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The road to retail: how contextual ads can help marketers win over shoppers


By Jenni Baker, Senior Editor

January 4, 2023 | 7 min read

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In times of retail peaks and troughs, how can brands take advantage of contextual ads to win the hearts and wallets of shoppers on the move?

Waze knows the intent behind a shopping trip and precisely where they are heading in their car.

Waze knows the intent behind a shopping trip and precisely where they are heading in their car

Tentpole events in the retail calendar aren’t what they used to be. While the period from Black Friday through to Christmas and into the January sales tends to be the most competitive time for brands and retailers, the mindset of today’s shopper travels beyond the holiday shopping season alone into multiple seasonal moments throughout the year, giving marketers an opportunity to capitalize all year-round with the right offers and deals.

As we enter 2023 in a challenging economic landscape, the need for brands across all categories to stand out and make an impact is ever more pressing, calling for a consistent retail marketing strategy that reaches these customers in the right moment, in the right place, at the right time.

From road to retail

Regardless of whether you have a physical store or not, UK drivers love to shop – and GPS navigation app Waze knows that. According to its Waze knows: The drivers of today and what’s fuelling their purchasing decisions report, more than two thirds (68%) of UK drivers regularly use their cars to visit the high street or shopping center and would rather shop in person than online in almost every category, particularly for clothes, healthcare, homewares, furniture and home accessories.

More specifically, Waze knows the intent behind a shopping trip and precisely where they are heading in their car. And that kind of contextual knowledge, combined with contextual triggers like time of day or week and weather-based targeting, is like gold dust from a marketer’s perspective.

“Imagine you are the marketer in charge of absolutely any physical product; if you know that somebody is driving to a store where your product is stocked, why would you not want to put your brand as the last product they see?” says Ruairidh Roberts, country manager, Waze UK. “It’s like an extension of point-of-sale on a much more granular level.”

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Capturing the shopper mindset

In key shopping periods throughout the year, “these things can really catch on,” says Roberts, “because you’ve got the ability to tap into the mindset knowing where someone is heading. For advertisers, that’s a very powerful thing to capture.”

What’s more, 60% of drivers using Waze in the UK say they would travel further if they knew there was a specific offer or deal to be had. In the competitive retail landscape, the ability to provide offer- or location-based awareness is proven to drive more footfall into stores, giving brands in multiple categories an opportunity to differentiate and break through the clutter.

For example, Bensons for Beds was seeking to diversify its ad portfolio to increase footfall and awareness for drivers in the market for mattresses. Of the nearly 4.5 million Wazers in the UK, 63% were homeowners, and 83% owned vehicles. With 91% of stores within 2 kilometers of a competitor, the initial priority was to increase traffic to stores.

By using a range of Waze features, including Pins, Search and Zero-Speed Takeover formats, it was able to hit two key objectives: increase awareness around stores near competitors and drive footfall to independent stores. The result: one million users reached during a month-long campaign, with navigations to stores lifting 70% and a 168% uplift in ad recall.

Driving behavioral shifts

Reaching drivers with offers and awareness on the road in the right moment is also proven to generate shifts in behavior – and capitalize on the competition. After all, almost a quarter (24%) of drivers surveyed by Waze and Ipsos said that they would change their choice of retailer while driving if they saw or heard an advertisement for another one that interested them.

In a bid to reach and drive tradespeople and the public to store, multichannel tool retailer Screwfix and Merkle used Waze’s Sponsored Search Ads on category and brand searches to capture intent before the start of a driver’s journey and branded pins on key stores to increase map visibility.

This, combined with ‘Competitor Targeted’ Takeover ads meant the brand was able to capture valuable in-market audiences and drive them in store to safeguard market share against competitors. The campaign resulted in 34% increase in navigations to Screwfix stores, +312% navigation lift from takeovers and 7x ad call versus the industry benchmark.

A vehicle for engagement

And it’s not just traditional retailers or marketers who can benefit. Brand marketers in almost every sector can utilize these insights to make better marketing decisions. For example, in the entertainment space, using the platform to promote a TV series, movie or football match happening that evening as a driver is making the commute home from work; or immersing consumers fully in an experience to promote a new movie launch at the cinema.

There’s a broader benefit at play – it’s about capturing the imagination of consumers and ensuring they take notice in the moment. Roberts says: “As an advertiser, getting to spend material time with a consumer base is gold dust; and we’ve got a vehicle (excuse the pun) for that person.”

“With a TV or online ad, a brand is exposed to a user for a couple of seconds or minutes, depending on the platform – but different to any other type of advertising, if you’re with someone driving, you are potentially spending hours of time with a user over the course of weeks. That type of brand engagement opportunity can be really powerful in bringing a brand to life.”

Taking these learnings from the road and implementing them into retail and marketing strategies gives brands a unique opportunity to be present in the right moment – not just during retail peak periods but in traditionally quieter periods too. As brands accelerate into 2023 amid a cost-of-living crisis, contextual offers and deals that reach consumers in the right mindset will be the differentiator in retail to help turn occasional or seasonal shoppers into year-round customers.

For more insights on what’s fueling UK drivers’ purchasing decisions in retail and other categories, download a copy of the Waze report here.

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