ContextualCContextual marketing refers to online and mobile marketing that provides targeted advertising based upon user information, such as the search terms they’re using or recent web-browsing activity. The goal is to display ads to customers that show products and services they are already interested in. The textbook example of such “contextual advertising” is Google’s AdSense program, which uses the terms entered into each Google search to select an appropriate advertisement for each and every individual surfer.

Research companies, like Forrester, state that companies must deliver smarter, more customer-centric interactions that feel like they are tailored for each user to succeed in today’s digital business environment – and contextualization is the perfect solution.

To master contextualization, companies should gather at least three types of data: demographic data: (who is the customer), historical data (what did the customer do in the past), and situational data (what’s happening with the customer now), besides factoring in a user’s current situation such as time of day, geographic location, device, browser, or even weather.

Achieving a high return-on-investment in advertising is of course the dream of every marketer and contextual advertising seems to be perfect to increase the number of clicks per ad as well as conversions of sales leads to actual sales, besides decreasing customer annoyance and eliminating unprofitable ads. Therefore, it is used not only by search engines, but publishers and social media as well, since any website with a variety of content can use contextual advertising, matching the content viewed with the ads displayed.

With the advent of mobile devices, a new type of contextual marketing has developed, especially due to the fact that more and more people carry the beloved technology around everywhere they go. Thus, mobile devices can use your geographic location to provide the context for ads, showing only local businesses and promotions, as well as being able to apply information about their use to provide contextual ads.

In fact, there are plans for contextual marketing that even involves billboard advertising, embedding cameras in certain well-populated billboard locations, such as bus terminals or malls that will track how many people are in front of the advertisement, and how long they’re looking at it, triggering different ads. Additionally, software that recognizes the gender of the viewer can be used, so men and women are presented with different targeted ads.

Undeniably, contextual marketing becomes more effective the more customers spend time online, or otherwise are connected to the Internet through mobile devices. It is through interacting with networks that customers provide the information that makes contextual marketing work. Of course, providing this information is not always a conscious decision. When people use a search engine to get information about a particular person, place or product, they’re probably not thinking about the fact that they’re also providing information for contextual marketing. As long as the contextual advertising is doing its job without being invasive, they simply go on with their online activities—and perhaps click on a few more ads, since they find them more interesting. The more comfortable a customer is with online shopping and media, the more responsive they are to contextual advertising.

Nevertheless, putting the two words together – contextual marketing – feels strange as there always has to be context to marketing. In practice, though, contextual marketing means something more specific, though it's not 100% clear what. Fact is that contextual advertising knows what we’re searching for, what websites we’re visiting, and even what physical location we’re in. And armed with that knowledge, the companies using this type of marketing can definitely sell more.

The times of traditional online advertising, such as banners, seem to be over as they are more and more losing effectiveness. The solution to this dilemma lies in the described intelligent selection of appropriate advertisement for the respective addressees - contextual advertising/targeting.

Established affiliate networks such as the affilinet GmbH (affilimatch) or the online auction site eBay (eBay relevance Ad) have recognized this trend early and have been the first to provide content-related advertising materials for suitable products or auctions on the Internet pages of their advertising partners in order to increase the click-through rates and customer satisfaction.

Since just looking at a website already signals a kind of interest, you can imagine that e.g. advertisement for computer hardware will achieve less effect on pages with cooking recipes than on pages with test reports to computer components. In fact the effectiveness of this optimized advertising is up to ten times higher than content without a context. In addition, this form of advertising is perceived as less annoying and inappropriate, enhancing the overall impression of the site.

The usual way of using content-based advertising starts with the embedding of the advertising code on the landing page of the publisher, whose job is then already done. The contextual advertising system inspects the corresponding website, using a web crawler, and analyzes the content according to linguistic approaches. Based on the results, an individual banner can then be created just for this specific website. In defined time intervals, the page is revisited and analyzed in order to respond to any changes and adapt the advertising to the new contents.

What do those results look like? Well, depending on the advertised product range, the semantic content of the website is used for the classification in a pre-defined product category. In a second step, important keywords and text components are extracted. The system learns automatically from the product data of the advertiser. The required high-performance crawlers for the analysis system visit more than a million websites daily. The artificial intelligence based on machine learning and semantic analysis goes so far that any languages, including Chinese, can be supported.

Today’s consumers appreciate and kind of expect personalized experiences, including such as location-targeted content, right-sized content and functionality, adjacent content, or adaptive designs. So make sure that you provide a highly relevant content to meet their needs, while satisfying the underlying emotional needs that trigger brand engagement and loyalty. By uncovering the critical moments of truth that can make or break an experience and providing context for what happened before and after each moment, companies can benefit from their understanding of general and specific user behaviors to provide the most relevant, engaging, and personal experience possible.

By MediaBUZZ