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Spring into Retail Action



With many people working from home during the spring period, another surge in home and garden shopping is expected. More than 35% of consumers are likely to spend money on home improvements or renovations in the future.

To help advertisers prepare for demand of home and garden products, Microsoft Advertising hosted a digital event ‘Spring into Retail Action’. Keynote speaker Tor Thompson, EMEA Regional Director, shared inspiration for the long term and practical guidance for the short term, following the journey of three audiences; retailer, consumer, and advertiser. Watch the on-demand keynote here.

The retailer’s journey


One of the ways in which Microsoft aims to partner with retail brands is Microsoft Cloud for Retail. Shelley Bransten, VP of Global Retail and Consumer Goods at Microsoft, presented a public preview of this at NRF in January 2021. Microsoft Cloud for Retail brings together different data sources across the retail value chain and uniquely connects experiences across the end-to-end shopper journey through a set of capabilities that deliver more relevant personalised experiences and operational excellence for sustained profitability.
 
“Our intention is not to help retailers weather the pandemic, but to help them accelerate out of it”

Tor Thompson, Microsoft Advertising
 

The aim of these innovations is to empower advertisers to compete differently. That’s exactly why Microsoft acquired PromoteIQ in August 2019, a vendor commerce platform powering retail media. It allows retailers to optimise their site search and brand listings for yield, plus it creates a new growth engine for their business. Tor Thompson illustrates the success of the platform through a 30% click to conversion rate.

The consumer's journey


The personalised journey is more important than ever before. According to SmarterHQ, more than 70% of consumers only engage with marketing messages that are customised to their specific interests. Microsoft Bing Visual Search enables consumers to search using images. Users can upload an image in their Bing search bar or find one in Microsoft Bing search results, they can then select whole or part of the image and easily find similar images based on that visual input. This functionality is hugely valuable for consumers both in the exploration and purchase phase, making searching easier and more intuitive.

Image with title: 'Microsoft Edge Collections: decisions, decisions...'. Image of a web page of a sofa featuring Microsoft Edge collections on the side.

Microsoft has made significant investments to empower shoppers through the browser Microsoft Edge. Microsoft Edge Collections helps shoppers store the products they’ve viewed before and are considering, creating custom topical groupings, allowing them to easily re-visit their shortlist and compare options. In the US, it has been further enhanced with a price comparison tool and we hope to expand this into international markets soon. Another very useful functionality launched recently in the US is the coupon functionality in Microsoft Edge. The browser automatically finds and shows relevant coupons for shoppers on ecommerce sites at the point that they are purchasing, ensuring that they never miss a deal. Coupons are expected to come to the UK later this year.

The advertiser's journey


The Shopping tab has now been launched in all major European markets,leading to valuable additional clicks for advertisers in these markets. Another great solution for advertisers, Microsoft Audience Ads, provides advertisers the opportunity to show rich native ads on Microsoft News, MSN and Outlook. Using control groups, a Microsoft research study showed a 134% lift in brand awareness per user, a 316% lift in brand consideration and a 236% lift in purchase for retailers that had activated Microsoft Audience Ads.

Dive into local opportunities


The opening keynote was followed by local breakout sessions held in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands, providing local trends and insights for home and garden advertisers.
 

United Kingdom 

During the first lockdown in the UK, home and garden searches surged. Consumer appetite is now at an all-time high. Our internal Microsoft data shows that in January and February 2021, searches have grown by +24% and clicks by +54% compared to the same period in 2020, and this trend sticks across countries. For the UK specifically our data shows that Microsoft Bing searchers are planning home projects more than ever with click growth outpacing searches, which indicates high engagement with ads. Tor referenced McKinsey’s research, showing that 75% of consumers are trying new shopping behaviours, including buying from new retailers, and we’re seeing that non-brand search terms are more important than ever (41% increase year-on-year). Senior searchers (65+) now make up a third of home and garden clicks on the Microsoft Network and a valuable, engaged audience for advertisers. Svetlana Stanicki, Senior Search Manager at Victoria Plum revealed that people have continued to change and update their homes with a focus on DIY products. With stamp duty being delayed in the UK to drive more first-time buyers, this will be a key audience for Victoria Plum, as renovations and new purchases will be a priority for this group. Chris Nightingale, Digital Marketing Manager at AO.com, shared how sales for chest freezers and bread makers went through the roof. This was firstly from a necessity point of view, but now for convenience as people do most of their shopping online. AO.com stated they refer to the last year as 10 years of change in 10 months. Chris Nightingale emphasised the importance of digital storytelling, ensuring customers have all the information and knowledge they need to make the right purchase. Watch the UK breakout session on-demand.
 

Germany 

In 2020, home and garden searches in Germany increased significantly across all markets and categories. With travel and outdoor activities restricted, garden and patio clicks doubled in 2020. But what about 2021? The year started with high search and click volume in January, despite an unusually cold winter. The generic focus in home and garden searches is important to note. 78% of searchers look for generic terms, like couch or hardware store, and not brand related terms. Alexander Wessels, Director of Business Operations, Digital Marketing and Growth at moebel.de shared a positive outlook on the home and garden vertical for the upcoming spring period. Watch the German breakout session on-demand.
 

The Netherlands

In the Netherlands, there was a 20 to 49% growth in all home and garden categories in 2020. Part of that growth was stimulated by ‘the silver economy’, as the age groups 50-64 and 65+ became active online shoppers. Search volumes for home and garden are still high in January, and clicks for home appliances grew by 70% YoY in January this year. These findings were confirmed by Microsoft Advertising's client fonQ.nl during an engaging interview with its Marketing Manager, Wouter de Rijk. As a leading home and living brand in the Netherlands, fonQ.nl uses performance marketing to reach new clients. The company perceives Microsoft Advertising as one of their top choices to reach and convert audiences of over 55 years old. Watch the Dutch breakout session on-demand.

Re-watch this content on-demand or visit Microsoft Advertising Insights for more information.