E-Commerce: The New Kid On The Media Channel Block

I’ve read that WPP is telling its brands that they need to treat Amazon as a media channel. Why did this news make me so happy? Because it was great to see that marketers are openly acknowledging the importance of e-commerce channels when it comes to media.

As the media landscape continues to evolve, and the industry tries to keep up with the rapid pace of change, CMOs and their teams should absolutely be looking beyond traditional media channels and towards e-commerce sites for marketing activity. Here are my thoughts on why.

Elusive Audience
Online marketing is becoming increasingly challenging, with CMOs needing to address a number of issues. Is viewability good enough? Who will the ads be seen by, and how can we ensure our online ad spend is reaching the right people and delivering real ROI?

Being able to reach a number of different audiences, including the ones that don’t necessarily want to be reached, can be tricky. Young audiences are tough to reach outside of the likes of Facebook, print publications are declining, and even TV isn’t as powerful as it once was. There’s also the issue of engagement. Even if you reach the right people, consumers are increasingly savvy about advertising, and ad-blocking use is rife, so how can we, as an industry, ensure that we’re getting decent levels of engagement?

E-commerce sites offer a big tick in the “audience” box. According to IMRG, £133 billion was spent online with U.K. retailers in 2016. And many e-commerce sites are truly global. That means large audiences that cover all demographics. With the right partner, that reach isn’t just limited to the U.K, meaning you can cover multiple markets all at once.

On top of that, e-commerce sites are really sticky. People are there to research, buy things they need (and don’t need!), and be inspired, so dwell time is high, and people are hungry for ideas. Successful online ads and content reach the right people at the right time with genuinely interesting and helpful stuff. When better to reach your target audience than when they have their minds and wallets open?

Powerful Data
But it’s not all about scale. E-commerce platforms have a wealth of powerful data and insights, which make them perfect places for smart, and, therefore, cost-effective targeting.

Successful marketing strategies give customers what they want, when they want it. In a complex media environment, that can be a tricky goal to achieve, but the first-party data held by e-commerce sites provides valuable insights to make that way more achievable. By identifying what people have looked at and bought—as well as how and when they did this—you can not only get a snapshot of what kind of products customers are interested in, you have a good idea of what else they might like. That’s two different routes into reaching your target audience.

When people make travel bookings, for example, it has a knock-on effect on purchases in other categories. We know that if someone is looking at trips to Ibiza, they’re likely to be interested in everything from travel insurance to T-shirts. And it goes way beyond the booking, or the purchase. Periods of research, comparison, purchase, and post-purchase give brands multiple opportunities to engage customers in different ways to complement each stage in their shopping journey.

Combining these insights with additional third-party data and smart ad technology, marketers can be super-targeted. Reaching people purely by demographic can result in quite a lot of wastage, whereas targeting by people’s passions means you’re far more likely to give them content related to what they love. That’s a far more powerful tool that has a far greater impact.

One Stop Shop
This targeting isn’t, and nor should it be, limited to display advertising. Display is a brilliant way of raising brand awareness, but native ads take customers to more creative formats such as videos. And this content gives you the opportunity to engage with audiences on a much deeper level. E-commerce is the perfect environment to place this inspiration, given it was, in fact, the home of personalised product recommendations. Native ads can fit seamlessly into this ecosystem.

Despite the changing media landscape, the basics of a winning media strategy remain the same—use a combination of the best channels to reach your audiences. E-commerce may not be the first channel of choice—it might even feel like an uncomfortable choice for some. But it complements other channels beautifully, and with online shopping showing no signs of slowing down any time soon, it’s only going to become a more powerful tool. With the right partner that has the right data, audiences, and offerings, it’s a no-brainer.

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