The digital age – an era much like that in Game of Thrones, but with less dragons. The Internet is our kingdom and we its people. Like any kingdom, ours is under rule. The rulers? Google and Facebook. How did these two companies grow to be the size that they are? Well, it’s simple, really. They were pioneers that met the growing needs and desires of today’s consumer. Google met the need for instant gratification by pioneering the idea of search, find, and obtain, while Facebook met the consumer’s need to be constantly entertained. Thus, their platforms grew in popularity and the ad dollars followed. Now, it is estimated that 85 cents of every new ad dollar spent in digital are spent between these two channels, and we can only expect for Google and Facebook’s slice of the advertising pie to grow. Why? Part of the answer lies in the fact that almost all Internet users utilize Facebook and Google. Another part is due to both platforms’ unique targeting capabilities. Yet we think there’s more to it.
In 2018, Google and Facebook will lead the revolution of instant commerce, using their shoppable ad units to change the way consumers interact with digital advertising and therefore increasing the amount of ad dollars spent within their platforms.
Facebook and Google have created ad units that act as digital storefronts, thus shortening the path-to-purchase and improving consumer interaction. These ad units provide clear calls-to-action, easily measurable key performance indicators (KPIs), and appear native in form to consumers. Through units like product listing ads (PLAs) on Google and collection ads on Facebook, these companies are meeting consumers’ desires to have an increasingly connected and seamless path-to-purchase, all the while providing advertisers with clear KPIs. Most importantly, these units meet consumers’ desires for something we like to call instant commerce – the ability to buy products in a matter of seconds.
To provide another example, Instagram’s tap-to-view ad displays the convenience of the digital storefront it has set up within its platform, meeting consumers’ desire for instant commerce. This gives users an easy way to find and buy products without ever leaving the platform. The KPI here is clear – the number of suits purchased. Few online display ads have these interactive, shoppable capabilities, and advertisers know it. One thing is for certain, online display ads will be quick to follow suit (pun intended).
While all of this sounds enticing, these shoppable storefront ads will only revolutionize the digital ad space if they are truly meeting consumers’ desires for instant commerce and the brand’s desire for increased return on investment (ROI). Data supports that they are. Instagram and BigCommerce invited 50 brands to test these tap-to-view ad units before officially launching. Here are a few of the results:
These units clearly have the ability to drastically impact ROI, furthering the claim that they are in fact moving the needle and changing the digital era as we know it.
At this point, you may be thinking “how would shoppable storefront ads benefit the brand (or brands) I represent?” If you represent a retailer or consumer packaged goods (CPG) brand, then the connection is clear. Yet not all brands are trying to sell a good that one can attain online. For example, your brand might utilize online advertising solely to drive brand awareness, attempting to keep your restaurant top of mind in hopes that consumers pull into your drive-thru on their next road trip. Maybe you represent a nonprofit that is attempting to drive donations. Maybe you just want people to engage with your content on a specific URL. If that is the case, then the shoppable storefronts made available through Facebook and Google may not be for you. Yet understanding this trend toward instant commerce in its infancy remains important. If there is anything we as advertisers and marketers should know, it’s that the digital ad space is constantly evolving – especially as it relates to Facebook and Google. So stayed tuned as these companies further evolve their ad units to meet the needs of your specific brand. In the meantime, seek out interactive units that simplify the overall conversion process.
If you were to ask any advertising or marketing professional what digital’s greatest benefit is, there’s a good chance that most of them would respond with a comment about measurability. Yet, according to the Simply Measured State of Social Marketing Annual Report published in June, 61 percent of marketers say that measuring ROI is their greatest challenge. How is it that an outlet known for its ability to track every single click and impression fails to provide marketers with clear ROI? There is evidently a disconnect between digital’s capabilities and what marketers are measuring. The ugly truth is this – if we are having our direct-response brands solely measure click-through rate (CTR), brand awareness, or engagement, we’re missing the mark.
According to the same study, 56 percent of social advertisers optimize toward engagement. At first, that may seem like the clear choice. But let’s take a minute to discuss what that really means. In an ideal world, that would mean your ad gets served to a relevant target who is so moved by the offering that they are driven to like, share, comment, and react by purchasing your product. In reality, it means that Facebook optimizes the ads toward those who simply have a high propensity to engage with every post they see (aka “Mom” and “Grandma”), even if that user is less likely to convert. Your posts might have more likes, comments, or shares, but your ROI will suffer.
Similar inefficient buying mistakes can be made by advertisers using Google. Perhaps your brand is spending all of its money attempting to be the first blue link atop the search results page, ignoring the consumer’s desire for a quick path to purchase. Why focus your spend attempting to drive users to and through your website, when you could simply invest in a PLA? There, users can be enticed with a picture of exactly what they are looking for, then sent directly to your brand’s checkout page and given the opportunity to convert.
At the end of the day, it is our job to spend brand’s money wisely, which usually means finding the most efficient ways to generate conversions. If you’re reaching the wrong consumers or not making it easy for them to convert, there may be an opportunity for you to better spend Facebook and Google ad dollars. Investing in shoppable ad units may be the best solution to ensure that you are.
As more and more brands embrace consumers’ desires for instant commerce by utilizing shoppable storefront ads on Google and Facebook, the result will not only be increased revenue but also a shift in consumer behavior online. As people get used to interacting with these ads across Google and Facebook, they will expect to see them elsewhere. As a result, display partners will begin to offer more complex, interactive, and shoppable ad units as well.
Additionally, the prevalence of these units in Facebook will decrease the amount of time users spend outside the platform. If that sounds a bit harsh, consider this – years ago, Facebook introduced Instant Articles, which allowed consumers to view third-party content within the platform. People no longer had to leave Facebook to indulge in BuzzFeed articles, but were instead able to view them within Facebook and then continue scrolling through their news feeds. The result was less time spent roaming the Web for this content. Similarly, shoppable storefront units will decrease the amount of time people spend elsewhere, likely bringing programmatic display cost-per-thousand (CPM) down over time, and reordering digital brand’s priorities.
Implement Digital Storefront Units in Your Facebook and Google Buys
Sure, utilizing these units is a move easier said than done, but it’s one that will pay off in the long run. Ads meet consumers where they are in a convenient, streamlined way, and the consumer’s path-to-purchase is shortened. Customers are met with a less intrusive ad, while ROI and attribution are clear for marketers and brands. Everyone is happy. Additionally, the capability of simple measurement and attribution opens the door for optimizations to be made based on fact and data, not based on an obscure connection between engagements and ROI. Consumers’ needs are met, the ROI is clear, and optimizations are turnkey.
Ensure That Your Facebook and Google Dollars Are Being Spent Wisely
We would never tell you to remove brand awareness tactics from your brand’s strategy. Some ads should inform consumers, while others should elicit conversions. Yet brand awareness should rarely be the strategy. When pursuing direct-response opportunities, specifically with Facebook and Google, look beyond link ads and give viewers an opportunity to easily convert.
Ensure That Your Brand Is Embracing Consumers’ Desires for Instant Commerce
In fact, view this less as a desire and more as a demand. Otherwise, your brand might get left in the dust. Explore the offerings of your search, social, and display partners, and see what units they have that meet this demand, knowing that Google and Facebook have these capabilities today. Long live the king(s).
Want more shoppable storefront examples? Check out Nordstrom, REI, or Marucci Sports to see how these units are being put to use today.