Just when you think things are looking up after a global pandemic, along comes a cost of living crisis. That’s why you need to be at the top of your game right now, says Nick Reid, SVP and Managing Director, EMEA at DoubleVerify
Retail is perhaps harder to predict than ever these days, with world events seemingly turning the tap off and on again at will. After a rocky festive period in 2021, January saw a stronger than expected rebound with the amount of goods sold increasing by 3.1%.
When COVID-19 restrictions ended in the UK, retailers were looking to make up the ground lost after a challenging two years. And, partly as a result, many retail marketers were handed some sizeable big digital budgets, reflecting the fact that whether it's driving consumers to stores, or to purchase online, retail is now more digitally focused than ever before.
However, with a cost of living crisis now looming, much of that optimism has begun to ebb and those budgets need to be maximised better than ever, taking account of a more discerning and demanding public. Digital ad approaches aren’t all created equal. In particular, consumers today are frustrated with over targeting and intrusive “personalisation”. While platforms like Google Chrome are sunsetting the use of third-party trackers, which will help tackle this, retailers should embrace this moment to get ahead.
It’s time to rethink our digital strategies, so we can deliver engaging ads that support the sector, across environments, in a privacy-friendly way. Here are three tips to do just that.
- Avoid intrusive approaches by personalising through context and content
Where your advert appears is as important as the advert itself – if retailers appear alongside offensive content, consumers will take note. Research DoubleVerify conducted with Harris Poll recently found that 90% agree it’s a brand’s responsibility to ensure they do not run ads alongside objectionable content.
Yet while fake news and hate speech are unsuitable for every brand, in the diffuse world of retail, one brand’s no-go topic (for example, sports) may be fair game for another.
Targeting ads to appear alongside specific content categories, whether that’s celebrity gossip or football fixtures, is key to a successful digital strategy for retailers. This contextual approach drives engagement, with the analysis of it finding that 69% of global consumers are more likely to engage with ads that are contextually relevant to the content they are viewing. So, how does it work?
Contextual targeting providers are taking the hundreds of content types defined by the Internet Advertising Bureau [IAB], and using tools like artificial intelligence to ‘read’ and organise digital content into those categories. These content categories then enable retailers to laser-focus their ads alongside brand-relevant content.
Using a contextual targeting strategy in their advertising, retailers gain greater control over where their brand is appearing, are able to avoid unsuitable content and can maximise exposure where it drives performance.
But this isn’t only about maintaining and boosting brand equity. It’s also about enabling retailers to engage customers in a privacy-friendly manner while avoiding the pitfalls of intrusive over-exposure (those ads that ‘follow’ you as you browse) that many associate with cookie-tracking.
- Protect your investment in video advertising across different platforms
The use of CTV (internet-connected TV devices) is surging around the world. In Europe, CTV adoption has increased by 30 per cent since the start of 2020, and four in five households now have a CTV device. Not only is this a vast audience for retailers to tap-into but research suggests that TV ads are now the second most trusted source for consumers to learn about new products.
That being said, social and m-commerce, while no longer the new kids on the block, remain key growth platforms for retailers, with shoppers spending more than ever on their smartphones.
In short, video, across all environments, should be a focus for retailers. Before investing in video, though, retailers need assurance that their budget will be protected.
Blocking fraudulent, unsafe or unsuitable advertising inventory through video has long been a challenge due to complexities around the technological standards used for blocking as well as the difficulties of categorising video content at scale. But this is starting to change with advances in AI content categorisation and new approaches to tagging video advertising inventory.
As well as speaking to solutions providers, industry bodies like the IAB can provide helpful resources for retailers to educate themselves on the opportunities and nuances of video, from measurement to the risk of fraud.
- Embrace online privacy by measuring through attention, not tracking
Chrome, Safari and Firefox are all now limiting the amount of data that advertisers can collect and these privacy-first moves should be welcomed. Yet retailers still need to measure the impact of their ads, and then optimise them, to drive customers to the ‘top of the funnel’.
As discussed above, privacy-friendly solutions for targeting, like contextual, are part of the solution. When it comes to measurement, this is where attention comes in. Measuring attention works by evaluating dozens of data signals (without the need to track individuals) to understand two key elements of attention: exposure and engagement.
Let’s take a closer look at those two elements.
Exposure data points include the prominence and intensity of an ad, for example, how much of a screen it is taking up or how audible it is.
Engagement looks at how a user is engaging with the ad, for example by clicking, scrolling or hovering over it.
By tracking these data points, retailers will be able to not only measure the impact of their digital ads but refine and improve them. If a user scrolls away or mutes an ad before the product or brand logo appears, marketers can adjust their creative asset, for example adding subtitles or opening with a logo, to make sure crucial information has maximum impact.
So, attention is key not just for understanding whether you’ve hit campaign KPIs, but for optimising and boosting digital performance, all in a privacy-friendly way.