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    The early holiday shopping rush: how to win the retail race with engaging ads

    Driving consumer engagement and conversions at a time when holiday shopping begins earlier than ever, writes Adludio chief exec Paul Coggins, is no easy task. Luckily, with the right approach to creative, data and technology, the win is within reach. 

    Consumers are doing things a little differently this holiday season. With inflation threatening to undermine Christmas spending, more than a quarter (27%) of US consumers have started their holiday shopping early, and 41% are actively seeking out sales to counteract the rise in prices, per research from Bankrate.

    Amazon’s Prime Day 2.0, it seems – slated for today, October 11 and tomorrow, October 12 – couldn’t have come at a better time. And by getting ahead of the game with its Black Friday-esque event, the e-commerce giant is set to take the lion’s share of early Christmas shopping dollars. 

    For retail brands that play it right, there is immense potential to win big on Prime Day 2.0 and in the broader lead-up to the holiday season – but competition will be fierce, and making themselves heard among all the advertising clutter will be a monumental challenge.

    To add to the plight of marketers, consumers have made it clear that their attention online comes at a premium, especially in mobile environments, which account for 44.2% of ecommerce sales in the US. Indeed, studies of impotent click-through-rates are highlighting the gap that currently exists between campaign design and user engagement.

    So, what’s the solution for marketers that want to reap the rewards during the early onset of holiday shopping this year? 

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    Replace viewability with engagement

    Firstly, as an industry we need to concede that viewability as a metric no longer serves its purpose. How many times do we look away the instant an ad pops up on our cell phone? If someone asked us 10 minutes later what brand and product was being advertised, the chances are we wouldn’t remember, as it simply didn’t pique our interest. 

    In this new attention economy, having moved beyond cookies and social demographics, ads must be deterministically designed to be engaging. They need to make consumers want to look and interact with them so they create a lasting and memorable impression in audience minds. This is why engagement is a far better indicator of campaign effectiveness than viewability, which cannot be proven and could be doing more damage to your brand than good if the ad is boring and irritating.  

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    Make creativity a top priority

    So, where do marketers start with building engagement? The key to making a brand stand out – and to capturing consumer hearts and minds – is creativity.

    For far too long, the ad industry has let creativity slide as it sought to push ads out at super speed on a supersized scale, prioritizing data over design. It’s still the case that many ads on mobile aren’t tailored to this screen and simply a cheap, thoughtless rehash of an ad built for another channel. Often they are static, uninspiring and a complete waste of budget for the brand. 

    Of course, I’m not arguing that advertisers should drop data; it still needs to be a fundamental part of the advertising process, but it should be the right kind of data. Rather than demographic information or third-party data, behavioral and first-party data is far more valuable – not just for operating in this new era of privacy compliance, but for informing ad design in a meaningful and results-oriented way. Indeed, there are technologies available that can make use of this data for the creation of interactive and engaging ads.

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    AI is where it’s at 

    Tools that harness the power of artificial intelligence (AI) are where advertisers should be investing if they want to make a real impact.

    AI has the ability to bring mobile advertising campaigns to life through highly creative and interactive elements. AI can analyze huge amounts of data to gain a granular understanding of the precise way customers have historically interacted with ads. With this data at their fingertips, retailers can determine which ad formats and points of interaction such as the placement of text, product, logo and website link, will work best to attract consumers this holiday season. And crucially, this engagement data is anonymized, meaning it offers a truly privacy-compliant, creative solution for the industry moving forward. 

    Looking ahead to Thanksgiving and Christmas, when inflation is expected to cut deep, the greater restriction to consumer spending will make the competition even more cutthroat.  However, creative, interactive and AI-optimized campaigns will be the ones that holiday shoppers buy into – quite literally.

    Paul Coggins is chief executive officer at Adludio.

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