Should Your Advertising Target Heavy Buyers ?

November 11, 2010

Heavy users are every Marketers dream segment. Large sales, highly profitable (usually), and inclined to stay with your brand forever. Large sales: yes;  highly profitable: usually;  inclined to stay with your brand forever:  not necessarily.

Should Your Brand Advertise to Heavy Buyers ?

 

Do Heavy Buyers Really Stay Heavy ?

Jenni Romaniuk and Samuel Wight, both of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute of Marketing Science, recently conducted an analysis of heavy buyer buying behavior using 2006 Kantar Worldpanel data.

Buying behavior was defined using multiple schema—using both relative consumption (e.g. top 20% of consuming HH’s) and also purchase frequency (number of purchase occasions per year).

They examined 15 categories and 139  CPG brands across the 2006-2007 time period. Their analysis shows that, on average, about 50% of heavy buyers become non heavy buyers of the same brand in the next year.

Let me put that differently: heavy buyers aren’t heavy buyers forever. They can become light or non-buyers if you’re not paying attention to them.

Heavy Category Buyers and Category Effects

Of course, some heavy buyers become non heavy buyers because they leave the category (e.g. parents of a diaper age baby). But even after looking at category heavy buying, Romaniuk and Wight’s analysis still shows that 65% of category heavy buyers remain heavy buyers in the subsequent year.

This is surprising to say the least. What should Marketers do about it? Romaniuk and Wight suggest focusing on light or non-buyers given the annual churn of heavy buyers and also the fact that growing brands growth is often due to the acquisition of non or light buyers.

I agree with this, but also think that CMO’s need to ask the question: “what do I need to do to keep my heavy buyers buying heavily?” And, how do I turn light buyers into heavy buyers?

3 Considerations for Advertising to Heavy Buyers

1.  Heavy buyers are not heavy buyers indefinitely.  As the Ehrenberg-Bass data shows, Marketers cannot just assume that heavy buyers will hang around and stay loyal. You have to constantly re-earn their loyalty.Marketers need to have a continuing dialogue with heavy buyers and find new ways to delight them.

2. Heavy buyers tend to be more profitable.  Although there is some debate on this point, especially in promotion intensive categories, most analyses I’ve ever seen show that heavy buyers not only buy more, they also tend to be disproportionately profitable.

3.  Competitors often target your heavy buyers.  Heavy buyers are attractive not just to your brand, but to competitors as well. Heavy buyers tend to be the gold that every brand likes to mine—so if you don’t mine it, some other brand will.

Targeting Based on Buying Behavior

Dissenting Opinions — Issues with Heavy Buyer Targets

All of the above seems obvious, but there are dissenting opinions on this. Kevin Clancy wrote a blog post in his “Shocking Truth of the Month” series titled: “Heavy buyers are the worst target for most marketing programs.”

His argument is twofold. First, heavy buyers tend to be more deal and promotion conscious and are, therefore, inherently more price sensitive and less profitable. Second, competitive heavy buyers are already “psychologically locked” to a competitive brand and hard to convert.

There are no doubt cases where the first is true–e.g. brands have heavy buyers who buy the brand heavily because it’s often on sale. Make sure your brand doesn’t fall into this trap. His second point contradicts the first. If consumers are locked-in to another brand, then they are inherently loyal and unlikely to be price sensitive.  Lastly, my point is not to advertise to competitive brand heavy users; it’s to consider targeting your own heavy users before they become light users.

50% — A Loss Too Much?

Let’s come back to the central point here:  that 50% of your heavy buyers are likely not going be your brands heavy buyers next year. And on average, this will contribute to a -15% loss in sales for your brand all things being equal.

Assuming you’ve done your homework and know they’re not just loyal, but also profitable, then the question remains: should your advertising target heavy buyers (before they’re not heavy anymore)?

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Is Real Time Bidding the Future of Advertising?

August 23, 2010

One of the hotter trends in the on-line advertising field is the rise of real time bidding (RTB). One journalist, Nick Saint, even went so far as to headline a recent RTB article “The Rise of Real Time Bidding is the Biggest on-Line Advertising Story of 2010.” How important is RTB and could it ever move beyond the web?

Real Time Bidding: 2010 Online Advertising Trend

Real Time Bidding – What is It?

Real time bidding combines web browsing behavior, sophisticated algorithms, and ad inventory platforms which make it relatively easy for advertisers to bid on specific audience profiles in real time.

Key players in the RTB space include AdMeld, Invite Media (recently purchased by Google), and AdSafe. Advertisers use platforms like MediaMath which combines all of the relevant data—who advertisers want to target, how much they’re willing to pay, etc.–to make buying on-line inventory simple and fast.

Real Time Bidding: Web Browsing & Behavior Analytics

The RTB Value Chain

Conceptually, RTB makes a lot of sense:  why buy inventory impressions when you can buy against a much more targeted audience? Everyone benefits:

  • Publishers can sell targeted inventory at higher prices
  • Advertisers are willing to pay a premium to get more targeted ad coverage
  • Middlemen supply the platforms and technology and benefit as well

Setting aside privacy issues, which the Wall Street Journal and others have reported on recently, RTB is a classic case of how marketers can operate in a more efficient manner with the right information and technology.

The RTB Value Chain: Linking Web Behavior & Publisher Demand

What’s Wrong with RTB

Sounds great, right? Currently, RTB is essentially focused on better targeting. And better targeting is important. In fact, past analyses using single source data from the TV world would suggest that better targeting based on buyer behavior instead of demographics can increase advertising effectiveness by +10% or more. But, there are important areas where RTB currently fall short:

  1. RTB doesn’t Consider the Contextual Power of Content – As I’ve written about in other posts, content—in this case web page content–makes a big difference in how your ad performs. If content providers had access to data showing how ads perform on brand recall, purchase intent, etc. in different content, this data could easily be factored into the RTB buying algorithms to yield a better advertising outcome.
  2. RTB doesn’t Focus on Business Impact – Why stop at better targeting? If the data existed, why not buy media based on actual impact—either brand equity improvements or volume and share growth? In the past, the industry got hung up on click-thru rates as a surrogate for impact—a bad decision. But, the general intent was a good one—to more closely link the impression to actual performance. In an ideal world, advertisers would buy inventory not just against a target, but against real business impact.
  3. RTB is only On-Line – On-line is important and getting more so every day. But, for some categories like CPG, TV remains the medium of choice for driving high levels of reach very quickly at relatively low cost. For RTB to really have an impact, it will need to migrate out of on-line and into the world of TV. As TV morphs into an increasingly “networked” on-demand form of entertainment, this is becoming more and more plausible—albeit still a ways in the future.

RTB—Where Next?

RTB is a great concept and its beginning to come to life on-line. The AdMeld CEO estimates that the 2010 RTB market will be approximately $1B, so this is no longer a niche phenomenon. But for perspective, this is still only 4% of estimated on-line ad spend, and just a tiny fraction of the $55.8B TV advertising market in the U.S.

Real Time Bidding: Small Percentage of Online Media Spend

All of the shortcomings outlined above aren’t meant to suggest that RTB is a bad idea. Far from it, I think it’s a huge advance forward and one that we should watch very carefully.

For RTB to realize its logical potential, it will need to increasingly measure brand impact and cross into other mediums like TV. But the potential is truly enormous—imagine being able to buy media in real-time based on how it actually builds your brand and your Marketing ROI.

Now that would be nirvana for any CMO or CEO—whether it’s the biggest advertising story this year or any other year.

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