Microsoft Store Uses Native To Drive E-Commerce Sales

Microsoft nativeAlthough native advertising is typically used for branding, it can provide results for direct-response campaigns.

That was the goal for Microsoft Store – the software giant’s answer to the Apple Store – when it launched a test in early July along with Seattle-based agency Point It and native ad-tech platform TripleLift. The native ad-tech company powers an exchange of what the IAB called “in-feed ads” in its Native Advertising Playbook.

Initially, the Point It crew was skeptical.

“To our surprise, our group learned that native could fit into the [direct-response] realm,” said Jaime Allyne, director of display advertising for Point It.

When Point It assessed the native campaign two months after the test began, it had driven a 475% return on ad spend. Revenue jumped 40%. Measured against other prospecting efforts, that qualified as success.

Though other TripleLift partners have since followed Microsoft Store’s actions, “to my knowledge, this is the first time a brand has done native at scale in a [demand-side platform] with [real-time bidding],” said Ari Lewine, co-founder and CSO of TripleLift.

Point It had done other native campaigns through Facebook, but it wanted to diversify the type of inventory it had in native without having to manage each inventory source. TripleLift counts The Atlantic, and Tech Times among the publishers in its exchange, as well as e-commerce sites like Kmart and OfficeMax.

TripleLift didn’t require learning a proprietary interface. Point It could buy the inventory directly through its demand-side platform (DSP).

Point It used a deal ID to access the inventory in TripleLift’s private native exchange. The private exchange protects its publishers, who only want high-end advertisers to show up in their sponsored posts, Lewine explained.

Once the campaign was up and running in the DSP, Point It could easily manage it. For the test, the company created a separate budget for the native campaign to ensure delivery and performance.

Using a DSP enabled Microsoft Store to benefit from the DSP’s optimization technology, which could focus on maximizing placements and creative that drove revenue. “For making adjustments to particular placements and optimizing the creative, we rely on technology,” Allyne said. “That’s where the benefit of programmatic comes into play.”

For the creative itself, Point It kept it simple for the test. It uploaded existing creative assets on file, namely photos, headline, and teaser copy. TripleLift assembled those assets to create placements that look like article previews, which it places in the editorial content flow. When users clicked through, they were taken directly to the product pages of the items featured

Different publishers require different photo sizes and formats to make the unit fit with their publications. TripleLift ensured the creative could be served in the thousands of different formats required.

“Clients and brands find that valuable,” said Lewine, noting some use TripleLift as a panel to test creative formats it will use in other digital campaigns. “In display, it’s often not viable to traffic 30 different creatives across three different ad sizes.”

Optimization took place on a more macro level, focusing on an individual photo and not on the different ways it had been cropped and resized. DSP technology also optimized based on the success of an individual placement level.

Point It has moved TripleLift from a test to a part of the campaign, but there’s enough inventory in the private exchange for it to further increase the budget if it chooses.

As Point It moves into its next planning cycle, it’s added native to its toolbox. “We definitely want to include native in evergreen campaigns, with prospecting and retargeting,” Allyne said. “Oftentimes we’re asked by clients what different levers we can pull if there’s a new product or a promotion. This is something we could launch when we need to get something turned around quickly.”

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