The fact that 615 million people globally have downloaded adblocking software to their devices speaks volumes. It suggests that the novelty of being chased around the internet by your ‘favourite’ brands, desperate to encourage you to complete an online purchase, has for many people well and truly worn off.
In the not-so-distant past, SEO was considered magic fairy dust by brands vying to reel in online customers, but as Geoff Griffiths, managing director at the 40-strong Shoreditch-based digital agency Builtvisible, told The Drum Network over a cup of coffee recently, he is now keen to push the conversation forward. Rather than focusing solely on how many clicks his specialist team can generate for a brand through SEO, they are actively shifting the emphasis onto how much hard cash they can help a business to generate with a more intelligent use of the digital tools that make up the Builtvisible armoury.
A former professional rugby player, Griffiths has been with Builtvisible for four years, but took over as managing director at the agency in July last year after founder Richard Baxter opted to take a backseat at the agency, focusing instead on his business interests in the motor racing arena.
Within weeks of taking the helm, Griffiths was instilling a whole new ethos to the agency’s team. In an industry that loves a new buzz word, Griffiths duly obliged by coining the phrase ‘Organic Digital’ to encapsulate the philosophy that is now seeping through the bones of Builtvisible.
“People certainly don’t hate adverts,” says Griffiths. “Take the John Lewis Christmas ad, for example. Every year the hype for whatever tear-jerking cinematic masterpiece they have come up gets bigger and bigger. The question, then, is one of relevancy, and whether people value the message and delivery mechanism they are being presented with.
“We know people are becoming increasingly banner blind, to the degree that content discovery networks make a living by serving ads disguised as genuine content. I would argue digital natives are probably not going to click on your ads, except by accident. They typically lack relevancy to the audience at the moment they are seen.
“But what if your strategy was centred around creating media which is targeted; content which is of value to your audience and relevant to their needs? This is Organic Digital.”
As Griffiths outlines, there is something intrinsically more valuable about a brand being ‘discovered’ by a consumer rather than that brand forcing itself upon potential customers through online advertising and the like. A recommendation from a friend or trusted organisation through a social media channel carries more weight than any planned ad campaign could ever hope to, which again supports Griffiths’ Organic Digital approach.
He says: “This is born out of a desire to shift the conversation on. We come from an SEO background and we are trying to get away from that pureplay SEO idea, but yet apply the thinking that comes with it. The way people find, digest and process digital information is evolving rapidly. Information has been freed from its means of distribution and can be accessed anywhere on a huge range of devices. In this new landscape, your brand needs to be able to take advantage of these avenues to consumers, where and when appropriate, to deliver the best possible experience to that person, at the time they need you.
“When they do find you, be it through a search engine, a beautifully told story in a favourite publication or through their peers on social media, it is self-initiated. They have taken the first step and so are far more likely to take the last – and convert.”
But as Griffiths rightly states, discovery is just one aspect; the other potentially more important aspect is trying to make your relationship with the consumer meaningful as you both move harmoniously towards conversion.
“Achieving your business goals through strategically relevant, well-structured and well-designed content is the conversion element of organic digital,” says Griffiths. “A wide range of conversions and micro-conversions happen across your digital presence from clicks, to downloads, to purchases. Giving your customers a beautiful, unified experience – no matter where they interact with you – is no less than they deserve and, increasingly, expect.
“Imagine gearing every digital asset you own around conversion. Each one beautifully branded, device agnostic and centred completely around turning visitors into customers at every stage of the purchasing funnel. Building trust and brand credibility used to be the domain of the ad men but the giants of Madison Avenue have been replaced with user journey experts, CRO specialists and design and development teams.”
As specialists in the retail, travel and finance sectors, Builtvisible has an attractive client list, all of whom rely heavily on online conversion and are no doubt keen to exploit this new approach to forming relationships. These clients currently include brands such as Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Very.co.uk, Travel Supermarket, Sage and IG. Griffiths is eager to see more clients take on a mature view of what digital conversion can mean for their business in terms of revenue and profit.
One thing that Griffiths does believe is that the future for content is bright, but it also needs to be measured: “Obviously there are going to be new formats and elements, but people are innovating with their content types, especially with mobile. I think that presents a lot of opportunities for brands to tell their stories more effectively. In terms of narrative, I think it will have to come back a little as there is just so much “stuff” out there that much of it is just noise that doesn’t genuinely add any value.
“Content is all about performance. That is quite a difficult thing to quantify, but if you understand what you are trying to achieve with a piece of content, and you can get the right reporting structures in place, then you can justify why you have done it. In many cases, I think that element is still missing.
“Organic Digital is about giving your brand the best possible chance of being discovered: from the technical foundations of your digital assets, to optimising your product pages for search, to getting a beautifully told story published in a publication relevant to your audience.
“It is about taking an engaged audience and helping them convert on any of your digital assets to form a long-lasting emotional connection with your brand. It is about quantifying your activity through data, learning and optimising to drive performance, and ensuring everyone in your business knows about the performance of your organic channels in a format meaningful to them. Ultimately, Organic Digital represents an innate understanding of what works on the internet.”