E-commerce in an Ad: Platforms Make it Easy to Discover & Purchase
By Melissa Marie Fassetta, Account Manager at Incubeta Joystick
Consumers have turned to online shopping out of necessity in recent times. E-commerce has seen 53% in growth since the start of COVID and continues to attract more buyers each week.
Even as stores reopen, consumers might not return to browsing in-store. This points to an opportunity for shoppable ads to provide a new way to discover new products from brands. Instead of aisles, customers now can shop their feed or phone.
Shoppable ads are not new, but the need for retailers to provide a frictionless, contactless way to shop has never been greater. Many platforms have stepped up their e-commerce offerings in recent years. Here’s a look at what many of them are doing to provide commerce in an ad.
FACEBOOK / INSTAGRAM
With a walled garden approach, Facebook has created an ecosystem to keep its users on their platform, offering everything from content to instant messaging to reduce the reasons to leave. It’s not surprising that e-commerce would become a huge focus of the company.
A few years ago, Facebook introduced their Collection ad which is a mobile ad format that features a video or image with smaller accompanying images in below it. Shoppers can tap on the ad and be taken to a seamless post-click shopping experience powered by Facebook’s own Instant Experience.
Taking things a step further, last year Facebook announced Checkout on Instagram which allowed people to purchase a brand’s product without leaving the app. Expanding on its earlier shoppable tags, the new Checkout tags appear on organic posts to reveal product tags. When opened, a “Checkout with Instagram” button appears instead of the old “View on Website” button. Later, they introduced paid promotion of the tag feature to help further amplify the shoppable content.
Facebook also enabled its Checkout feature in dynamic ads helping to not only show ads to people who have expressed interest in the brand, but allow them to seamlessly transact without leaving the platform.
In the wake of COVID, Facebook debuted Shops last month which amped up its e-commerce initiative in support of small businesses. It’s working both with e-commerce partners and testing its Checkout feature to bolster mobile commerce. The new functionality will include one-to-one messaging and provide product tagging functionality in livestreams.
Pinterest plays a huge role in product discovery and shopping, with 90% of Pinners making purchase decisions on Pinterest. Given this shopping mindset, they’ve added more shoppable features including spaces to shop with personalized recommendations, browsable sections of in-stock products from a specific brand and shopping search.
Source – Demos
Brands can also upload their full catalog of products into Pinterest and turn them into dynamic Product Pins. Pinners can ‘shop a brand’ like Levi’s (above) and then easily click into the brand’s catalog. Marketers can then further promote them with Shopping Ads from the Pinterest self-serve tool.
Pinterest also launched Pinterest Shop in late 2019 with the intention of benefiting small-scale boutiques, which they later used to help provide much-needed exposure for small businesses hit hard by the pandemic.
Snap made a huge push for in-app commerce in 2018 with their Shoppable AR lens and Shoppable Snap ads. Also called collection ads, advertisers could import catalogs and automatically feature a collection of products within a single ad. Each product image can be tapped for more product details.
Over time, Snapchat has increasingly added more features to also make the app more shoppable, partnering with Shopify to launch in-app stores and rolling out shoppable products including its first shoppable game from Adidas.
Google introduced Shoppable Ads on Google Images last year. This shoppable format allows brands to highlight multiple products within a sponsored ad that appears among Google Images results. This would enable the ad to appear in search queries like “home office ideas” or “shower tile designs”.
Additionally, they have a Showcase Shopping ad format which allows brands to group together a selection of related products and present them together to promote brand discovery. The ads appear when searching for general terms like “backpacks” or “furniture” and help provide options for where to buy.
Broad search queries like these make up over 40% of shopping related searches. So this format offers flexibility for these less defined searches, providing a range of imagery to help the user decide what they want and offer options for where to buy it.
Google has expanded its network of shoppings ads to the YouTube mobile app where there’s a growing interest in reviews and recommendations. The ads feature a carousel of clickable product images that appear on the mobile home screen and search results page where there’s an opportunity to serve engaging shoppable formats.
YouTube also began offering sitelink extensions for YouTube ads, so that advertisers can direct consumers to specific landing pages such as an offer page or a catalog to provide a more shoppable experience.
YouTube is also eying Connected TV for shopping ads after its success bringing their masthead format to the big screen via its CTV app. Shopping ads are next to explore but require certain user experience and technical considerations.
NBCUniversal launched their own Checkout e-commerce functionality to power their shoppable ads. Their offering includes Shoppable Branded Content on its digital platforms, Shoppable TV ads that utilize QR codes, shoppable editorial content and social amplification.
NBCU is the first to offer a native checkout feature across multiple platforms — and most importantly, for video ads, both linear and digital.
The CTV space also has seen successes combining content and commerce. Ad serving platform, Innovid, teamed up with Pringles to create a commerce-enabled streaming TV spot which ran during the Super Bowl. Similar to the NBCU experience, the ad featured a QR code which the user could hold up their phone to connect to the Pringles online store and buy their favorite snack.
Another great example is Hulu’s interactive ad that lets viewers buy movie tickets with their remote control. Through a partnership with interactive TV firm BrightLine, they developed an ecommerce ad unit dubbed T-commerce. Debuted for the Warner Bros. film “Tomb Raider”, it lets viewers buy products through their remote control or video game controller.