Amazon is now one of the top three digital advertising players, overtaking Oath and Microsoft just weeks after it became the second company in history to reach a $1 trillion market capitalization.
The growth of the retail giant’s advertising business has been fueled by innovative technical approaches — header bidding strategies and the development of a proprietary and vertically-integrated advertising platform — that have allowed Amazon to successfully capture customers from its primary competitors Facebook and Google.
To continue its dominance, the company will now look to one of the oldest forms of advertising, billboards and other out-of-home (OOH) media, to shape online retail habits and unify the customer experience online, in-store and at any location along the way.
Why Focus On OOH Media?
To start with, Amazon has won the battle with Google for supremacy in product search.
If a consumer is looking for information about a retail product, more than 50% of the time they’ll go directly to amazon.com, or if on mobile, the Amazon app. The company has changed consumer behavior for retail in the same way that LinkedIn or Facebook have changed the way people search for work and develop the social aspects of their lives.
Despite its massive presence in online retail, Amazon has yet to build a significant footprint in physical retail, outside of grocery with Whole Foods. But that may change fast with Amazon Go stores, which could reach 3,000 locations by 2021.
Most notably, Amazon is locked in a battle with Walmart, still the world’s largest retailer, which is making a strong push to grow its online shopping market share. Amazon, for its part, may seek to differentiate itself through the experience it offers in its physical retail stores.
To this end, Amazon can take a page from Apple in building a successful retail strategy in the physical world. Even though all of its products can be purchased online, Apple has invested heavily in its retail stores. They offer an elegant retail environment, with digital signage, powerful WiFi, solid power infrastructure and a mobile point-of-sale platform that makes it a truly seamless customer experience.
In contrast, Amazon has mass reach with different product sets and brands, allowing customers to make purchases of almost anything in one click, anywhere and any time. This gives the company unparalleled insight into the minds of shoppers based on intent, and where they can easily tie this back to purchasing behaviors both online and offline.
OOH advertising finishes the last mile in the marathon of reaching consumers along the entire customer journey. Digital OOH screens represent a massive opportunity for Amazon and other e-Commerce players, to partner with CPG manufacturers to create more impactful and seamless ad campaigns than ever before. The channel has also enjoyed a renaissance of late as the only traditional form of advertising expected to grow in 2018, up 2% to $8 billion.
The application of online ad marketplace and data analytics capabilities of OOH pave the way for the tech titans to use the medium to their advantage. According to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA), the top 10 spenders on OOH advertising include the likes of Apple, Google, and yes…Amazon.
Unifying The Customer Journey With The Right Product At The Right Time
Consumers now have the ability to shop anywhere, so billboards and other OOH inventory can be transformed into virtual, on-demand shelves and venues for targeted product placement. Amazon can now draw on mobile data to showcase the right products at the right time on OOH media to drive in-app activity and purchases.
For example, Amazon might use mobile app location data and purchase history to reach the highest concentration of mothers in a specific area who have purchased baby products like Pampers in the past month, then direct discounts and recommendations for Bugaboo strollers and accessories. Similarly, location data could be used to identify regular Starbucks customers, then show them early Black Friday deals for Nespresso coffee machines.
The contextual relevance of DOOH could also act as a filter for product display. Treating digital displays as “virtual shelves” would allow Amazon to, for example, showcase health-related products on consumer health kiosks and in physical therapy and doctor’s office waiting rooms. Digital out-of-home can help e-Commerce brands extend their physical presence, to engage consumers with advertising for products of interest at the precise moment decisions are being made about their health.
Reinventing Retail Through Data
With the reinvention of retail thanks to proximity marketing and the demands of Millennials in the mobile and e-Commerce era, Amazon has a huge leg up on its competition thanks to the data it already has on file.
Consumers today expect a connected and unified experience in the physical world as well, where brands and retailers communicate with them when and where it makes most sense. And there is a lot at stake, with more than 80% of the total U.S. retail sales still being made in store.
Anything is possible when you pair finely tuned demographic data, based on location, with the specific time and situational conditions to present the right set of products. Further, Amazon would be able to take device ID exposure logs or even deliveries against a product line to see a change in sales for a particular SKU. The added benefit will come in the form of campaign measurement in real time, where creative content decisions can be adjusted for and made on the fly.
It’s just the beginning, but expect to see the unification of the customer experience take another leap in 2019 with digital OOH, led by Amazon, and this will become table stakes for experiential retail over the next several years.
Michael Provenzano is the CEO and founder of Vistar Media, a geospatial technology company bridging the space between advertising ecosystems, consumer movement patterns and purchase behavior. Founded in 2012, Vistar created the first and only universal marketplace for out-of-home media, building a programmatic platform that has been widely adopted by buyers and sellers. Vistar provides marketers with unprecedented access to consumers at the right place and right time, through a data-agnostic system for analyzing consumer movement patterns and activating cross-screen mobile and out-of-home media. Previous to Vistar, Provenzano co-founded Invite Media, the first universal demand side platform for online display advertising, which was purchased by Google in 2010. Based in New York, Michael has a BSE in Materials Science Engineering from University of Pennsylvania.