One of the most fundamental goals a brand marketer has is to lead consumers to the point of sale (POS) — that is, a location or moment during the customer journey in which a retail transaction can occur. Guiding shoppers to these critical POS moments is often accomplished — at least in part — through awareness advertising, which helps drive overall consumer recognition of a particular brand and the products that brand offers.
Awareness advertising — whether delivered through TV spots, print pieces, online banners, social posts or mobile ads — is a key component of many successful brand marketing strategies. It often generates interest or curiosity among consumers, motivates them to learn more through product research and can play a key role in pushing them closer to a POS situation.
Conversely, if a shopper’s familiarity level with a particular brand or product remains low, it’s reasonable to assume the degree of friction along the path to purchase will be relatively high.
Awareness advertising in the digital age
Awareness advertising comes in many forms. Today, more traditional methods like television commercials, radio spots and billboard ads have given way to digital counterparts. And one-off ads with a single message have been replaced with fully integrated, multitouch digital campaigns.
For example, in years past, a consumer might see a billboard ad for a particular cosmetics brand while driving to work — and take action or not. But today, after they click on a similar digital ad on a webpage, they later see ads in their Facebook feed and on other webpages for the same product as a result of retargeting.
Distributing content through social media platforms is another popular and often highly successful way to generate awareness with audiences. Four years ago, the restaurant chain Denny’s increased its Twitter follower base 132 percent within a year by adopting an irreverent brand of humor. Other brands have aligned themselves with top influencers in social media. For instance, last year, carmaker Subaru turned to Instagram and YouTube stars to have consumers “meet an owner” of its vehicles, resulting in a reported 2.5 million YouTube views and nearly 2 million likes across both channels.
As we’ve touched on previously, today’s approaches to awareness advertising are increasingly driven by powerful demographic groups — namely, millennials and Gen Z consumers — and their preferred methods of interaction, including mobile. And for good reason — these groups make up nearly half of the American media-consuming audience.
Competition is fierce at the point of sale
It’s no secret, then, that successful awareness advertising campaigns help lead shoppers to POS moments. In today’s omnichannel world, consumers can execute on those POS opportunities through a range of channels, including desktop, mobile and physical stores.
However, once a brand succeeds in getting the consumer in-store or on an e-commerce webpage through a desktop or mobile app, the task is far from complete. In fact, additional challenges arise as competitive products, promotional signage, discount offers and strategic shelf placement, among other factors, all compete for the consumer’s attention and wallet.
Perhaps one of the most difficult challenges for brands to address involves in-store POS scenarios.
These are instances where awareness advertising has motivated a consumer to visit a physical store to check out a specific product.
Consider the cosmetics example mentioned earlier. A woman walks into a leading global cosmetics retailer to see product she saw on the billboard and is immediately bombarded with displays, signage, messaging and sample stations for 10 other competing brands. She’ll most likely investigate the product she saw earlier. She may even buy it. But that physical environment positions competitors to steal her attention and compete for her business. And the competition is getting fierce.
Using technology to drive consumer engagement, close the sale
This is where in-store and on-product technologies like augmented reality (AR), near field communication (NFC) and Bluetooth beacons can play a significant role as in-store “closers” of sorts. These solutions help to narrow a shopper’s field of focus to one product or brand while delivering a POS experience that can drive a sale. Ultimately, they complement awareness advertising and fill the gap leading to a potential transaction.
NFC is a compelling example of a “closer” technology that can help brands guide shoppers from point of sale through to an actual purchase. When NFC tags are integrated with a product’s packaging and tapped with a smartphone, brands can instantly deliver a mobile experience designed to engage the consumer, lessen the distraction from competitors and increase the likelihood of a sale.
That experience might involve a digital coupon, a tap-and-win sweepstakes, a how-to video or one of a host of other approaches. The point is to use technology to facilitate a direct one-to-one connection with consumers that empowers brands to control the experience and “close the sale.” Just as importantly, the technology can enable brands to keep the conversation going even after a customer leaves the store.
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