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Making sense of the multi-channel retail consumer journey

In today’s complex digital ecosystem, consumers are more empowered than ever to research the products or services they need. Gone are the days where a single search for “best widget” is all a consumer would do prior to purchasing said widget. Today, consumers engage with brands across the spectrum of advertising channels, both digital and traditional. In turn, advertisers must be equipped to understand and act on the interaction of these channels across the full consumer journey.

To help equip advertisers with that knowledge, Microsoft’s Advertising Analytics Group set out to understand what the full digital consumer journey looks like for retail advertisers to identify where they can find success in reaching their consumers during every step of their journey.

How does television (TV) drive users to search and engage online?

For retailers running TV ads, search engine marketing (SEM) is often the net that captures newly generated demand. Consumers who are exposed to a top retailer’s TV ads retain not just a general awareness for the brand, but a specific understanding of the content they viewed, executing searches that specifically reference product and creative information featured in the TV spot. This is important because more than 6 of 10 people who shop online spend up to 4 hours watching TV during a typical day. Search advertisers must ensure coverage on core brand terms related to TV content in order to reach users actively searching online post-TV ad exposure; this includes keywords specific to the messaging and creative featured on TV.

After a user begins their online journey, what does the paid digital journey look like, and where should advertisers focus their efforts?

At Microsoft, we leverage a proprietary cross-channel paid attribution matrix (publisher, channel, and advertiser agnostic, visible below) which shows the likelihood of engagement between one paid touchpoint and another. The team identified that across all major digital channels, most paid ad engagements for retail led to a follow-up engagement with a search ad. This highlights the importance of search as a lower-funnel channel; it’s necessary to capture demand fueled by all other digital touchpoints.

  A matrix graph, which displays the likelihood of engagement between one paid touchpoint and another, including display, email, native, partner, referral, SEM, social and video.  

Taking this one step further, the team focused on two channels in a study to understand how each channel is driving users to search, and where opportunity exists for advertisers across the Microsoft Advertising Network: Partner Network and native.

73.2% of retail Partner Network ad clicks lead to retail search ad clicks.

In the study, 14.1% of users who clicked on a Partner Network ad went on to convert. Of those users who did not convert, 73.2% of them went on to engage with a retailer’s search ad in their next touchpoint. This relationship represents an opportunity for advertisers to leverage Microsoft Advertising search partners, which drive 31% of all conversions across the Microsoft Search Network.

70.6% of retail native ad clicks lead to retail search ad clicks. Additionally, 8.8% of users who clicked on a native ad went on to convert. Of those users who did not convert, over 70% of them went on to engage with a retailer’s search ad in their next touchpoint.

This interaction between native and search represents a big opportunity for advertisers to leverage the Microsoft Audience Network, Microsoft’s premium native advertising offering. In a recent Ad Effectiveness Study, which was conducted to measure the downstream value of ad exposure across the Microsoft Audience Network, the team identified that exposure to Microsoft Audience Network ads impacts every part of the funnel — awareness, consideration, and purchase — for retail advertisers.

  Infographic shows the Microsoft Audience Network ads provide lift in awareness (139%), consideration( 427%) and purchase (323%). 

Activate across both the Microsoft Search Network and the Microsoft Audience Network to maximize performance.

In addition to the known value of exposure to Microsoft Audience Ads, the team also analyzed the performance of users who were exposed to both a native ad on the Microsoft Audience Network and a search ad on Bing. In these cases, the same consideration (domain visits) lift and purchase (domain conversion URL visit) metrics were compared to those of users who were exposed only to a search ad and, again, significant value was provided by the Microsoft Audience Network. Users exposed to both types of ads by the same advertiser had a 134% higher domain visit rate and a 259% higher conversion URL visit rate.

Advertisers find success with the Microsoft Audience Network

Performance across the Microsoft Audience Network has never been stronger than it is right now. Advertisers are finding success in driving growth for their businesses, as indicated by the 213% year-over-year (YoY) increase in clicks for holiday verticals (retail, consumer packaged goods (CPG), and tech telco) during the month of November all while click-through rate (CTR) and cost per click (CPC) continued to improve (CTR up 31%; CPC down 29%) that month. The momentum advertisers are experiencing across the Microsoft Audience Network is expected to continue trending upward heading into the new year.

  Microsoft Audience Network click trends for November 2020 increased 213 percent year over year.  

Achieving success with Microsoft Advertising across paid digital channels

Understanding the interaction of digital channels across the consumer journey is more important than ever as retail advertisers plan their overall marketing strategy for calendar year 2021 and beyond. It’s no secret that more users are shopping online amid the pandemic as consumers continue to avoid stores and opt for online shopping.

As advertisers think about their overall marketing strategy and where Microsoft Advertising fits into it, there are four main areas on which to focus that will ensure advertisers achieve success heading into 2021.

  1. TV ads drive users to search online. Ensure coverage on core terms related to TV content to reach users actively searching online post-TV ad exposure.
  2. Most paid digital channels have a strong interaction with search. Ensure you have a strong SEM program in place to capture increased demand as users go further down the funnel.
  3. The Partner Network drives users to search. Leverage Microsoft Advertising search partners as an effective way to capture additional volume and drive users to search.
  4. Native drives users to search. Leverage the Microsoft Audience Network to capture additional volume where key performance indicators (KPIs) continue to improve. Additionally, leverage the Microsoft Audience Network alongside search to get the most out of your investment across the Microsoft Advertising ecosystem.

To take advantage of more rich data, make your way to the Microsoft Advertising Retail hub, which has launched in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, Germany, France and Spain.

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