Are marketers too focused on winning new customers (while forgetting existing ones) and will TV advertising become biddable on individual households? These were among the talking points when a guest panel of senior executives including Brent Hoberman, CEO and Co-Founder of (also Co-Founder of, gathered in front of an audience of UK digital agency and marketers in November.

Other panellists at the debate, The Future of Digital, which was organised by Kenshoo, were Thomas Hoegh, Co-Founder of Arts Alliance (and one of the investors who sold LoveFilm to Amazon), and Will Martin-Gill, SVP Product at Kenshoo (and former Global Head of Search at eBay).

Here are five interesting topics and takeaways from the event.

  1. Are marketers too fixated on winning new customers? 

It often feels like digital marketers value winning new business above anything else. The significance of hanging onto and building stronger, long-lasting relationships with existing customers can often be downplayed in marketing plans. This is epitomised by the fact that many companies offer special deals to new customers that are unavailable to existing customers.

The overriding sentiment from the panel was that marketers need to focus on issues such as the lifetime value of their customers and the importance of winning repeat business. They need to leverage digital channels to help retain and deepen existing relationships over time as well as to acquire brand new customers.

It’s worth remembering that keeping existing customers happy and satisfied means there’s potential for them to become advocates for your brand via word- of-mouth – and digital channels such as social media means their voices are amplified and their reach extended way beyond what was previously possible. So nurturing existing customers could in itself become a successful route to winning new customers.

  1. Paid search accounts for the lion’s share of the UK’s digital budgets – will marketers ever become less reliant on search? 

While search is great for identifying consumer intent, other channels also play a role in stimulating awareness and interaction and driving the final conversion. In fact there is a complex interplay between different channels that lead to a conversion or sale.

So while search is likely to stay an important part of the budget, marketers are starting to develop and refine their techniques to integrate their search advertising with other channels such as paid social. The driver for this is likely to be the evolution and greater adoption of attribution modelling – especially as marketers begin to look beyond last click models.

A better understanding and implementation of attribution techniques will help ensure every touch point in the path to a conversion is given due consideration. This will help us move away from viewing channels as silo opportunities.

In fact there is growing evidence to suggest that combining channels – for example integrating search and social campaigns – is more powerful than using either channel on its own.

  1. Soon all media is likely to be biddable. Will we see brands bidding on individual household TV spots?

As we move away from traditional broadcast media to on-demand TV consumption, it is likely that biddable advertising will play a growing role.  Marketers will be able to develop detailed consumer profiles in terms of interests, demographics, viewing habits, and subscriptions, allowing for more sophisticated and granular targeting of households and individuals.

Add to this the fact that we are increasingly consuming TV shows, news, movies, and music on the move and on multiple devices and usually logged-in as individuals, it is highly likely that all media will become programmatic.

The challenge for marketers, or at least media owners selling advertising spots, is that subscription models usually carry an ad-free option.

  1. Proximity Marketing: will consumers ever be comfortable with brands making offers in-store based on online behaviour and vice versa?

New in-store advances such as beacon technology allow retailers to deliver product information and personalised offers to shoppers on their smartphones while they walk through the outlet – as well as entice them with online deals when they are back at home. But will consumers ever feel comfortable about this?

The key idea here is ‘Permission Marketing‘ – some people are still uncomfortable about any concept of personalisation and the knowledge that marketers may be profiling them for specific offers. So you need the consumer to opt in.

Beacon technology relies on consumers downloading a retailer’s app, so ultimately the consumer is in control. And generally if the customer has declared that he or she is OK with it, there’s no reason why beacon technology should not be effective. Success depends on being able to make the right offer, at the right time to the right person. If done well, campaigns can be highly successful. But if you execute poorly, it can come across as disruptive or unauthentic.

  1. Will email ever die out as a means of customer communication? 

Despite complaints about email being overused as a marketing tool, it remains one of the most effective tools for communicating with existing customers. In fact, most customers choose email as a preference when it comes to regular communication.

Most complaints about email arise from poor targeting and spam. For existing customers, email is very much alive and kicking; and with smartphones making email access so easy, its days are far from numbered.

The challenge for email however will probably come as the new generation grows up. Teenagers don’t use email, so if Gen Y is the future, marketers might need to find ways other than email to engage with them.

Justin Thorne

Justin Thorne


Justin Thorne, Marketing Director, EMEA, Kenshoo.