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What If Ads Came With Buy Buttons?

One of the wonderful things about taking a closer look at retail is the discovery of an inventory of accepted facts that seem to have been invented out of whole cloth and voted into reality by a republic of journalists quoting each other.

Take for instance, the one about women controlling 80 percent of the commerce spend in the United States. Or the one from the world of advertising where it seems a large number of otherwise credible judges have decided that the average American consumer encounters 3,000-5,000 ads a day.

The figure seems to be generally sourced back to a study marketing research firm Yankelovich Partners released in 2004 on the topic of advertising clutter. Although the study itself made no reference to any specific figure on average ads viewed per day per consumer, that somehow turned into quotes in publications such as Inc. and USAToday attributing the 3,000 to 5,000 a day figure for ad exposure to Yankelovich.

The more accurate source appears to be from a 1988 The New York Times article, which introduced  that specific figure noting that: “Studies show that the typical consumer is bombarded by 5,000 advertising messages a day."

Aside from giving you a little cocktail party fodder, this makes an important point. It is surprisingly tough to get a good figure for how many ads consumers see per day. If the number was 3,000 to 5,000 in 1988, before the Internet, before the mobile phone, and before proliferation of television and cable channels, it seems almost mind-blowing to attempt to estimate how many consumers are exposed to today, and more importantly, how many of them are even noticed by consumers.

Or converted into something that even remotely resembles a ROI for the brand pushing an ad to that consumer.

It’s a problem that XpressBuy has been working to solve for the last couple of years by doing something that sounds so obvious: dropping a “Buy Button” into an ad.

"From a shopping journey point of view, we are all about the ‘moment of interest,’” XpressBuy’s founder and president Murali Subbarao told MPD CEO Karen Webster in a conversation shortly before the launch of XpressBuy’s Ad Commerce platform. “If the user clicks on [the Buy Button] we can convert that intent to a purchase before the mood can flee."

Now, technically, of course, all ads have the opportunity to drive conversions. All a consumer has to do is click through the ad which will direct them to the sites where they can make a purchase. But that gives that consumer enough time to actually change their mind, get distracted, or decide that they don’t want to buy anymore. The result is something worse than shopping cart abandonment, it’s a shopping cart that never gets filled in the first place.

"We deliver six times the conversion rates of traditional retargeted ads,” Subbarao told Webster. “For example, let’s say a consumer’s in Facebook and she sees a call to action button in an ad. We then use the Web viewer within the app and engage the mobile [or desktop] user right then and there. We show her all the product images and options and allow the user to flip buy and even choose shipping options. And then when they are ready to buy – in the case of a mobile device – we authenticate through the carrier [via Danal’s platform] so that the consumer can complete the purchase right in the ad. In this case, the consumer never left Facebook."

And, he notes, Facebook is one example. One of the purposes of the in-ad buy buttons is to make them easy to use “out-of-the-box” via an API that retailers can easily hook into their current ads. Retailers have to only switch out the links [that would take the consumer to their own website] in the retargeted ads to enable consumers to buy from the ad without leaving the platform they’re in when seeing the ad. That API is also created to hook into a variety of payment platforms and digital wallets. XpressBuy’s goal is to make the checkout process as easy – and thus unlikely to be abandoned – as possible.

"We are agnostic as far as payment is concerned and are working with wallet companies to integrate with them. We’ll let the wallet provide the credentials, we are not creating separate accounts and there is no extra signup."

As the XpressBuy shopping platform hits the market today, it does so with some fairly notable retailers and brands in its quiver, some 450 to be precise. Home Depot, Target, Rakuten, Neiman Marcus, and Kate Spade are some of the notable names that appear on the startup’s website.

However, though its retailer support is impressive, Subbarao told Webster that the most attractive channels for XpressBuy are the ad networks. They, too, are interested in providing a solution to their brands that provide a measurable return on their ad dollars and Subbarao says that he believes XpressBuy is a solution that will allow them to do that. Not only can XpressBuy deliver conversions, they can also deliver insight into consumer behavior around ads.

"We want to partner with the ad networks,” Subbarao told Webster. “We can see what has the most engagement, what is selling out  – and that will allow [the ad networks] to keep up to the moment data about how consumers are interacting with ads."

And interacting they apparently are. Subbarao told Webster that he’s seen a wide range of purchases including a $20K purchase via a desktop and a ~$4K (hot tub) purchase on mobile.

"We find that the average is about $50  – that’s where we’re seeing conversions,” Subbarao noted of their more normal spending range. “One of six times, a product sells out. We’re finding that because the purchases are happening right in a native environment such as Facebook, we are seeing more product engagement. People are much more likely to participate and comment on a product when they have just bought the product."

And what about when Facebook (or Google, or Twitter) come to call looking for a cut of the revenue that XpressBuy is generating out of ads on their platform, Webster asked – noting that if the firm is very successful, it seems likely that any number of ad real estate owners will come looking to make sure Caesar gets his due.

"The approach we are taking is to leverage what they are making available today,” Subbarao responded. “If we make enough money we fully expect they will care at some point. The only thing that’s changing though is that we are putting the XpressBuy button into the call to action."

Which, by keeping the consumer inside the “native environment” might turn out to be worth a lot more than a cut of what XpressBuy might give them. More time on site means more eyeballs to sell more ads to.

All high class problems to contemplate. From XpressBuy’s point of view, one has to be a success before solving for the problems of being too successful. Which means for now, Subbarao’s sole focus is getting more consumers to convert and faster – and to be able to show advertisers and retailers that he has the secret sauce for making turning ads into instant commerce opportunities.

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