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Digital vs E-Commerce advertising – The role of intent in tipping the scales

17 May 2018

To understand which type of ad is most suitable to your business, we must first delve into what both digital and e-commerce advertising mean in terms of furthering your business objectives. The umbrella of Internet-based/ digital advertising includes a number of mediums such as display advertising on websites and mobile, search engine marketing, native advertising, video ads and social media advertising. Digital advertising is popular for its ability to reach a wide audience through a variety of means that are useful to businesses of all kinds. E-commerce advertising on the other hand is best suited for product-oriented businesses. It involves serving ads specifically to transacting consumers.

Regardless of the type of advertising the first step is to effectively identify your target audience, build audience personas and determine consumer intent by mapping what path they will take before making a final purchase. Based on this, you can create a robust media strategy to choose the right platforms and mediums based on specific marketing objectives and target audience.

This fuels the ability of a business to tailor the ad message according to intent and present it in a manner that is both contextual and relevant – eventually increasing the probability of converting. Thus, through the effort of digital/ e-commerce advertising, marketers are efficiently able to satisfy a product-oriented brand’s objectives.

While digital and e-commerce ads appear similar on the surface level, a deeper analysis creates a rather noticeable scope of differentiation between the two. E-commerce advertising can be understood as part of the larger digital marketing gamut, often as a more refined, purpose-driven medium. To understand this better, let’s look at both in detail:

Digital Advertising

Digital Advertising, also called ‘Internet advertising’ involves the use of the online mediums to promote a product or service to its target consumers. The advertising message can be delivered through a variety of mediums, that is, social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, advertising on search engines such as Google, display ads on mobile apps/ website, affiliate partnerships, and many more.

The biggest advantage of digital advertising is the ability to reach a wider audience using numerous mediums, create brand awareness, and achieve better visibility. Digital advertising is especially vital for businesses looking to build relationships with their users through brand building, story telling and engagement, given that digital ads do not necessarily have to be oriented towards buying and selling alone.

However, digital advertising doesn’t cover every stage of the buyer journey, thus misses out on tracking ROAS in figures against actual sales. It can give marketers conversions on the ads but seldom will those be in terms of actual sales.

Marketers don’t always have the ability to track ad campaign effectiveness and gauge the level of impact on target audience. Especially in the case of purchase-oriented advertising, marketers are unable to track total number of final conversions, add-to-carts, add-to-wish lists, engaging with products/services, purchase etc. and therefore, the overall return on investment. As a result, analytics is restricted to awareness and consideration while the purchase segment of the consumer journey may be ignored. Additionally, digital ads do not take into account the intent of the user viewing the ad, such that a shopping ad may seem irrelevant to somebody looking to consume content casually.  

E-Commerce Advertising

E-commerce advertising forms a crucial part of the digital advertising landscape. You’ll often find purchase decisions being taken instantaneously on an e-commerce platform just as you’d see inside a physical store. The aim of e-commerce advertising is to influence this purchase decision of a transacting consumer and guide him/ her along the purchase funnel – from awareness, to consideration and eventually purchase.

E-commerce advertising tracks intent to purchase impacting in terms of conversions and ROI.

When a user is browsing through an e-commerce platform, the chance of converting them into a buying consumer is at its highest. E-commerce advertising allows the marketer to track intent and leverage from this opportunity to present ads in a contextual setting. The intent of purchase can be directly established when the user searches with a specific keyword or takes a desired action – page visit, product comparison, add to cart, add to wish list and the like.

It allows the marketers to use engaging ad formats and drive consumers from awareness towards purchase. Thus, they are able to reach the right audience (through precise targeting) at the right time (with established purchase intent). It can also be the perfect platform to cross sell related products which will interest consumers at the time of purchase. Cross selling has been a successful strategy; more so on E-Commerce platforms because it can suggest products based on historical data of what similar customers have purchased. For example, an ad of a phone-case or a charger targeted towards a consumer buying a phone on Flipkart makes for a near-perfect situation to help with a product’s sale. Further, one can correctly measure effectiveness of the ad using precise analytics and metrics. With the additional major advantage of special sale days such as The Big Billion Days and Republic Day Sales, etc. marketers hugely benefit from increased site traffic and subsequent increase in conversions.

Thus, while digital advertising is concerned with marketing a product or service to an identified target audience using digital mediums, e-commerce advertising is targeted towards consumers transacting on an e-commerce platform. E-commerce advertising serves as an auxiliary for buying and selling of a product or service. With a wide range of benefits, e-commerce advertising forms an indispensible chunk of digital advertising, especially for product-oriented brands looking to target consumers with high purchase intent. Product-oriented brands can make use of advanced tools to reach the right people and maintain high ROI. Businesses must study their target market, audience, budget and create ads in collaboration with trusted commerce players.

With Flipkart, you have access to a variety of tools such as precise targeting and intelligible insights to improve effectiveness and relevance of ads. On the other hand, digital advertising much like traditional advertising follows a ‘one size fits all’ approach. This requires a greater degree of trial and error, often resulting in wasteful allocation of money.