Hate Banner Ads? We’ve Got the Cure.

In our previous post we covered how our visual product discovery system solves the problem of product discovery. In this post we focus on how the same technology is used to solve the problem of “banner blindness” — a case where the visitor to a website chooses to ignore the banner ads. I guess it needs no further explanation, we’ve all ignored banner ads. They flash, play tedious videos, load slowly and show random products. They are mostly irrelevant.

Yet, the content on the web would be different if it were not for banner ads and other type of digital advertising. Much of the content on the web is consumed for free and the expectation of the user is that content should be good and free. But getting something good for free without giving anything in return is a lot to hope for. And as such, websites are cluttered with all types of ads that do annoy users but are paying for the creation of the content that people can consume for free.

Banners are constantly improving in terms of their format and their content. There is a large variety of formats (e.g. static, pop-up, dynamic, auto-play videos and full-page takeovers) and the goal, as is visible with native ads, is to blend in with the content of the page. To erase the distinction between content and ads. Yet, this is tough. If the ad is not relevant for the user at that time, then it is intrusive and gets disregarded immediately.

After running a few end user studies we have noticed that it is difficult to accurately predict what people want when they shop for fashion. Even if the person is currently retargeted with products that she has looked online, it does not mean that these are the products she actually wants to buy. Why? Because even the user does not know exactly what products she wants. Fashion shopping is so much about spontaneity and surprising discoveriesthat what ultimately gets bought by the user is tough to say when she starts browsing for items. As such the process of discovering products should be made as easy and as relevant as possible for the user.

To solve the problem of banner blindness we are deploying a new type of dynamic ad format especially aimed for the fashion industry. It allows the user to click on items inside a 2×2 matrix and as the user clicks we recommend visually similar items. Even though it is placed inside a 300×300 pixel format banner ad, it is not an ad but actually a full online store.

It is a highly concentrated and relevant product discovery engine that is simple for the user to use and that contains thousands of products behind it. Where before a user would go to the online store to start looking for products, then now she can do the same thing on any of her favorite websites.

The user does not have to go to the online store. The store is brought to the user.

And this is a big difference. What is inside the banner is not just a random product to attract the user to click to the store. Rather it is an intelligent system that helps the user find what she actually wants.

So instead of pushing products toward a user through ads, this type of advanced ad format helps the user to discover what she wants. It is an intelligent personalized shopping assistant that can greet you at any website. Because the job to be done by a good ad is to help the user find what she actually wants. And that’s our aim — turning intrusive and irrelevant ads into relevant and helpful tools that allow users to find products that they love.

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