What is the future of retail and commerce? Brands, agencies, and tech providers alike got together at Advertising Week New York to discuss the ever-narrowing gap between online and offline, between brick and mortar and ecommerce.
Smartly.io CEO and Co-Founder, Kristo Ovaska, participated in an Advertising Week panel alongside an array of retail experts: Bridget Davies, VP of Advertising North America at eBay, Martin Barthel, Global Head of eCommerce & Retail Strategy at Facebook, Frank Weil, Chief Customer Officer at KWI, and Mark Coffey, SVP of Strategic Partnerships at GasBuddy.
Optimization is King, Creative is King Kong
Kristo opened the conversation: “if optimization is the king, creative is King Kong.” As the competition for attention, clicks, and ultimately, revenue is accelerating, what will set brands apart is the ability to always appear relevant in all touch points. Creative is the vessel to deliver that value, yet many struggle with scaling content production without bursting through their marketing budgets.
Personalized and localized creatives at scale are a must have for advertisers who want to customize the buyer journey to drive new foot or website traffic as well as reach existing customers. The only way to harness personalization is to automate ad creation from product feeds – many retailers (particularly if they sell online) have all the creative assets in their product catalog or data feed.
Martin Barthel of Facebook gave a real life example of mass personalization: one gaming company produces 20,000 videos for Facebook every single week – this is where technology, AI, and Facebook Marketing Partners are coming into play to scale production.
Kristo added that while storytelling is a huge advantage, you need to personalize the narrative for maximum impact. At Smartly.io, we’ve been automating ad personalization for years with our awarded Dynamic Image Templates that standardize the visual look-feel of ads and can pull thousands of relevant variations in real time.
Content and Discoverability
Mark Coffey of GasBuddy pointed out that retailers need to go beyond focusing solely on transactions and get back to building relationships; you have to be patient with the customer. According to Coffey, digital retail is all about content and discoverability:
It’s about understanding that retail today is more of a content-led conversation versus just commerce, sales, and advertising.
As both online and traditional retailers are entering the content space, the conversations between brand and customer have become lengthier, creating more opportunity for impulse purchases.
Discoverability is key to and surprise and delight consumers. There are platforms you don’t necessarily enter with a purchasing mindset. A lot of the retail space has become so narrowly focused on people who buy that they forget about the discovery part of shopping. There are retailers who compete with some of largest players by taking a different direction, think Etsy for instance.
The Blurring Lines Between Online and Offline
The old view of separating ecommerce and store businesses doesn't hold anymore as these lines are blurring. Online born brands are opening physical stores and vice versa; traditional retailers are going online to adapt and learn from what digital natives are excelling in.
Facebook for one is helping bridge the gap even further by providing advertising solutions that target people near physical locations with tailored, store-specific offers. Advanced features even include tracking offline conversions from online campaigns.
New technologies including VR and AR elevate how brands can inspire consumers and build consideration before a purchase takes place in-store. The very role of physical stores is changing into more of a showroom - you browse, shop and get it shipped to you.
Showrooming happens online, too; Facebook newsfeed has become a digital storefront. Instead of walking on 5th avenue to look at windows, you’ll now experience the same just by browsing the newsfeed. Facebook knows better than anyone else the products you’re likely to be interested in and packages them in a user-friendly, shoppable ad.
Kristo pointed out that in order to create the storefront on social, retailers need to take advantage of the latest formats on Facebook, as they are likely to resonate with the audiences due to their mobile-first nature. Instagram Stories, the full-screen Canvas and Collection Ads create shoppable narratives that fit the content consumption experience seamlessly.
Lastly, Bridget Davies of eBay emphasized that in the highly competitive retail landscape, marketers need to know where tech is evolving to remain current. At eBay she is driving the personalization of all elements of the shopper journey through partnerships like the one they have with Smartly.io.
Are you interested in running Facebook campaigns during the upcoming holiday season? Click the link below to access The Smartly Holiday Guide for Retail Advertisers.