Forecasters are calling for a particularly jolly holiday season for retailers such as Deloitte, which in its annual holiday forecast, projects that retail sales overall will increase by 4.5-5% to reach $1.1tn compared to last year in the US market alone. Additionally, e-commerce sales will experience a growth of 14% to 18% to hit as much as $149bn.
And with the busy holiday shopping season right around the corner, brand marketers continue to sharpen their focus on promotional campaigns fueled by social media and e-commerce sites.
Here, I will take a look at some of the opportunities afforded to retail advertisers via the most popular sites, including Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, and Pinterest.
Facebook and Instagram
The 800-pound gorilla of the social space, Facebook, boasts a number of solutions for brands looking to boost holiday sales via e-commerce channels and in-store. Standard solutions focus on leveraging an existing suite of products and placements with context on how to apply for “shopper” campaigns, a tool that is available globally.
Facebook also offers retail shopper partnerships, which are programs built with select retailers for consumer-packaged goods to sell their products at the retailer's location. Currently available only in the US, general parameters for execution reflect the following:
- Media runs from the retailer's Facebook business account but is paid for by the brand partner
- Targeting leveraging the retailer's audience segments; accordingly, the retailer is responsible for the rights to use the custom audience and identifies the source of data in Facebook's systems
- Co-branded creative featuring the product and retailer
- Measurement to reflect sales and/or conversions
US-based advertisers that have employed retail shopper partnerships include brick-and-mortar chains such as Walmart and CVS and e-tailer Boxed.
Standard shopper solutions offered worldwide include the following iterations (see links for more comprehensive descriptions):
Facebook and Instagram news deed ads. These placements are designed to leverage the news feed to reach consumers quickly where they are spending the majority of their time. The objectives are to drive in-store traffic, provide a quick sales boost, and provide seasonal promotions. Creative provides for Image, Video, or Carousel (multi-image) as well as retailer branding.
Instagram stories. 500 million people use Instagram stories every day. Advertising is less competitive here, however, with about two million advertisers using stories versus seven million on the platform overall. The objectives are new product launches and product/category education and, like news feed ads, creative provides for image, video, or carousel (multi-image) as well as retailer branding.
Facebook in-stream video. Video ads run in high-quality video content as mid-roll units (non-skippable) are delivered in the news feed, watch and audience network. In-stream offers different levels of brand-safety controls as well. The objectives, as with Instagram stories, are new product launches and product/category education with creative providing for five to 15-second video (non-skippable, sound on) and retailer branding. In-stream ads achieve a reported 70 percent-plus completion rate.
Instant experience on Facebook and Instagram. This solution delivers an immersive and interactive experience in news feed and stories that can deeply explain product benefits. The objective is product/category education. Creative provides for ads that expand to operate like an interactive microsite and retailer branding.
Despite their varied objectives and differing content, each of the four solutions share some commonality in terms of creative, targeting, media parameters, measurement, and investment.
On all creative, retailers must approve all marks and logos. Also, for each solution, targeting encompasses data including demos (age, gender), location (city, postal code, DMA), and interests (beauty, health, food, pets, baby, etc.). To give you an idea of the size of these audiences, beauty reaches 130 million users, health 55 million, food 170 million, pets 120 million, and baby 10 million.
Media parameters include ads run from a brand’s business account, reach 25-50% of its target audience, and run once per week for two to four weeks. Measurement for each solution includes media metrics (CPM, impressions, reach, frequency) and Facebook Lift (ad recall, awareness, purchase intent). Across all solutions, a $120,000 minimum investment is required for access to FB Lift figures.
Meanwhile, Instagram has launched a limited BETA called Checkout for in-app purchases for the US market, a continuation of the array of shopping tools the platform has released, including organic product tags in feed, organic product stickers in stories, the organic shopping destination in the explore tab, and paid dynamic product ads and carousel units in feeds and stories.
Checkout enables a consumer to make a purchase from an advertiser while staying in the Instagram app. Payment details are saved, streamlining the path to purchase for Instagram users. For now, eligible verticals include CPG, disruptors, e-commerce, retail, and consumer electronics. Plans call for direct integration into Shopify, BigCommerce, ChannelAdvisor, CommerceHub, and others.
Checkout is an encouraging innovation for advertisers, as it is well-known in performance marketing that for every incremental step required for purchase there will be some drop-off or abandonment. By way of Checkout, a product featured in a post is connected to the app for purchase, removing potential site redirect issues and fatigue of information entry. It also lets brands maximize sales via impulse purchases.
Checkout presents two key impacts for advertisers: It provides strategic guidance to help them prepare to participate in the growing list of e-commerce opportunities enabled by social feeds and understanding of the short- and long-term effects of fulfilling e-commerce sales off their owned and operated platforms.
There is a range of pros and cons associated with diversifying checkout points, so advertisers should consult with their agencies to ensure they design their social campaigns accordingly.
For advertisers who sell their products in the U.S. through Amazon, there is a new socially inspired unit being tested called Amazon Posts. At launch, the format was made available organically and served based on the site’s algorithm to detail pages of categorically related or adjacent products based on ASIN data for the post.
To participate, a brand must sell its products on Amazon in the US (which may include an international retailer with Amazon distribution within the US) and have a brand store on the platform, as the unit will click to the brand store via the brand name and logo portions of the post.
The ad appears on the Amazon shopping app on iOS within product detail pages, so mobile-first creative is a must. Reporting is on a creative level without insight into what pages within Amazon the impression delivered. While there shouldn’t be a brand safety concern, advertisers who want to understand more specifics about the impression will have to wait a bit longer as that information was not being made available at launch.
The opportunity to bring “emotion to ASINs” is expected to be a powerful consideration driver, right at the point of purchase. This may evolve to become more addressable with more granular reporting as Amazon looks to scale any initial successes.
Pinterest this year announced several new shopping partners. Feed management providers, such as Feedonomics, ProductsUp, and GoDataFeed, that can manage and optimize product inventory feeds for businesses have brought their product catalogs to Pinterest.
For all clients with product catalogs, Pinterest has developed organic pins to deliver organic reach on platform and via search engine optimization. This opportunity is available across all markets, even where Pinterest does not yet support ads, and should be prioritized to capture maximum value leading into Q4.
Shoppable experience platforms like Shoppable, MikMak, Jebbit, and Basketful connect products within a pin with retailers that can fulfill orders and make it easier to shop. Tag management providers including PixelYourSite and Tealium can track the closed-loop measurement of online shopping conversions and sales. Meanwhile, partners WooCommerce and Weebly enable advertisers to set up e-commerce sites and experiences.
As e-commerce continues to grow as a share of overall holiday spending, Pinterest has made a name for itself among brands as a partner for inspiration and discovery. The site is oriented around facilitating sales through retailers and manufacturers, as it has no private label offerings. Feed-based ads are able to deliver personalization at scale, so brands can be more relevant and drive greater conversion rates. Wherever customers can be brought closer to the point of purchase, abandonment is reduced and sales grow.