Consumers are telling brands they’ve had enough.

Web users are worn out from being chased around by ads for products they’ve already purchased or simply don’t want. They’re scarred by visiting websites that are so overloaded with ads that they border on being unnavigable.

Fortunately, this moment of reckoning has provided brands with a welcome and necessary opportunity to rethink how they engage with customers or prospects on the web. Which is why we are seeing a renewed emphasis on user experience, and the unique role marketers can play in making the internet a better place while helping to reestablish consumer trust.

This is the perfect time to reimagine how digital advertising works, and to shift away from treating people as targets.

That shift should be largely positive for our industry and its relationship with customers. But it does have some significant ramifications for the practice of digital marketing. For starters:

What does a focus on consumer experience mean for personalization?

Given that customers are taking more control over their brand interactions, and that many traditional identifiers are going away, marketers have to be more cautious and find ways to demonstrate respect for web users.

At the same time, this doesn’t mean that people don’t want to receive customized offers and tailored recommendations from their favorite brands. People may not want to be chased by brands they don’t know, but they still expect a level of connectedness from the ones they know and love.

The question many of us are asking now is, how do we strike that balance, and can we do so at scale given some of the new limitations brands are facing?

Today, we see many partners still looking to sort out their first-party strategies, and what steps they may take over time to enrich that data, or co-mingle it with other data sets. No brand wants to pull back on data-driven marketing, but most also realize how delicately these customer relationships must be treated.

How do we measure success in digital advertising if we get it right?

In the previous cookie- and mobile ID-centric era, grading success was fairly straightforward – for better or worse. So many campaigns were oriented around driving very specific conversion metrics, whether that be sales, leads, click-throughs or whatever the available data told them was important.

Today, as we pull back on this sort of aggressive conquesting, we likely need a new form of measurement. Recently, among clients, there is a lot more talk about the need for empathy. And with that, a desire to gauge whether consumers have a positive or negative experience with a brand, either through ad interactions or visits to their own properties (website, social media channels, etc.). Getting our tone right is becoming a crucial tactic.

We saw this in the early days of the pandemic when sensitivity and sympathy were paramount. This is a forever moving target, but the key is for brands to make this a constant. 

On that note:

Measuring true attention is coming into focus

For a long time, marketers and publishers have relied on proxy metrics to determine – or more accurately estimate – whether consumers were paying attention to their ads. That started with simple site visits or clicks. Eventually viewability became a measure we began testing; now it’s a standard part of nearly every ad deal.

I’m hoping this year, amidst this increased emphasis on the consumer experience, that we find ways to normalize tracking attention, in terms of both volume and sentiment. Just as we did with viewability, we are starting to see a crop of new startups, including Adelade and Amplified Intelligence emerging as potential new sources of expert analysis and data regarding how much consumers actually notice ads, and how they make them feel (or not). 

To me, this is a worthy area of experimenting this year. Because the better we get to the bottom of what really resonates with people, the quicker we can nail down how personalization and measurement will work in this new era of prioritized customer experience.

And the happier our customers should be.