How to Boost Your Ad Revenue with Drop-Downs

Jane O'Hara
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What if you could turn your platform’s whitespace into revenue without compromising your user experience?

We’re always eager to share innovative ways publishers can monetize their site/app, particularly when existing assets are involved. One such compelling opportunity is drop-down menu ads.

This article will share examples of drop-down ads and offer ideas for how you can boost your ad revenue with them too.

Drop-downs, profits up

B2W Digital, Brazil’s top eCommerce retailer, recently added sponsored listings to drop-down menus on two of its three B2W Marketplace platforms: Americanas and Submarino. These sites (and Shoptime) also feature sponsored slots in homepage carousels and category pages.

Submarino drop-down menu ad
Submarino drop-down menu ad
Americanas drop-down menu ad
Americanas drop-down menu ad

As you can see, when users click on the hamburger menu in the top left to browse all categories, the drop-down menu provides an additional way to search their catalog. If users scroll over a category, it expands with even more sub-categories, as well as a beautiful ad tailored to the content (Nintendo Switch advertising in the Services category; Samsung in Computers and Tablets).

Additionally, B2W has done a great job making these ad units native to their drop-down, with the height and width matching the other columns (using a non-IAB-sized ad unit).

Compare B2W’s examples with these from Walmart, where Walmart either (1) lacks any promotion or (2) uses a pixelated, unformatted internal promotion.

Walmart drop-down menu
Walmart dropdown menu ad
Walmartdrop-down menu ad
Walmart drop-down menu ad

B2W’s ad units can attract more advertisers and serve more contextually relevant ads without diminishing the site’s user experience.

Drop-down opportunities

Here are additional ideas to monetize the assets you have, using examples from several well-known platforms.

Broad promotion

You may already use your main drop-down menu to spotlight specific product categories. What if you turned those internal promotions into sponsored spots?

For instance, The Home Depot could monetize its existing internal promotional space by asking Behr or Nest to sponsor these images driving people to specific categories. Alternatively, they could feature multiple images of different smart tech appliances and have those respective companies bid for placement through a self-serve platform.

Home Depot drop-down menu with paint promotion
Home Depot drop-down menu with paint promotion
Home Depot drop-down menu with smart tech promotion
Home Depot drop-down menu with smart tech promotion

The user experience remains the same - and the images themselves don’t have to change much - yet The Home Depot now has a new revenue stream.

Narrow promotion

You can also increase the contextual relevance of your ads by tailoring them to the subcategories that people are browsing for.

Amazon

Amazon does a good job of matching their internal promotions with subcategory context, with curated Wedding Registry and Editors’ Picks lists appearing when you scroll under the ‘Kitchen & Dining’ subcategory.

Amazon drop-down menu
Amazon drop-down menu

We see two more opportunities for Amazon here:

  1. They could have native ads highlighting specific Kitchen items or specific Kitchen brands - paid for by those companies, instead of the curated lists
  2. They could have a brand pay to sponsor a list. For example, a popular kitchen brand like KitchenAid may love to have “Sponsored by KitchenAid” added right above the blender in the image.

In both of these scenarios, Amazon would drive a little more revenue without an impact to the drop-down menu layout.

Etsy

Etsy, like Amazon, uses the whitespace in its drop-down menus to spotlight Editors’ Picks. What if they too offered this prime real estate to their sellers?

This could take the form of ‘Editors’ Picks - sponsored by X’ or a native ad sending users to a specific item.

Etsy drop-down menu
Etsy drop-down menu

Such ads could easily be targeted by subcategories like “Home-->Rugs”, the broader “Home & Living”, and so on. Etsy could then offer their advertisers a way to target specific categories with different bids, as someone who makes office rugs may find that a promotion under “Rugs” is worth $1.00 cost-per-click to them, while “Office” is worth only $0.50.

These ads wouldn’t be intrusive at all, as they would mimic the look and feel of Etsy’s existing internal promotions.

Zappos

Similarly, a site like Zappos could boost incremental revenue by selling its existing internal promo spots - turning top sellers into top advertisers.

Zappos drop-down menu with Birkenstock promotion
Zappos drop-down menu with Birkenstock promotion

Popular brands like Birkenstock would likely pay higher CPMs to feature their ads in the above drop-down menu for women’s shoes — and an even higher premium if that click led to a curated list featuring just their shoes.

Zappos curated list for Birkenstock
Zappos curated list for Birkenstock

Benefits of a drop-down approach

Like sponsored listings in your homepage carousel, drop-down menu ads are valuable because:

  • They complement your organic spots for a non-intrusive ad experience
  • Advertisers pay more for high-interaction, high-intent ad units
  • They offer effective contextual targeting without PII
  • They’re a safe, cookie-free option that complies with privacy laws (GDPR, CCPA, etc.)

As an additional ad unit, they also offer strong upselling opportunities. You can add drop-down ads to a higher-priced package, offer a range of CPMs based on the specificity of your sub-categories, charge a premium for curated lists, and more.

Drop-down ads can also be an effective test unit for potential vendors. By offering a free trial of the impressions in your drop-down menus, you can use these ads to convince vendors of your audience fit.

How to implement drop-down ads

Monetizing your drop-down menus requires a non-programmatic, server-side solution that integrates native ads with your organic content. While Amazon, Etsy, and others spent years building their ad platforms in-house, you could also use an API ad serving solution like Adzerk to monetize your drop-downs with contextually-relevant, native ads in just weeks (the option B2W chose).

How will you use drop-downs to boost revenue?

We hope these ideas spark some creative thinking for monetizing your site/app.

Ultimately, just think about the brands you’re currently featuring (for free). If you’re already promoting them through in-house ads — why not get paid to do so?

Additionally, building a robust ad platform (with, for instance, self-serve buying and first-price auctions) would allow vendors to compete for that placement and place their own bids, increasing the amount you’d make.

How have — or will — you use drop-down ads? Click the discussion link to drop us a line!

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Jane O'Hara

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