UAE retailers have got their acts together on ecommerce, at least since last year. But they have work to do on finetuning their digital visibility and marketing cues. Image Credit: Supplied

Advertising has long been the Holy Grail of marketing. When we look at it now, social media and digital make up a different, more powerful extension of the Grail. Gone are the days when a media planner presented a bunch of above-the-line and below-the-line ad options without any data to prove a future sales lift.

A more data-driven approach with a granulated measurement is preferred, resulting in most budgets being spent by planners on digital ads. The ability to exchange ideas with consumers and communities through the free web has opened new avenues of e-commerce, gaming and entertainment.

The influence that the internet has as the cornerstone of today’s retail has spurred a revolution in content and ads, and by extension, in the consumer experience.

The potential to track, measure and revamp digital campaigns and the ability to measure success on ad spend makes it a must-have marketing tool. The total ad spend globally was close to $586 billion, of which digital ad’s share was around $378.16 billion. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau report by Pwc, digital ad spend grew 12.2 per cent owing to e-commerce and the spike in home deliveries over the past year.

Read More

No more deniers

If we look closer to home, the region, which boasts state-of-the-art digital infrastructure, has taken fullest advantage of this wave. Most retailers and major corporates are heavily focusing on their digital presence. While they don’t often have the expertise in-house, they are inching towards outsourcing specialized services that need a more concerted effort.

Even previously hesitant segments within retail are embracing the use of this platform as the – only - way forward. The point that stands out is that retailers are finding their success formulas within their set budgets.

On the ad agency side, industry players are offering a gamut of advanced digital options to clients and spending a considerable number of resources on curating new data-driven initiatives. Whether for content creation, ad management, or even influencer marketing, agencies are giving retailers the advantage of adopting a nimble mindset.

Let go hands-on

Another upshot is an increase in active training in the industry. We have witnessed a significant interest from young media professionals to upskill and be market-ready to work in an environment that blends traditional and digital practices.

This is probably why studies show that the Middle East digital ad spent is set to grow faster and with over $5 billion this year. But there has been an increase in misinformation, fraud and hate speech, marring the image of social media.

This negative impact calls for a system reboot with regulatory measures in place and a larger emphasis on factually correct content being put out. Retailers have a bigger responsibility to build trust beyond engaging the audience.

As we see the decline of traditional media and retailers jumping to digital, it is key to acknowledge the broader sense of the digital space. It is undeniable that a digital-first and data-driven approach is the blueprint of the future, but greater collaboration between retailers and agencies - to harness innovative solutions backed by metric, measurement and outcome - remains essential.