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Guide to growth: Reach more shoppers with an inclusive approach

In this new wave of the stay-at-home consumer and skyrocketing e-commerce sales, reaching your consumer online is more important than ever. In fact, eMarketer predicts that holiday season e-commerce sales will increase by ~36% this year.  With more people turning to online shopping for the holidays, reaching those who are looking to gift is also more important than ever. Being online and top of mind is crucial, but so is reaching all potential customers, and authentically connecting with them.

How are you considering people with disabilities in your holiday campaigns, and what their shopping experiences are like? Is your digital experience accessible? How are you considering the purchase experience for a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex (LGBTQI) customer?

Inclusive audience marketing is understanding with empathy who your customers are and, more importantly, who you might be missing. Three ways to be inclusive in your marketing strategy include using ads with more inclusive copy and visuals, mapping a more inclusive customer decision journey, and understanding how diverse audiences search differently. Make sure you make inclusive audience marketing part of the core of your strategy with the following tips.

Inclusive advertising drives purchase intent

If you’re a dress retailer and only including one type of woman in your advertising, are you effectively reaching all the people who want to wear or purchase your dresses? Is your messaging and creative alienating those who do not relate to nor identify themselves in that advertisement? If you think about your creative and messaging, do you feel you’re effectively reaching all potential purchasers of your dresses? Being inclusive in your ad creative is critical to reaching all types of future buyers.

Our research showed that the most inclusive ad drove a 23-point lift in purchase intent whether the person experiencing the ad was personally represented in the ad or not.

So, the key here is to demonstrate inclusion in your advertising, because everyone values that practice.

Choosing imagery is an important part of the process in constructing meaningful and inclusive customer experiences. Inclusive brands do not just want to reach people — they want to make all people feel seen to the extent they feel that your brand not just represents them, but is also for them.

Infographic showing that a majority of people are more trusting when they’re represented in ads, and are more likely to support brands with authentic advertising.

Sources: Microsoft Advertising Research, 2019 and 2020.


It’s worth noting that from Microsoft Advertising research around trust, we found there is a strong tie between trust, love, and loyalty.  Once trust is established as the baseline, a brand can begin to build love and loyalty.

Inclusion was found to be a key brand attribute that creates loyalty. To do this, brands must go the extra mile to make people feel understood through inclusion, and that means using authentic imagery too. Consider portraying realistic diversity, including outlier dimensions of diversity like body size, and ensuring when more than one person is in a photo, that they are featured compositionally with the same prominence. Here are some guidelines:

  1. Use genuine imagery, which is best conveyed using real people being themselves, not actors hired to play a part.
  2. Seek out unique and realistic diversity, not stereotypes.
  3. Make your creatives represent the spectrum of people your potential customer base could be.
  4. Have diverse people review your creatives to uncover blind spots, such as non-obvious negative connotations, stereotypes, cultural inaccuracies, or associations.

To support businesses of all sizes, Microsoft Advertising and Shutterstock have come together to make creating your advertising even faster with a photo integration offering within the Microsoft Audience Network, Microsoft Advertising’s programmatic native ads. With the Shutterstock integration in place, Microsoft advertisers across any vertical can find the image that will resonate with their audience quickly without needing additional time or budget. To learn more about inclusive imagery and our partnership with Shutterstock, download the Marketing with Purpose Playbook and check out the inclusive imagery guidance starting on page 87.

Think about diverse buyers

Have you validated your knowledge about your customers’ decision journeys (CDJ) from a diverse audience perspective? Develop an inclusive approach to customer research. Considering different dimensions of diversity can help you broaden your reach, uncover new buyers, and increase your CDJ understanding.

In addition to uncovering where you might be data-biased in your historical approach to targeting, consider consumer value trends:

  • 51% of shoppers would be willing to spend more on holiday purchases from companies that advocate for a cause or stand for their beliefs (SAP).
  • 63% of respondents said they prefer buying gifts from brands known to support specific causes.
  • 60% actively avoid buying from brands that stand for causes with which they do not agree.
  • 88% of consumers want brands to step up on sustainable lifestyles and help them improve their environmental and social footprint in daily life.

Our Marketing with Purpose Playbook outlines consumer values for people found on the Microsoft Advertising Network to help you connect your advertising messages with holiday shoppers looking to buy from companies supporting the causes about which they care.

Create an inclusive keyword strategy

To extend your search terms and potential to appeal to a more diverse audience, consider the following:

  • Ensure your keyword strategy covers those audiences you had not considered, such as people shopping for others. Use keyword modifiers such as ‘for her.’
  • Examine your assumptions about gender targeting. Do not assume your product only appeals to one gender, or that only one gender will purchase your product.
  • Highlight product features or terms in your ad copy that support values like sustainable, accessible, women-owned, African American- or Black-owned, or LGBTQI-friendly.

Microsoft Advertising Keyword Planner is a powerful tool that allows you to build and expand your keyword lists. It enables you to research keywords easily and gauge their performance on the Microsoft Search Network, and then apply those insights to improve your keyword selection and campaign performance.

Microsoft Advertising offers growth solutions that can help you uncover new audiences without draining your budget or team resources

Our growth solutions empower advertisers to be flexible and agile with less overhead, using AI (artificial intelligence) to match intent dynamically and find new customers with diverse needs.

  • Dynamic Search Ads (DSA) help you spot exclusions in your keywords and ad copy and fuel valuable keyword coverage.
  • Responsive Search Ads (RSA) create flexible ad experiences that show customised content to reach your customers. You can incorporate values in language that reflects that for which people are searching.
  • Broad match uncovers new business opportunities without draining your budget or team resources. By covering more keyword variations, your campaign covers a wider variety of queries and reaches a larger audience.

An inclusive approach to advertising and search can yield greater growth for your business this holiday season and beyond. Adopting a more inclusive consumer mindset can help you improve your advertising performance and uncover new audiences you may not have considered before. It also can lead to increased brand trust and business value. Download the Marketing with Purpose Playbook to gain insight into diverse consumer values that can help you create a more inclusive keyword strategy.

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