The Problem. And what it means for you.
If you spend a lot of time in front your analytics dashboards (and we do) - you will no doubt have noticed that a large portion of your site traffic, the majority in fact, falls into a the mysterious and elusive category category labeled ‘direct’. Most links to your site can be captured via buckets like ‘Social’ , ‘Organic’ and ‘Search’ which allows you to easily measure the effectiveness of your campaigns across different sources. Clean. Simple. Easy.
Then there’s the ‘Direct’ category. What a jerk.
This category represents links to your site that have been passed along via messaging apps, emails and literally anywhere else on the web and in many cases can represent 70% of your traffic or greater. These sources are off the radar and completely untraceable and un-measurable. This is frustrating for a few reasons, but let’s highlight the two most relevant to you:
Problem One: It causes huge issues for reporting.
It prevents marketers from effectively seeing who is linking to them and from where. Often times users interact with the web through multiple devices, which doesn’t always allow for a clear picture of internet usage and history based on the way cookies are assigned. This affects costing, reporting, testing, conversions and can be an absolute mess.
Problem Two: An enormous source of missed revenue.
It also represents an enormous missed opportunity for the industry. How do we serve ads to these individuals? Where are they? How are they spending their time? What are they doing? What are they saying about us? Why are they so shy?
This, is the dreaded Dark Social (a term coined by Alexis Madrigal) and with messaging apps overtaking social apps for the first time ever, is set to become the main challenge facing marketers in North america over the next few years (this phenomenon is already maturing in Europe and Asia).
What, if anything, can you do about it?
Right now? Not a whole lot. Platforms like Facebook messenger and Kik are looking to become one-stop shops for anything and everything their users could ever need..
Imagine shopping online, checking the weather, being informed of sales, getting custom news, alerts and reminders - all curated, delivered and communicated to you automatically through bots that live within these chat apps. The idea is very similar to that of a concierge or an online assistant.
We’ll be exploring this more in later posts, but this is definitely a topic you should educate yourself on so that when the market shift and these platforms seek to monetize themselves, you are ready. Tencent, the creator of Chinese app WeChat has injected an enormous amount of cash into Kik to try and accelerate this process - so the future could be coming sooner than we all expect.