This past Monday, Microsoft announced its acquisition of Promote IQ, a technology provider that allows sponsored products to appear on the digital shelf within retail search.
Here at iProspect, we have a specialized ecommerce department that helps brands promote their products online for category-specific shopper searches, or to ensure that the product is given high exposure across a retailer platform or network. In the announcement, Promote IQ refers to themselves as “the leader in this space.” However, they are in fact a fairly new tech provider in a space that we know is dominated by Amazon, Criteo and Walmart. It is important to remember how each of these three entities work: Amazon’s proprietary technology serves sponsored ads on Amazon, while Criteo’s technology works on retailer sites across the U.S. such as Target, Best Buy, and CVS. Walmart is slightly different in that they use a combination of its own technology and Criteo’s to serve advertisements. The difference for Promote IQ and what they are bringing to the space that is unique is outlier retailers like Kroger, Kohl's and Overstock.com.
Why is the Microsoft and Promote IQ an important deal?
As we know, traditional search engines like Google and Bing usually show a product sold by a retailer within the SERP in the form of a shopping ad.
Now, for the first time, Microsoft advertising has a view into how brands convert through a retailer via Promote IQ. The merger also allows Microsoft to give retailers an alternative tech provider to (re)negotiate with, all while using shiny new Microsoft assets and infrastructure, which is likely to offer tempting commercial partnerships underlined with technology.
It is this potential underpinning of technology that really excites us here at iProspect. Microsoft understands the traditional search engine audiences and audiences across the open web via their display opportunities. If they can layer this audience segmentation into a retail environment, it will truly be a game-changer.
Imagine a world where someone is looking for “jeans” on Overstock.com. Microsoft probably has a good education of user demos like age, gender and previous open web searches. Therefore, what is served at the top of the shelf could be really ground-breaking and relevant because of this new partnership, as it is likely to be more tailored to an audience or shopper when the gender and preferred style of that shopper is not shown by a simple one word “search.”
Are the changes immediate?
Of course, the usual caveats apply, as with any major acquisition in the tech space.
For the moment, Promote IQ will operate as a standalone unit, so nothing will immediately change. Only time will tell how they’ll partner more with their new owners and what a joint venture with Microsoft will look like. We sincerely hope they find a solution quickly and make every effort to work together, as the opportunity to entice knew retailers into their network and overlay the rich audience data that Microsoft holds is incredibly exciting.