Five ad formats to drive retail success this holiday season

By Sarah Martinez, VP & Industry Lead, Retail, Verizon Media

Couple holiday shopping using mobile phone

We know that retailers have a lot to look forward to this holiday season since it’s predicted that US retail spending will surpass $1 trillion in November and December for the first time ever. That’s certainly reason for excitement, but underlying that are important changes in shopper’s behavior - especially in e-commerce - that must be understood to ensure you have a successful holiday season.

Growth in e-commerce sales is predicted to far surpass brick-and-mortar at around 15% growth year-over-year this season. Mobile, in particular, is a bright spot for advertisers. In fact, mobile commerce is expected to jump a whopping 28% to $68.19 billion, representing nearly 48% of holiday e-commerce sales. 

And as mobile continues its rise as the preferred e-commerce channel, more holiday shoppers are turning to their smartphones and tablets to support buying. Studies show that consumers find mobile ads helpful when making holiday shopping decisions and learning about products and services. But what are the best ad formats to support them? 

Native ads, also known as in-feed ads, are built for commerce and work across the funnel. They are increasingly data-driven, encourage product exploration, and can eliminate steps to conversion. Mobile native formats, in particular, are effective at driving conversions. According to data from Appreciate, brands that ran in-app native ads during the 2018 holiday season saw the highest ROI among their peers. Additionally, mobile native video campaigns have a CTR of 11% on average -- 3.7x higher than non-native pre-roll ads. 

With that in mind, what are the most effective mobile native ad formats for retail marketers this holiday season? Let’s look at five that are particularly strong at driving retail advertising goals.

Dynamic Product Ads (DPAs)

Dynamic Moments

For retailers, it’s easy to see why DPA native ads are a favorite. DPA ads are not only very visual formats, but they also allow brands to retarget high-intent users based on past shopping behavior, mail subscriptions, search patterns, or abandoned carts. They offer features ranging from carousel to coupons and are able to turn your holiday promotion calendar into a “deals feed” that dynamically prospects users.  

On the customer side, DPA ads deliver value and utility. Shoppers prefer these ads because they can get deals that save them money. And, given the targeting options, DPA ads are seen as useful because they feature the specific products consumers are actually interested in. 

Mobile wallet ads

Mobile Wallet Ad

According to Deloitte, 56% of holiday shoppers use mobile devices to collect and use coupons, discounts, and promotions. Now, with mobile wallet ads, marketers can bridge the online and offline divide with a full-screen native ad campaign that delivers digital coupons right into your audience’s smartphone wallets. This ad format even allows for time and location push notifications. 

For consumers, mobile wallet ads offer convenience and savings, while advertisers gain the opportunity to engage holiday shoppers even closer to the point of sale. More importantly, the format can directly influence sales and drive revenue for your brand. 

Countdown ads

Countdown Moments GIF

3, 2, 1… countdowns always drive a sense of urgency. With 87% of holiday shoppers actively looking for deals and promotions, native ads promoting flash sales with a countdown timer catch the attention of deal-seekers, generate excitement, and help drive immediate purchases. 

Countdown ads will be especially important during the shortened holiday season. Whereas in 2018, Thanksgiving fell on November 22nd, this year, the holiday will occur a full week later on November 28th. With six days less to drive sales, countdown ads can be an effective tool for motivating purchases sooner in a condensed timeline. 

Augmented Reality (AR) ads

Augmented Reality ad unit

AR enhances real-world experiences by allowing users to have a tangible, engaging interaction with simulated objects. It’s increasingly accessible in mobile environments and helps make online purchase decisions easier. For example, holiday shoppers buying home decor gifts can see what products will look like IRL before making a purchase. Retailers like Home Depot and Pottery Barn are already using AR to deliver impactful shopping experiences and increase sales. 

This format brings a personalized, fun, and interactive experience to consumers by placing virtual products in real-world spaces - helping them get a better idea of whether something is suitable. AR ads not only build confidence for shoppers, but they also drive conversion and minimize returns for retailers. 

3D ads

Studies have found that 3D ads rank as one of the most appealing formats since they allow shoppers to explore products up close and from any angle. A holiday shopper can take a closer virtual look at a laptop, for example, through a 3D campaign. This leads to a better overall shopping experience and, like AR, promotes confidence in the buyer. 

3D and AR mobile native ads both fall under the extended reality (XR) format. XR is already very promising, but it’s poised to take off as 5G wireless rolls out nationwide. 5G can ensure a faster XR experience, without any lag or annoying load times for users. This is why a recent Gartner study found that “retail AR/VR applications of 5G attract the highest expectations for becoming drivers of new revenue.”

With the holiday shopping season approaching, marketers need to leverage mobile campaigns in effective and innovative ways. These five mobile native ad formats creatively connect with consumers, drive meaningful engagement, and deepen brand familiarity. May your brands make a direct impact on your bottom line this holiday season and beyond. 

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