In a world with small screens and even shorter attention spans, marketers are relying heavily on native ads to drive action, conversions and brand storytelling. Native ads, which are versatile and unobtrusive are outperforming most other digital formats, is projected to be an US$85bn global industry by 2021.

In Asia, marketers have been embracing native advertising as the format gives brands the chance to align with the intention of their audience. Our research showed that 79% of consumers want ads to blend in with the page, and 4 out of 5 users say they accept native advertising as a “form of content”. If people are looking at sports highlights, or seeking out stock advice for instance, brands must align with their intention, rather than try to fight for their attention. In other words, through active native ads that add to their experience, tied in with their interests and buying intentions.

Native’s place in e-commerce

According to Research and Markets, 50% of global online retail sales stems from Asia-Pacific, with the markets of South and Southeast Asia leading the charge. In addition, over three-quarters of e-commerce in the region is done on mobile, with merchant apps accounting for more than half of purchases made through mobile devices. Because of this, we are seeing a new generation of native advertising formats that are built specifically for online shoppers.

When consumers are ready to buy a product, they want to do so quickly and easily, having been given all the information they need to give them confidence in their purchase. This is where native advertising that has been built specifically for e-commerce paves the way for increased sales. It can bring the showroom to the bedroom and give the consumer a mountain of context.

New native ad formats

New native commerce formats include shoppable catalogues, augmented reality showrooms and interactive gaming previews. Each of these eliminate the steps to conversion, while still allowing the user to explore the product. They create a personalised experience for each consumer by using data to take into account the individual’s past actions, product interest and intent. Every element works together to promote commerce as the primary goal of the campaign.

Among countless different approaches to native advertising that are available globally, some are beginning to stand out for their potential. Here are five:

1. Panorama formats

A panorama feature can showcase a brand by housing immersive, interactive 360-degree image experiences that are controlled by a device’s gyroscope. Research shows consumers are twice as likely to engage with this functionality than regular ads.

Panorama formats are effective when brands are looking to create an exciting, immersive experience. It invites users into an experience that showcases the complete picture – in a way that today's mobile users expect, delivering fun and boosting purchase intent.

2. Dynamic product ads

These have evolved far beyond the search environment they were originally created for. They allow brands to retarget consumers who have shown a high intent of making a specific purchase based on past shopping behaviour or abandoned carts. Brands are finding that this type of ads leads to increased sales and users have also indicated that they find this useful and improves the shopping experience. Dynamic product ads have already picked up in APAC with remarkable results.

Leveraging them, an e-commerce advertiser in Hong Kong utilised our universal tracking tag and integrated them into their own e-commerce site, allowing for retargeting based on a customer’s browsing and purchase history - ads displayed relevant products that each individual customer would be interested in based on the available data which drove click-through rates by 66% and reduced the cost per acquisition by 92%.

Dynamic product ads have time and again proven effective for retailers. With 3 in 4 shoppers abandoning their carts, retargeting is more important than ever. With dynamic product ads, retailers can pick from features that dynamically prospect users. Customers also win because the format delivers value and utility – like deals that save them money. And, given the targeting options, useful because they feature the specific products consumers are actually interested in.

3. Countdown ads

Countdown ads allow for a set date and time when the ad expires and are suitable for ads that focus on action and conversion. These encourage conversion by creating a sense of urgency, to take quick and decisive actions to purchase products before the timer expires or before the sale ends. Our data shows that these ads have 2 to 4 times increase in click-through rates as compared to regular ads. Clients have reported favourable results with countdown ads; one advertiser managed to achieve a 46% cost per acquisition cost reduction in a 3-day promotion.

Countdown ads are effective for brands when they want to drive a sense of urgency, which make them ideal for holiday season shopping. Native ads promoting flash sales with a countdown timer catch the attention of deal-seekers, generate excitement, and help drive immediate purchases.

4. Mobile wallet ads

With the rise of mobile wallets across Asia-Pacific, from Alipay in China to Grab in Southeast Asia, brands can bridge the online-offline divide by sending digital coupons through time and location push notifications. These ads are considered useful by 70% of mobile wallet users, with more than two-thirds more likely to purchase after interacting with one.

Mobile wallet ads are very effective for advertisers looking to engage shoppers close to the point of sale and drive in-store traffic. This is a format that can directly influence sales and drive revenue for a brand. For consumers, mobile wallet ads offer convenience and savings.

5. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)

These evolving technologies are being used by brands to offer engaging mobile experiences that combine with the real world to bring the store to your phone. As a recent example, Sony Pictures Taiwan leveraged AR technology, to create a mobile game featuring characters from the movie Hotel Transylvania. Users engaged with the characters through AR for a chance to win free tickets to the movie – providing users with a fun, unique, and fresh experience.

VR and AR ads are effective in ramping up engagement, boosting brand affinity and letting consumers visually ‘try before they buy’ – which help make online purchase decisions easier. This format is Ideal for marketers who want to serve up convenience, personalized, fun, and interactive experiences to consumers, creating a seamless path from inspiration to purchase. Retailers from Home Depot to Pottery Barn are already using AR to deliver impactful shopping experiences and increase sales. Besides driving conversion and minimizing returns for retailers, they also build confidence for shoppers.

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg, as native advertising continues to evolve. What remains constant? The look and feel of native ads as a natural part of the user experience, and one that offers the path to stronger engagement.

Brands must choose the right strategy for their goals to drive meaningful results, and not run siloed campaigns for acquisition or customer retention. Native is most effective when commerce advertisers align their targeting with a specific creative strategy, creating impact across the funnel. (For more read: Best practices to drive retail success with native ads)

As marketers devise more ways to form more meaningful connections between their brands and their prospects, they have been finding native advertising a boon because it evolves at the pace of the intended audience. At this stage we know the impact native advertising can have on e-commerce opportunities can be boundless; providing higher conversion rates, increased sales, more engagement, and increased return on ad spend.