The search for value is increasingly taking shopping online. Almost nine-in-ten retail purchases (87%) are now made via the web, with shoppers citing key reasons for going digital as better price comparison abilities and choice. As a result, retailers are following the money. Here, Nick Morley (pictured below), EMEA MD, Integral Ad Science, explains that, not only are major brands adopting ‘digital-first retailing’, but the wider industry is also striving to maximise online exposure. In 2017, retail spent more on digital advertising than any other sector – automotive, travel, and financial services included – and will keep doing so this year: investing £1.73bn.
Yet to capture interest in the competitive online environment, and achieve a healthy return on spend, these ads must drive engagement with their target audience. But firstly, they must have the opportunity to make this positive impact – which means ads should be viewable, fraud-free, and brand-safe.
But how can retailers achieve this? The answer lies in doing some technology shopping of their own to get the best insights from verification data.
Identifying the potential issues
First up is viewability: determining whether an ad is ‘in-view’. Just because two ads are served doesn’t mean they have an equal opportunity to be seen. The latest H1 2018 Media Quality Report shows the volume of desktop ads that meet the industry-agreed viewability standard – 50% of pixels in-view for one second for display, two seconds for video – has risen by 19% since H2 2017 to 63.4%. Yet over one-third (36.6%) of ads fail to meet this benchmark, meaning many impressions are still wasted. Ultimately, ads must have the opportunity to be seen to influence shoppers, those that aren’t considered viewable, served below the fold or in background tabs, won’t deliver returns. However, for retail specifically, it’s encouraging news – the industry benchmarks reveal that in Q1 2018 viewability reached 63.94%, coming in slightly higher than the average.
Next we come to brand safety; where ads appear beside inappropriate content, causing damage to brand image and reputation. Broadly, most retail brands will want to avoid association with the same unsavoury content as other industries; for example, media featuring offensive language or relating to illegal drugs and violence. But it’s worth recognising that brand safety can be subjective; topics one brand is happy to be linked with may be off-limits or irrelevant to another – consider the different content a children’s wear brand would be happy to appear against versus a technology company. This might also explain why ensuring brand safety is an ongoing challenge; with the retail benchmarks revealing brand risk levels were 7.35% in Q1 2018. In fact, this comes in a little higher than the average brand risk of 4.5% during H1 2018, highlighting how important reducing brand risk is for retail brands in particular.
Last but not least is ad fraud. Estimates regarding the actual cost of malicious activity vary; with recent predictions citing global losses of USD$19bn (£14.8bn) in 2018. Either way, reducing ad fraud in all its guises – such as spoofed domains, illegal bots, and advanced types of invalid traffic – is vital to ensure advertising budgets are spent on reaching genuine audiences, allowing retailer’s digital advertising budgets the best possible opportunity to make an impact. In fact, retail benchmarks for Q1 2018 reveal ad fraud rates – when proactive anti-ad fraud measures are in place – are an encouragingly low 0.48%. This is better news for the retail industry, as this comes in under the H1 2018 Media Quality Report fraud average of 0.7%.
How can retailers optimise positive results?
One of the most effective ways retailers can prevent quality issues and boost returns is a blend of verification and optimisation. Firstly, ensuring every digital impression is verified by a third party will give retailers assurance that ads have the opportunity to succeed and true performance to be achieved.
Alongside providing granular reporting on viewability performance – at a campaign, page, placement, and media partner level – verification can include customised brand-safety settings that ensure ads appear next to brand-aligned content. Marketers can also opt to measure and report on further metrics such as time-in-view, providing details about how long ad impressions remain in-view, a good measure for overall engagement. When combined with measurement of every campaign impression, and adoption of robust ad fraud-detection and blocking technologies, retail brands end up with a precise assessment of whether ads are delivered in-view, within brand-suitable environments, and in front of real human eyeballs.
Secondly, retailers can harness the data from verification and measurement to boost advertising campaign success and their brand awareness. By understanding what areas across the online media plan are truly delivering performance, retailers can determine where budgets should and shouldn’t be allocated. Generally, this will involve optimising towards partners that achieve higher viewability rates and avoiding ad fraud spikes and content that, by association, would present a risk to a brand’s image or reputation.
Retailers can then go one step further, and leverage more custom and granular insight to inform their media planning. Metrics such as time in-view are a valuable indicator of advertising impact: the longer an ad remains in-view, the more likely it is to engage shoppers, drive ad recall and, ultimately, achieve brand uplift. By identifying the ads that have the potential to be in-view for the longest duration, retail marketers can determine which formats, messages, or offers work best for particular audience segments to drive effectiveness. This information can then become the basis for building more engaging retail campaigns that improve shopper satisfaction and loyalty, and increase successful conversions.
Retail has always been competitive; and this has only increased in line with the rise of internet retailing – growing 14% year-on-year. To make sure ads have the opportunity to reach the most relevant consumers at the perfect time, retailers must cover all quality bases – shopping for verification that helps them drop low-value, non-performing media and keep digital ads brand-safe, in-view, fraud-free, and on track for success.