When it comes to the online experience, people don’t care about the web anymore, they care about mobile apps. These apps do much more than what is expected from a traditional web page. I’ll support this claim with data further in the article, but for now, let’s talk about consequences.
With the center of attention shifting towards mobile apps, in-app advertising emerges as a key player in the ad industry. This change provides new challenges and opportunities for marketers working in all verticals, but it can be the most beneficial for e-commerce advertising.
In this article, I discuss what e-commerce is, why in-app advertising is different and better from traditional web advertising, and which ad format works best for an e-commerce business. This will hopefully help you find your place in the advertising industry for the year 2020 and following.
The evolution of commerce
The first item ever sold on eBay was a broken laser pointer. This happened in 1995 and we can safely say that this is when e-commerce was born.
The history-old retail business has split into two parts: standard brick-and-mortar stores that still make up the majority of sales, and web-based e-commerce. The latter offered a well-known shopping experience transferred to a new medium.
At that time, e-commerce web pages could be viewed and used on home computers only. They offered a detachment of shopping from a physical location without attaching user’s personal preferences to the whole process. This was about to come.
After this rather unimpressive debut, in 1997, a new term has been coined: mobile commerce, or mcommerce. It has been described as a part of e-commerce that delivers the shopping experience via personal mobile devices.
At that time the reality was a far cry to what we have now, near the end of the second decade of the 21st century. Back then, mobile commerce was limited to making a payment via SMS messages for a can of Coke from two vending machines in Finland. However, the gradual evolution of mobile devices has not only completely cut off shopping from any specific location, including home computers, but also turned once dull shopping task into a real experience.
Nowadays, mobile shopping apps utilize all the magic tech that these small supercomputers in our pockets have to offer to help us pick the best products with ease.
What a long road we’ve come.
Advertisers were studying carefully the change that affected the e-commerce business. They had two ideas in mind that involved both parties involved: to offer ads more suited to user’s preferences and improve users’ ad experience.
E-commerce and mobile commerce
Saying that e-commerce is on the rise is not saying anything. Sales form the Q4 2019 were higher in the US than ever before, and e-commerce spending will only keep on growing. However, the major driver of that growth is mobile commerce.
Since its launch, mobile commerce has been growing steadily and is predicted to surpass sales of e-commerce in 2021. This corresponds to the overall shift in the way we use smartphones today. Although modern smartphones can render a web page filled with multimedia and animated elements, people prefer to use dedicated apps instead of on web pages for their shopping experience specifically and for general activity.
From the point of view of a
- store owner
- and advertiser
this is a welcomed change. I will tell you why in the next paragraph.
Mobile shopping apps vs web
Although modern websites can access smartphones’ location details for a better shopping experience, that is nothing to the advanced features that modern smartphones can bring to the table with dedicated shopping apps.
A well-designed and thought-through app can access not only a user’s location. It can also utilize a camera to help a user find similar products or use augmented reality services to visualize a product in a way that resonates with a user more. It can render a 3D model of a product more efficiently, provide smoother animations or offer a tap-to-call feature.
A web page feels like something found by chance, while an app feels more personal. It is purposefully installed and has push notifications enabled by default. Although many users stop using an app just after one use, those that stay use it regularly and form a habit.
Mobile app from a point of view of an advertiser
Advertisers should love mobile shopping apps. Not only because of their popularity and convenience but also because they can offer a unique set of options that allows delivering a one-of-a-kind encounter with an ad.
So what makes a mobile app such a desirable channel for an advertiser? There are four main reasons:
The typical tracking methods used by web pages employ cookies to identify a user. The problem is that the average lifetime of a cookie is just 24 hours. Any purchase made after that time will not be attributed to the original visit, which renders tracking pretty much useless.
On the contrary, mobile apps are tied to a device ID. This is an ad identifier of a completely different type. It is connected more with a user rather than with software they use.
The average lifespan of a device ID is stunning 21 months. What is more, cookies are blocked by some browsers and can be cleared on demand, while resetting your device ID is more troublesome.
The prolonged time window makes it easier to record subsequent sales and track a customer’s lifetime value (LTV).
The ad targeting options that are typically available for in-app advertising go beyond the standard demographic options you have on the web. From an e-commerce perspective, you can not only target device type or country but also keywords, categories, more exact customer location, and language.
Another trend that is growing over time is the usage of various ad blockers. It is easy to block ads in both mobile and web browsers and the only thing web page owners can do is to politely ask to unblock them. For technical reasons, blocking ads universally for all apps is more difficult and less common.
If you provide an enjoyable in-app ad experience, you won’t be treated as something intrusive, but as an integral part of the content.
We will discuss the various in-app ad types in a moment.
4. Uninterrupted attention
There are very few occasions when a person can focus their whole attention on one ad. Usually, ads are treated as a background white noise. They have to fight for the user’s attention not only with regular content but also with other ads.
In-app advertising crafts the whole layout more precisely, not being mediated by the browser. It allows one ad at a time only. This enables to capture user’s entire focus and not to clutter their view with competing ads.
An app type for each business
There are various app categories that are reflected in advertising verticals. Each vertical works better with a certain category of apps.
- Gaming ads work best when displayed in games.
- Nutra ads should be shown in lifestyle apps.
- Analogically, e-commerce ads work best in shopping apps.
As we have hinted before, because of their nature, shopping apps can bring even more value to a marketer than advertising in any other category of app. The key is the user’s intent.
When users go to a gaming app, they want to play, not get interrupted.
When users come to the lifestyle app, they want to exercise or plan their diet, not to spend money.
But when they come to the shopping app, they want to shop. So to do the same thing that you advertise. Your ad, if done well, becomes a part of apps’ content.
In-app ad types
If you want to offer a seamless experience to shopping apps’ users, you have to select the right ad format for you. Advertising inside apps comes in three different forms:
- Display. These are standard banner ads, usually shown at the bottom of the screen. They stand out, both in a good and bad way. They draw attention, but at the same time interrupt a user experience.
They usually are loosely connected to the app context, so you need a lot of effort to convince users to click. The other downside of this format is that more than half of clicks on banners on mobiles are accidental.
- Video. Both in-stream or outstream types. They are attractive, but even more than display ads, they take a user outside their context.
This is a go-to format for games and apps from similar categories. The downside is that it can trigger a bad response to it, with users frantically looking for the close button.
- Native. They offer an ad experience that blends with its context. They don’t trigger a negative emotional reaction, because they do not interfere with user’s primary goal: browsing through offers. On top of that, native ads can even help to improve user’s app experience.
Look at your ads as a part of a shopping apps’ content. After all, they’re meant to list offers, and your ad is simply one of them.
Everything is an ad in shoppings apps
The point of this article is to show that in-app advertising is a place to be, and native is the ad format to choose for an e-commerce marketer. With each year, the significance of in-app advertising will grow. In Tier 3 countries, the so-called ‘superapps’ take most of users’ online activity and soon they may simply become ‘the Internet’ for many users.
Advertising inside mobile apps simply puts you ahead of the curve.