With the advent of shopping related media in the ad market today, it’s no
surprise that many people have a hard time defining the right
expectations for performance from their retail publishing partners.

 Not long ago, it was unheard of for a brand or agency to be
purchasing digital media on a retailer’s website. However, with the
amount of cross-channel shopping that consumers are doing, and with the
amount of influence that websites have on in-store purchases, it’s no
longer something brand advertisers can ignore.

In fact, for many of the world’s largest CPG advertisers, it’s imperative to include retail websites in a standard up-front buy and/or digital media campaign.

But let’s be clear about something first. Most of you will say, “Yes, but manufacturers have been spending money on retail sites for years.”

That’s indeed correct. However, the majority of these campaigns are supported with trade dollars (co-op/MDF), not brand advertising dollars. Brand funds are traditionally spent through media agencies, and are not part of the vendor trade agreements.

There is a clear distinction between these budgets, and the brand funds are now shifting from inefficient ad networks, to the newer opportunity of relevant advertising within retail.

But with all that said, with any new media it’s always tough to nail down what you should demanding from your publishers. However, within the e-commerce environment, it’s pretty straightforward; yet most people haven’t even scratched the surface yet.

Here are a few things to help you in your journey.

Impressions you should own 

Most brand marketers would say they they know they should be shifting ad dollars further down the purchase funnel (to retail partners), but they don’t know which impressions to buy. The short list below should provide an starting outline.

  1. Your brand’s product pages: First and foremost, you should be purchasing the ad impressions that are available on the product pages of your brand. If you sell Sony TVs and there’s ad inventory available on the pages that feature your products, then it’s a pretty good idea to make sure you own the impressions that are critical to your brand. Where possible, add video content in your ads that help tell your brand’s story where it matters most.
  2. Relevant consumer searches: In a similar way, just like you would want to own your brand’s search terms on Google, it’s even MORE important that you own consumer search impressions on a retail site. Remember, a consumer is further down the purchase funnel on a retail site than on Google. They’re one step closer to making their final decision, so it’s extremely important to own the keyword searches that lead to your brand and/or relevant category. If you don’t know which terms to buy, then ask your retail partner which terms lead to the most sales in your relevant product category. 
  3. Your category: Again moving further up the funnel on retail websites, even if just to the category level, is great way to dominate your brand’s category. For instance, if you sell shampoo, then you should be purchasing as much ad inventory as possible within the health and beauty category. 
  4. Complementary brands/categories: When possible, ask your retail partners for co-occurrence data, which will tell you what categories consumers are buying alongside your products. These complementary categories are another great place to find high-value opportunities for influence. 
  5. Competitor pages: Here’s the one that makes most brand managers sit up in their seats. If your competition isn’t owning ad space relevant to their brand, buy your competitors’ ad impressions on their product pages. Obviously this will have to be in partnership with your retail publishers, and with their permission of course. 

Optimisation on all fronts

This one goes without saying, but given the flexibility of media within retail, there are a number of elements that can be optimised with any given campaign. Make it a point to ask your retail partner for flexibility with the following, all of which can be optimised for campaign success.

  1. Creative testing: How does the ad look?
  2. Brand messaging: What are you telling consumers?
  3. Products merchandised: Which products are featured?
  4. Demographic targeting: Who is seeing the ad? 
  5. Page placement: Where’s the best placement on a particular page to reach your objective?
  6. Campaign ROI: What is your core Key Performance Indicator of success (new customers, revenue, margin), and are you meeting that objective?

Advanced retail reporting

Let’s go above and beyond the click. Within shopping related media, there is a wealth of data much more powerful than CTR.

If you take a step back and think about it, EVERY action on a retailer’s website is an indication of purchase intent. Every one of those actions is an opportunity for measurement much more powerful than provided through a standard ad network media buy.

  1. Brand sales lift percentage: How much more product did you sell during the campaign than before the campaign started?
  2. Products added to cart: How many more of your products were added to consumer shopping carts than a given control group?
  3. Change in SOV page-views: How many more visits to your promoted products were driven, as a result of the campaign?
  4. Changes in Search behavior: What was the lift in keyword searches for your brand and related terms during the life of the campaign?
  5. In-Store sales – where possible:  How much sales did your campaign drive in the offline store? If the retailer has this capability, it’s the golden-goose of advertising measurement.

Real-time customer insights

Shopping Media on retail sites is not only about buying media on retail sites. Remember that the proximity to the consumer is key.

With this proximity comes the opportunity to leverage your ads not only for media, but also for real-time consumer research.

Simply put, since it’s a guarantee that your consumers are within the right context on retail sites, so it’s the perfect time to ask them questions about what they think of your products. Here are a few examples of consumer insights that large CPG brands are pursuing as a part of their campaigns.

  1. What do consumers like about your brand?
  2. Which of your products to use for which problem?
  3. Which of your products are preferred offline versus online?
  4. What new product features do customers want?

Getting straight to the point, brand marketers are being asked to do more these days, but with fewer resources.

It’s imperative to get the most bang for your buck, so the most savvy marketers are shifting more of their digital media budgets to retail websites. Those brands that do so with the expectations laid out above will set your team up for ultimate success and maximised ROI.