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Jet.com’s Big Ad Push Will Target Everything But Mobile

Jet.com is the latest online retailer to take a swipe at Amazon’s crown, and all signs point to the fact that it’s doing pretty well at the task. After launching in July, Jet only needed a month and a half to become the fourth highest online marketplace by gross merchandise volume, according to ChannelAdvisor. That places the newcomer above standbys like Rakuten, Newegg, Sears and Best Buy – and right behind Amazon and eBay.

Marc Lore, founder and CEO of Jet, plans on keeping the momentum going with a massive ad campaign to drive new users to the site. What’s the catch?

Lore plans on advertising his online retail business everywhere but online.

During a panel at Advertising Week covered by DigiDay, Lore explained how Jet has succeeded so far by targeting millennial consumers who don’t mind paying a $50 annual subscription fee for access to basement-level prices. However, even though millennials are quickly making mobile their preferred platform for research and ordering, Lore said that Jet’s $5 million per week budget on advertising will be used almost exclusively for offline campaigns.

“People shop on a variety of platforms, so we’re looking for complete ubiquity across platforms,” Lore said at the panel. “You want to be everywhere the consumer is. Retailers shouldn’t focus on just mobile –  it should be a seamless experience with continuity across platforms.”

Instead of mobile ads, Jet will instead produce content for television, outdoor displays and even direct mail campaigns. Rather than running against the grain of consumer trends, VentureBeat explained that Lore might actually be reverse engineering a problem online marketers have struggled with for years. By advertising exclusively online, merchants run the risk of interacting with customers who are already familiar with not only their site but the concept of online retail. Expanding advertising outreach to offline consumers who have not yet made the ideological shift from exclusively in-store shopping to hybrid or entirely digital behavior means Jet is exposing itself to a consumer base that Amazon and other online retailers have not yet attracted to their sides.

While Jet and its executives quibble about how best to increase exposure and name recognition, analysts agree that the site needs an infusion of users if it wants to keep up with the companies it seeks to dethrone. According to a report conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, 81.4 percent of consumers had not heard of Jet.com as of August. However, usage of the site was clearly drawn along generational lines –about 50 percent of millennials said they had visited or made a purchase through Jet, while only 35 percent of Generation Xers and 15 percent of baby boomers said the same.

With such a strong foundation of millennial shoppers, Jet’s initial moves away from mobile might seem confusing given the affinity of younger consumers toward the medium. A study from IAB found that 28 percent of young millennials and Generation Zers were most likely to view an ad on their smartphones, while the average from all age groups sat at just 22 percent.

It’s unclear whether Jet’s offline advertising plan is a high-stakes gamble or an innovatively safe bet, but throwing millions at online ads might end up just becoming white noise to a generation of millennial consumers it hopes to capture away from Amazon and its ever-growing list of features and services. Lore did admit during the Ad Week panel that Jet would eventually be repurposing some of its advertising dollars toward mobile, but that would be a longer process than the current blitz it’s preparing to launch.

“We have a big ad budget, and we’re out to prove that in retail, it’s not winner takes all,” Lore said.

If all is for the taking, though, Jet has shown no signs of pulling punches.

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