Australia’s Retail Sector Divided On Digital Ad Spend: SMI Data

Young Beautiful Woman Sitting On Couch Shopping Online

Australia’s retail sector continues to invest in digital media as it faces an increasingly disruptive market, but there’s little agreement on the preferred digital media channel, the latest Standard Media Index (SMI) advertising payment data has revealed.

Rochelle Burbury
Posted by Rochelle Burbury

SMI’s data for the first quarter of 2017 shows the key retail sectors of department stores, discount stores and apparel/luxury fashion/shoes have all continued to grow the amount spent on digital advertising. However, the amounts spent and where it was spent differed markedly.

Although the apparel/luxury fashion category spends the least on digital media, it is growing the fastest of the three sectors, with its digital ad spend jumping 73.6 per cent in the quarter.

And interestingly, apparel retailers are the only category spending more on quality content sites (mostly news-based websites), with both department and discount stores reducing their ad spend to this area in favour of the exchanges (or programmatic) market where advertising purchases are automated.

The growth in programmatic advertising was most pronounced within the department store category in this quarter, with that ad spend quadrupling, while for discount stores, the highest growth in ad spend was among ‘pure play’ (mobile groups which specialise in in-app mobile advertising).

SMI AU/NZ managing director Jane Schulze said the data again highlighted distinct differences in the digital media channels chosen by key retail sectors.

“Within SMI’s overall retail category data it’s clear there are distinct retail ecosystems, each with their preferred method of approaching digital media,’’ she said.

“For example, department stores spend the greatest proportion of their digital media budget on social sites, discount stores spend the greatest proportion on search marketing, while apparel retailers prefer quality content sites.

“The only commonality in ad spend trends we’ve seen in the most recent data is the reducing in spend onto pure play video sites, which may reflect some of the recent debate around advertising on brand-safe websites.’’

Ms Schulze said the lack of consistency in approach to the digital market was interesting given the number of retailers in financial difficulty as new overseas entrants ramp up competition in the sector.

“Clearly the various retail sectors are continuing to test what works best, as we can see that while apparel retailers are now spending the largest part of their digital advertising budgets on content sites, in the fourth quarter of 2016 most of their digital ad spend was directed to social sites,” she said.

Note: Department store data includes all digital ad spend for retailers such as David Jones, Myer and Harris Scarfe. It’s discount stores data includes retailers such as Big W and Kmart, while its Apparel data includes ad spend for retailers such as Country Road, Witchery and Marcs.