Back to the sizzle: How e-commerce marketers can use creative to maximize returns

e-commerce For Paul Childs, VP Business Development at programmatic advertising firm, MOLOCO, in the post-iOS 14.5 marketing world, a refreshed approach to ad creative is the key to e-commerce success.


Apple’s privacy updates have fundamentally changed how e-commerce marketers do their jobs. In the few months since the update was released, only about 16% of iOS users have opted into ad tracking. Without explicit consent to track user activity across digital spaces, many of the campaign strategies that marketers have come to rely on are no longer feasible.

E-commerce marketers will have a particularly tough time as the dynamic creative they leveraged to remind users of products they looked into or left behind in their carts has been severely throttled.

Tried and true ad tracking strategies won’t fall to the wayside completely, but they will shift significantly. The value of non-LAT traffic is growing in the post-14.5 world, and the improved results they’re yielding relative to LAT traffic are inspiring marketers to bid much higher than they did in the past.

In order to take advantage of these and other trends, e-commerce marketers will need to fundamentally shift their approach to advertising creative. Here are some of the primary ways creative will remain a critical tool for e-commerce success, and tips for marketers looking to maximize their return on ad spend as these changes take effect.

Lack of user data demands creative with broader appeal

Beautiful and original creative will help brands differentiate themselves within a crowded marketplace, even without the use of targeting tools. While trying to achieve greater reach, businesses often resort to drab and generic ads. But casting a wider net doesn’t have to mean drab design. If you can’t rely on reaching a specific person, your creative has to be irresistible to more people all at once.

Advertisers that invest in unique creative will have an easier time capturing attention and finding new customers at the broadest part of the bell curve.

As the old sales adage goes: “don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle.”

Ad creative also presents an opportunity to communicate your brand’s personality to the world. For most brands, that will mean pairing eye-catching visuals with a powerful message. The absence of user-level data makes it even more important for advertisers to deliver impactful creative, using a clear brand voice to deliver memorable customer experiences.

Advertisers should focus on messaging that connects brands’ values to consumers’ lives. Assume that anyone who sees your ad creative is experiencing your brand for the first time; what should that consumer know about your company? Balance clear, powerful messaging with evocative storytelling techniques to make a lasting impression. As the old sales adage goes: “don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle.”

Throttle up organic efforts to connect with consumers where they are

Today’s consumers expect to be able to actively communicate and converse with brands about what’s important to them. Effective creative allows brands to provide that kind of conversational experience through organic strategies like social media. For example, many social media platforms give users the option to volunteer certain demographic data to help improve their experience.

Connecting with consumers where they’re already gathering is a no-brainer, and the platforms’ baked-in basic targeting capabilities help reintroduce some of the demographic specificity that is lost without ad tracking. Consumers are also more empowered than ever to vote with their wallets, so advertisers should instill their creative — and the conversations it inspires — with a point of view and a sense of the company’s values.

Replace relevant recommendations with popular products

Apple’s new privacy measures will put an end to customizing specific product recommendations based on customers’ past behaviors for anyone that disables tracking. In place of similar products, advertisers should focus on what’s popular. Ad creative that highlights best-selling products makes for a wise investment because it exposes both prospective and existing customers to the items you already know move the needle for your business.

Herd mentality gives consumers confidence in new brands and makes them more likely to purchase products that are popular with their peers. That’s why featuring best-sellers in your ad creative is a good way to increase trust and guide new customers through the sales funnel, even without in-depth data points about who they are and what they care about.

Highlight key differentiators and unique product features

Brands can also treat the absence of detailed information about prospective customers as an opportunity to highlight the key differentiators that make their products special. Analyzing sales data will help brands determine what makes their products memorable. Then you can develop creative that promotes those elements, like products that run true-to-size, a sustainable supply chain, or the use of recycled materials.

Creative will absolutely be less tailored and less specific in a post-14.5 world.

Listening to your customers about what resonates with them is also a helpful strategy; mine customer reviews and social media engagement for unique insights into what customers love about your brand and develop creative that celebrates those traits. And don’t be afraid to lean into the points of differentiation that have inspired past customers to become truly brand loyal, no matter how unexpected they are.

Creative will absolutely be less tailored and less specific in a post-14.5 world. But especially as ad tracking opt-in rates plateau and adoption increases for iOS 14.6 and beyond, creative will be a critical tool for advertisers looking to connect with new consumers and breakthrough to unknown audiences. As with all tech innovations, evolution is the way forward. For advertisers to succeed, they’ll need to adapt and evolve their understanding of creative and its many powerful applications.


e-commercePaul Childs, VP Business Development, MOLOCO