Skip to main content

Experience new growth possibilities with Microsoft Advertising today >

Blog post

Search ads for retail media programs: A non-targeting solution to keywords

March 22, 2023
A woman sitting near a window smiles while looking away from the camera.

Search advertising is evolving, especially in retail media, which is advertising in a retailer’s website, app, in stores, and/or third-party websites using retailer’s first-party shopper data. Keyword targeting has been ubiquitous in search advertising for a long time, as it is an effective way for advertisers to reach shoppers who search via keywords. But traditional keyword targeting has constraints within the retail media space. It may limit campaign reach and performance for advertisers and the advertising revenue generated through a retailer’s retail media program. Microsoft’s retail media platform, PromoteIQ, has launched an innovative solution to address these constraints.

Keywords provide value in retail media, but not as a targeting tool

Advertisers invest in search advertising because shoppers usually indicate stronger purchase intent by searching via keywords. However, because a shopper’s behavior on retailer websites often involves browsing the digital aisles, in addition to, and sometimes instead of searching for specific products, strategies limited to keyword targeting don’t fully address retailers’ and advertisers’ needs in retail media.

Advertisers may miss out on opportunities to promote their products by only targeting keywords on a retailer’s website and app, which can limit the potential of a campaign’s performance and spend-through—consequently, limiting the revenue potential for retailers as well.

Benefits of a category-based targeting solution leveraging keywords

To address advertisers’ desire to maximize their reach to relevant shoppers on a retailer’s website and app, Microsoft’s retail media platform, PromoteIQ has launched a new solution that targets retail shoppers based on the categories they browse, and leverages keywords as a booster for campaign bids. This new solution will give advertisers the ability to unlock the benefit of insights into retail shoppers’ behaviors, achieving stronger performance for both advertisers and retailers.

With Microsoft PromoteIQ, advertisers can boost bids with keywords to show ads to those shoppers who are searching for specific products on a retailer’s website and app, for a higher chance of converting purchase intent to a sale.

Retailers can optimize the site experience for shoppers through a product taxonomy (or product categorization), which enables shoppers to easily find what they’re looking for. By layering keywords as a booster, in addition to categories, Microsoft PromoteIQ’s AI-driven algorithms can return more relevant ads to meet shoppers’ intent, further enhancing their shopping experience.

Unlike traditional keyword targeting—which requires advertisers to research and build an exhaustive list of keywords per campaign—when managing retail media campaigns that leverage category behaviors with the Microsoft PromoteIQ platform, advertisers only need to test and retain a few high-performing keywords. For retailers, the efficiency in campaign management translates into more demand.

Proven results: Improved CTR and RPM

Tests have shown that applying this unique solution to Microsoft PromoteIQ’s retail media programs has delivered impressive results. Retail media campaigns on the Microsoft PromoteIQ platform that boost bids by keyword while targeting by category exhibit 320% higher click-through-rate (CTR) than the campaigns without boosting bids by keyword.

Meanwhile, retailers that used the Microsoft PromoteIQ platform saw benefits from this solution by achieving 8x higher revenue per thousand impressions (RPM).

As the advertising space and retailers continue to evolve, Microsoft PromoteIQ is committed to delivering innovative solutions based on retail shoppers’ unique behaviors that maximize revenue and sales for retailers and advertisers, while also creating an excellent experience for retail shoppers.

If you would like to learn more, visit our website, or inquire about our solutions.

Update: This blog post has been updated on March 23, 2023, after its initial publication on March 22, 2023.

Help us improve Microsoft Advertising

Your comments and feedback are integral to shape and improve our product. You can use the Microsoft Advertising Feedback portal, in-product feedback, Twitter, or Instagram. You can also email us at or contact Support.


Recommended for you


Retail Media for retailers

Unlock a unified, omnichannel Retail Media program across onsite, offsite and in-store with Microsoft Retail Media to capture ad revenue and more product sales.

May 06, 2024


Retail solutions

Learn how to manage and deliver targeted and personalized ads. Retail Media has systems that are vital for retailers and advertisers.

May 06, 2024


Microsoft Retail Media for brands

Retal Media for advertisers helps you boost brand awareness and product sales by targeting first-party shoppers of key retailers across onsite, offsite and in-store.

May 03, 2024