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Top ad trends driving engagement at Microsoft Advertising

A woman sitting on a bench works on a laptop computer while a man is seen in the background sitting on a couch and using his phone.

In the first half of 2022, we saw artificial intelligence (AI) leading the way in enabling ad products to answer consumer behavioral trends. Consumers are looking for and expecting their online experiences to be immersive, visual, and intelligent.

Immersive experiences and visual storytelling drive consumer engagement because people expect to be entertained. AI-powered automation leads the way in product development by enriching them with real-time functionality. This makes experiences more engaging and marketers’ lives much more manageable.

Here are some new tools and feature trends that use AI and automation for more visual storytelling to entertain and engage users.

Shopping for offers and promotions is a consumer trend

Online shopping has been trending for several years, but how we shop online continues to evolve. Now, people are looking for shoppable, gamified experiences as a part of their online expectations.

Microsoft Advertising recently commissioned Forrester Consulting on research outlining how the Workday Consumer spends time researching or purchasing products and services online during their work hours. In that survey, more than half of consumer respondents (51%) stated the number of online purchases they make during worktime increased with the pandemic, and 44% expect this to continue to grow during the next 12 months.

Consumers expect deals, offers, and discounts when shopping online such as first-time buyer discounts, subscriber benefits, and free delivery. Now, they’re looking for a way to “game the system” by intentionally abandoning carts, seeking discount codes, and signing up multiple email addresses for new buyer offers. Microsoft Advertising has adapted some ad formats to engage them.

Cash back promotions are a new way in which we’re helping consumers looking for a deal. This new ad offering will automatically incentivize shoppers to complete transactions by giving them rebates—thereby growing and strengthening shopper loyalty. These rebates are available through Microsoft Cashback that are fully owned and operated by Microsoft. Microsoft Advertising chooses the right amount of cash back for the right ad and user while providing the best possible return on ad spend (ROAS) for an advertiser.

Example of cashback promotion as seen on the search engine results page.

Example of cashback promotion as seen on an ad for an item.

Cash back promotions are currently available on Microsoft Bing in the Microsoft Edge desktop browser for retail advertisers in the United States only. For more detailed information, we encourage you to check out the cash back promotions help page and our recently published blog post.

Visual, immersive experiences are what consumers want

With so much activity moving online, engagement is coming at a premium. People are more selective with what and how they engage with brands, and the trend is toward visual, immersive, and large-scale formats.

More brands are looking to create gamified, shoppable experiences, and visuals play a crucial role in how that happens.

Forrester Consulting research found that brands who invested in creativity saw more than 18% higher total ROI for the same budget.

Our first-party data shows that small-and medium-size businesses that added images to their Microsoft Advertising campaigns saw upwards of a 21% lift in impressions, clicks, and revenue.

We’re meeting the expectation for more immersive and visual formats with Multimedia Ads.

Example of Multimedia Ads in the search results page.

Multimedia Ads use machine-learning technology to combine creative assets such as images, headlines, and descriptions to deliver attention-grabbing, large visual ads. These ads are prominently featured on the right side of the search results page and are now available on the Microsoft Audience Network via the search workflow.

The performance of these ads has been high for partners such as ADT, who partnered with Microsoft Advertising and were the first in their industry to try Multimedia Ads. Their goal was to generate website traffic and leads while maintaining their cost-per-lead efficiency and a ROAS comparable to other ads in their account. Their results achieved a 9.5x higher ROAS and a decreased overall cost per click (CPC).

Tools that serve multiple functions help create better ads

It used to be that every digital marketing function had a different platform or tool to complete associated tasks. Blogs and ads require images, videos, or audio, for example. Often, each asset type involved used different platforms and processes, so marketers had to jump between multiple platforms to accomplish any one task. Editing photos might be done in one software, saved, and then uploaded to the website. Likewise, that same image might be used in an ad. Still, it needed to be edited into new sizes for the appropriate ad formats, saved, and uploaded to the ad platform. Not anymore!

The most significant trend at Microsoft Advertising is to help make our customers’ lives easier.

Research firm Kantar Group’s insights show content with images results in 50% more recall. At Microsoft Advertising, we see that visual ads can lead to more engagement, quantified by higher click-through rates (CTRs).

Because images are crucial to ad performance, we’ve created a free tool built into our system to make it faster, easier, and better than ever.

Creator tools save time and enhance ad creativity

Creator tools use smart tools with intelligent automation that help choose the best pictures from various pages of your website—but that’s not all. It also allows you to edit your photos right from the tool, so you don’t have a lengthy process of editing photos separately. Soon, Video Ads, now in pilot, will be included for everyone as well.

Example of Creator tools images pulled from a website.

With Creator tools smart effects, you can modify the look and feel of your ads without additional help from a design team. The changes you make to images can subtly distinguish your imagery from your website while aligning with your brand's overall look and feel in unique ways.

This is a perfect example of how automation, online shopping experiences, and immersive and visual imagery all work together to form and enable the trends that are engaging shoppers.

Trends like these can help advertisers like you make better ads with increased performance and save you time. That’s the most significant trend of all—letting AI and automation work together to enhance things we used to do manually. The time you save, and the money from potentially higher performance, can be invested in discovering or uncovering the next big consumer trend for your customers.

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