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The value of shoppable ads

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The Value of Shoppable Ads - ©iStockphoto.com/uschools

Increase sales and make your brand more visible with Shoppable ads

There are moments in the development of e-commerce that, in hindsight, were extremely important. One such moment occurred in early 2019 when Google launched its Image Ad feature. This was a new format designed to give brands and retailers the opportunity to tag multiple products in a single lifestyle image. Hovering over the image, consumers would be able to see product and price information and also be able to place items directly in a shopping cart.

This was crucial not because the idea was wholly new – Instagram’s Product Posts and Pinterest’s Shop The Look pins already followed a similar logic – but because one of the world’s digital behemoths recognized the significance of what has come to be known as shoppable ads, essentially ads where a purchase is only just a click away.

Google’s initiative, drawing on ideas initially associated with social media, confirmed the growing importance of this approach – and to those paying close attention even suggested that e-commerce best practice was about to change. Nothing that’s happened since suggests Google was wrong. Fast forward two years and shoppable ads have become one of the main ways that retailers and, in particular, brands market their products to customers via digital channels.

So why have shoppable ads become so important so quickly?

To answer this question, it helps to think about how digital technologies have developed in recent years. Two decades ago, internet connections were slow and unreliable. In 2001, just 9% of US households had a broadband connection[1]. Contrast that with today, where consumers in developed countries take broadband access for granted and where smartphones are ubiquitous.

Further seismic developments lie immediately ahead. Forecasts suggest that 1.3bn consumers will have 5G contracts by 2023 and that more than half of smartphone shipments will be of 5G-enabled handsets[2]. We are headed towards a hyper-connected world where consumers expect to be able to buy what they want immediately, without fuss and wherever they happen to be in the world. Not to be able to do so will seem – already does seem – unusual and inconvenient.

Shoppable ads fit with this world. To understand one key reason why, think about how e-commerce professionals used to be worried about the sales funnel and the checkout process, a preoccupation largely rooted in how long it took consumers to navigate desktop sites and drill down to the point where they made a purchase. There was a constant risk of consumers losing patience and clicking away. Shoppable ads largely remove this kind of friction. Consumers see the items they want and they simply click through to the checkout and complete purchases.

How effective are shoppable ads?

Very effective. In an age when we’re all endlessly distracted, shoppable ads go with the grain of consumer behavior. In part, this is because of how we all search for the items we want to buy. Where once we browsed on retail sites for products, a kind of digital analog to wandering around a brick-and-mortar store, most consumers now find their way to the items they want via search. Rather than go to a specific store to look for a red dress, it’s easier to type ‘red dress’ into Google. In a sense, the simplest shoppable ads are shoppable Google search results, and they work because they’re quick and easy for us to find.

And yet search is only part of the story here. Brands also need to recognize that, even if we have stopped browsing in online stores, we now browse the Internet in other ways instead. Over the course of a single day, we may:

  • Check for news of family and friends on Facebook
  • Visit a media outlet site for national or international news
  • Look at a new music video or a live-streaming event on YouTube
  • Post an image on Instagram
  • Research information about a specific subject such as a hobby

In their different ways, each of these interactions with the digital world represents an opportunity for brands and retailers to reach out to consumers. And it’s here that more sophisticated shoppable ads can be hugely effective. That’s because consumers are often looking for inspiration, for example, because they want ideas on how to decorate a room or just entertainment.

The underlying point is that consumers are often ready to buy if the right option presents itself, and producing engaging ads is a way to get that option to consumers. And if that purchase can be made as easy as possible so that consumers only have to click through on an image to checkout, all the better.

So how should brands plan to make the most of this new world?

Planning and organization are key to success with shoppable ads, but there’s an inherent problem here. Online, things change quickly and there’s a need for speed. However, a promotion that may be particularly effective on one day because, for example, a celebrity wears a certain kind of dress or an influencer namechecks a particular product, may not be effective on another day.

It can be difficult to react quickly enough in such a fast-moving environment, to choose the correct shoppable ad to put in front of consumers. That’s doubly true if a brand doesn’t have control of the data, digital assets such as video and images, that feeds shoppable ads across multiple touchpoints. Then there’s the detailed product information that, for all that today’s consumers are impatient, needs to be available if consumers have questions about a particular product or just need reassurance.

Get this kind of data in place, and brands can then build out and make the most of the opportunities, such as shoppable ads, to best reach the consumers of today.


[1] https://www.statista.com/statistics/214668/household-adoption-rate-of-broadband-internet-access-in-the-us-since-2000/
[2] https://www.statista.com/topics/3447/5g/