uncovered that brands with a restricted view of their consumers’ journeys could actually drive customers away from the very destinations where they are most likely to buy. Because of the increasing limitations on third-party, identity-based measurement, brands may choose to optimize their consumer engagements based on the first-party data they do have — and drive people to their own websites. However, DISQO’s data shows that the best sales drivers are specific actions on the exact third-party retail marketplaces that are the hardest to measure.

DISQO partnered with advertising research thought leader Joel Rubinson, President and Founder of Rubinson Partners, former Chief Research Officer at the Advertising Research Foundation and faculty member at NYU’s Stern School of Business, to analyze DISQO’s complete and granular zero-party audience data, and to co-author the new series. The research series aims to challenge conventional thinking as the industry moves forward with uncertainty post third-party cookies and other common identifiers that are today central to digital ad measurement and optimization.

“In the face of more data being siloed within media and e-commerce partners and the depreciating viability of cross-platform identifiers like cookies and device IDs, many brands have planned to invest in and lean harder on their owned assets,” said Anne Hunter, VP of Product Marketing at DISQO. “DISQO’s analysis raises a flag of caution on how brands’ first-party activity should be used for campaign optimization. Brands really must find innovative ways to measure their customers’ complete journeys so they can optimize results driving consumers to e-commerce and retail destinations.”

In DISQO’s new study, which took place over five months, the complete online behaviors (desktop and mobile) of its 100% opted-in, first-party digital audience were studied in relation to both high-ticket products (laptops) and fast-moving consumer goods (pet food). Among the behaviors analyzed were search, site visitation, social activity and e-commerce behaviors. Though very different product categories, the findings were strikingly similar:

  • Views to product pages on ecommerce platforms are 2-4X more effective than visits to product pages on a brand’s own website;
  • Brand health tracking must evolve to include search within e-commerce environments in order to more accurately correlate to sales; and
  • Optimizing based on clicks and view-throughs to owned landing pages are inadequate at best—and misleading at worst.

“The modern movement for the emerging dominance of first-party data is backwards,” Rubinson said. “Without third-party behavioral signals of sales intent as part of your ad measurement mix, you’re missing a key indicator of performance and opening yourself up to optimizing against your best-performing strategies. To know whether your ads are working, optimization measurement can only be complete if it measures the tech vendors, e-commerce marketplaces and other websites where consumers buy products.”

DISQO measured its members’ desktop and mobile behaviors over five months to create the new report, which is free and available here. Additional reports in the Foundations series are forthcoming to provide marketers data-driven approaches to find the new foundations of media optimization in a changing consumer and technology environment. Click here to learn more about DISQO’s ethical, permission-based ad measurement solutions.

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