How to drive e-commerce with billboards

e-commerce advertising

Most small businesses immediately turn to digital marketing to promote their brand. Of course any 21st century start-up worth its salt has an online presence, but by focusing on a single marketing medium could you be limiting the way you engage with your target audience?

When it comes to reaching consumers and converting ads into sales, out-of-home advertising sites (like billboards) offer unique strengths and opportunities that can enhance your online presence.

Why go digital?

To be honest, it’s not really a question. Businesses these days need an online presence. According to a 2016 survey, 51% of shoppers made their purchases on the web. And even if you’re not an e-commerce business, 85% of consumers said they had used the Internet to find a local business according to statistics from Search Engine Land.

The great thing about digital marketing is its accessibility. You don’t need a massive budget to get online, and it’s easy to target specific consumers and measure your success.

However, just because you’re online, it doesn’t mean your audience will be able to find you. There’s a lot of digital noise on the web these days and new websites can find it hard to compete with the big guns when it comes to breaking through the clutter to attract traffic.

Google Adwords and boosting social media posts will guarantee traffic is sent your way, but it’s expensive. Few start-ups can withstand the cash cost of turning online advertising into a positive ROI. It’s not a long-term strategy.

Marketing your start-up online is all about the long game. Although it’s time-consuming, and results can take a while, SEO works. Investing in a great website, creating quality content and building links to your site will ensure your brand has long-term presence.

Why take your e-commerce business out-of-home?

Out-of-home (OOH) marketing refers to those ads you see on billboards at the side of the road, posters at bus stops and train stations, or on the side of vehicles for example. And whilst it’s a more traditional form of advertising, it offers some unique opportunities to get you brand noticed.

digital ooh screens in times square

Outdoor advertising, and billboards in particular, are a coverage medium that can have high impact. The core strength of advertising outdoors its ability to reach a huge audience and make brands famous – over 2 million people walk past London’s Piccadilly Circus each week, for example. And, unlike digital marketing, it’s more likely to get noticed. Out-of-home reaches people when they’re out and about, often in locations like bus stops, traffic queues or train stations where consumers welcome distractions.

With the development of more online booking systems for renting out-of-home ad space, advertising outdoors is also becoming increasingly flexible. You don’t need a huge budget for a nationwide campaign, when you can find and book a specific site for as little as 2-weeks at a time. Which is great news for local businesses looking to build brand recognition in a specific area.

However, tracking the success of an out-of-home campaign can be difficult. How do you know if your billboard is converting passers-by to customers, or if your bus shelter ad is delivering a positive ROI? Furthermore, unless you’ve got a huge marketing budget, long-term OOH advertising campaigns just aren’t a viable option.

Integrating outdoor and digital advertising maximises the benefits of each channel

Outdoor and digital marketing complement each other perfectly. A campaign that employs both channels simultaneously maximises the advantages of short-term big brand impact alongside a long-term online presence.

And where out-of-home advertising is limited by a need for brevity and emphasis on high-impact visuals, online and digital channels offer the opportunity to expand upon your initial message. Research shows that people who have seen an outdoor ad are 17% more likely to engage with that brand on their smartphone. People won’t pull their car over next to your billboard to jot down a telephone number, but if your ad made an impact, they will Google you. So OOH acts as an introduction to your brand, whilst digital deepens your engagement with consumers.

billboard advertising for e-commerce

Digital can help you track the success of an OOH campaign

As well as deepening your engagement with customers, digital can help you track the success of an outdoor campaign. By developing a strategy to track an ad digitally you can capture data about the billboards and posters that have been successful.

For example, your outdoor ad could include a promotional code that offers an exclusive discount to consumers who respond to the ad. When that code is used at point-of-purchase online it’ll give an indication of how many sales were made as a result of engagement with your out-of-home advert.

Alternatively, you could create a unique landing page to display on your OOH poster. The number of online visitors that arrive at this URL will provide an indication of how successful that advert has been. Similarly, incorporating a unique, memorable hashtag on your outdoor ad allows you to track the success of and further develop an OOH campaign on Social Media.

Outdoor advertising and new digital

As technology advances and the OOH industry wakes-up to the digital world, the possibilities offered by linking digital and out-of-home are widening.

For example, many outdoor ad sites now incorporate NFC, iBeacons, QR or Bluetooth. Advertisers are using these tools to actively encourage consumers to connect with them digitally, like in KFC’s recent OOH Snapchat campaign. They can be used to offer exclusive discounts and vouchers, provide real-time updates or even enable passers-by to actively interact with a billboard or poster.

As digital and out-of-home move closer together, the creative opportunities to connect and engage with consumers are becoming more and more exciting. Have a look at these inspirational digital-out-of-home advertising examples to get your creative juices flowing.

Out-of-home advertising and e-commerce: a match made in heaven

If you’re planning a marketing strategy for your e-commerce business, it’s worth considering the benefits of integrating your digital marketing with an out-of-home campaign. Use out-of-home to build brand-recognition, target mass audiences and reach customers away from the clutter of online advertising. Use digital to further expand your message, deepen engagement, and to track the success of a campaign.


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