In the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic, consumer shopping behaviors that were steadily migrating online have taken an instantaneous leap forward. The new marketing reality that many retail brands viewed as being somewhere on the horizon is now literally on the doorstep, and it is perhaps best embodied by today’s shoppable ads.
Shoppable ads aren’t brand new, but they are newly urgent. In recent years, seamless experiences through platforms like Amazon and Pinterest have conditioned consumers to expect the opportunity to instantly buy anything they see advertised. Frictionless conversion is table-stakes. At the same time, leading broadcasters like NBC are debuting shoppable ads in both TV and digital video formats. Nailing the shoppable ad has become a core competency that advertisers can no longer afford to ignore.
Shoppable ads collapse the funnel in a way we’ve never seen before. Upper funnel ads are now simultaneously direct response ads — they’re one and the same. Quite simply, this changes everything. Let’s look at the ways in which brands need to message, plan, measure, and think about channels differently going forward.
Retailers have typically generated their creative in a segmented fashion that aligns to the classic stages of the funnel. Upper funnel consumers who demonstrated “just browsing” behavior would be shown creative designed to enhance consideration and generally get the brand on the person’s radar. After five to 10 exposures across different touch points, this messaging would shift to a harder, product-oriented sell designed to motivate a conversion event.
With shoppable ads, however, the conversion — in fact, the sale — is happening right there in the unit. These ads have the ability to take consumers straight from awareness to purchase, meaning retailers might need to tell their entire brand story within the span of one unit and a few seconds. That’s both a challenge and an opportunity.
Just as the funnel has collapsed within shoppable ads, the media planning process has collapsed from an annual or quarterly one to one that happens on an ongoing, real-time basis. Brands must be able to level their activations up and down at will. Long-term media commitments — as blatantly demonstrated by the pandemic — simply aren’t tenable for brands anymore. Shoppable ads deliver insights and results that demand fluidity among placements, and marketers must be more nimble in their planning.
With the entire scope of the funnel now existing within a single shoppable ad, marketers also need to reconsider how they’re thinking about campaign measurement. Brands need to go beyond reach and frequency to include the language of conversion in every campaign. It’s not that conversions are the only results that matter now; it’s that marketers need to be prepared to capture the full scope of possible impact of each campaign, from improved awareness right down to the sale.
Rethinking media mix
Finally, marketers need to broaden their thinking when it comes to shoppable ads themselves. Now, even TV ads are shoppable, and consumers are spending more time than ever in these increasingly interactive environments. Perhaps more importantly, they’re also willing to explore and embrace new behaviors at a time when so many old habits are being broken. For retailers, this completely reorients the traditional notion that TV is for upper-funnel activities only. Creative, planning, and measurement strategies need to shift accordingly.
Shoppable ads represent a disruption to the old way of thinking across all marketing channels. Brands must respond with full-funnel agility.
Anupam Gupta is Chief Product Officer at 4C Insights.