The importance of building brand awareness through Amazon advertising

Marketers should be looking at the brand-building potential across both display and search ads because Amazon is not just about direct response anymore.

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In the early goings of Amazon’s advertising platform, most advertisers looked to it as another source of ad inventory that should be focused on direct response. This is in large part due to Sponsored Products typically being the first format brands wade into, and that format produced a whopping 13% conversion rate for the median advertiser under Tinuiti (my employer) management in Q4 2019. As such, it’s safe to say that Amazon ads are certainly a strong avenue for driving orders and sales.

However, it’s no longer the case that Amazon advertisers are focused entirely on direct response goals, and marketers should be looking at the brand-building potential across both display and search ads in order to get the most out of the platform.

Amazon DSP advertisers increasingly focused on awareness and consideration

The Amazon Demand-side Platform (DSP) allows marketers to target display inventory both on and off Amazon. Across a sample of dozens of Amazon DSP advertisers, we found that the share of spend allocated to campaigns focused on building awareness and consideration grew from 26% in Q1 2019 to 60% in Q4.

As you can see from the chart above, advertisers began 2019 allocating nearly three quarters of all DSP spend to purchase-focused campaigns, but that share slipped to 40% by the end of the year. This increased willingness to invest in campaigns focused on more upper-funnel goals has enabled marketers to rapidly expand investment in the platform, and in Q4 ad spend grew 44% relative to Q3, the largest quarter-over-quarter growth of the year.

Investing in brand awareness campaigns also has the trickle-down effect of producing more customers that have not purchased from the brand previously or who are infrequent purchasers. Looking at new-to-brand metrics, which identify those customers which have not purchased from a brand on Amazon in the last twelve months, the share of total DSP purchases attributed as new to the brand advertising went from 71% in Q3 to 78% in Q4.

While some of this increase may be tied to seasonal shifts, it certainly makes logical sense that investing in campaigns aimed at building brand awareness would in turn spur on more new customers to purchase from a brand.

Much like any DSP, advertisers have the ability to choose different ad formats and dimensions to create different experiences. While advertisers generally use Dynamic Ecommerce Ads for use in purchase-focused campaigns, static banners give marketers the ability to inject brand and lifestyle images into the creative used for those campaigns that are more focused on building the brand.

Looking outside of the Amazon DSP, advertisers are also finding success in building brand awareness through the Sponsored Brands format.

Sponsored Brands new-to-brand share rises in Q4

New-to-brand metrics are also available for the Amazon Sponsored Brands ad format, which appears at the top of Amazon search results as well as additional placements rolled out in late 2018. Tinuiti advertisers saw the share of total Sponsored Brands conversions attributed as new-to-brand grow from 58% in Q3 to 60% in Q4.

Even more interesting is how new-to-brand share moved during the core weeks of the winter holiday shopping season between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. During this roughly four-week period, daily new-to-brand conversion share averaged 64%, compared to the 60% figure observed for Q4 overall.

As such, it seems that customers are more willing to purchase from brands they haven’t bought from previously and/or those which they haven’t purchased from in at least a year during the holidays. This is an important consideration to keep in mind when allocating budget and placing bids throughout the crucial holiday shopping season.

As mentioned previously, these ads show at the top of search results as well as some other placements along the right rail, at the bottom of desktop results, and intermittently throughout mobile results. Taking a look at the share of conversions that placements at the top of search results account for, these slots produced 75% of all conversions in Q4 2019. Even more impressive, however, is that they produced 87% of all new-to-brand conversions.

Knowing this, brands looking to reach new customers should pay extra close attention to where their ads are showing on the page and adjust bids to ensure ads are reaching the competitive top of page placements.


What was once an opportunity that most advertisers used primarily for direct response, purchase-focused goals has quickly evolved over the last year. Marketers that are able to take advantage of the brand-building potential of both Amazon search and display formats and bake the expected value of these tactics into budget and bid planning will be able to maximize their output from Amazon advertising. Those that don’t will have a harder time competing moving forward.

Join us for two days packed with expert insights and tactics on all things digital commerce marketing — from Amazon to Google to Instagram and more — at SMX West in San Jose this month. Check out the agenda >>

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Amazon ad spend rises over Cyber 5, but most efficient sales days still ahead

The five-day stretch from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday was record-breaking for e-commerce but brands still have more time for profitable sales on Amazon.

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On Cyber Monday alone, consumers spent $9.4B via online channels – that’s up $1.5B from just last year, according to Adobe, and another record-breaking figure in terms of e-commerce sales. For marketers, the entire five-day stretch dubbed “Turkey 5” by Amazon (also known as Cyber 5), was likely a banner sales weekend, but looking at year-over-year Amazon data, what’s clear is that your holiday fortunes are not made or broken on that period alone.

As part of the research my company conducted, it is clear that on a conversion rate and cost-per-conversion basis, some of the best sales days on Amazon come after Cyber Monday. To maximize your total sales, and potentially capture market share from competitors, your advertising budgets and strategy on the site needs to align with this reality.

As seen in the below graphs, which are drawn across a same-set of more than 700 Amazon sellers, ad conversion rates continue to rise from Cyber Monday all the way through the Dec. 22 shipping cutoff. Yet, the average cost-per-conversion declines over the same period.

This is likely due to two contributing factors.

Perhaps most impactfully, many brands budget to spend aggressively during that five-day period and, due to the extremely high volume of consumers on the site, blow through a fixed budget for the season. While those holiday period campaigns may have driven high sales volumes at profitable costs, those same brands now don’t have the ability to stay aggressive over the intervening days, substantially tapering down spend and bids through the remainder of the year and missing out on these additional profitable sales.

Secondly, when consumers are shopping on Amazon a matter of weeks or days before Christmas, they are less inclined to do a great deal of research when buying their gifts. Time is of the essence, and the data bears out that users are more likely to click and convert on a sponsored product ad during this period.

In 2019, that latter point may be even more important, as the time between Cyber Monday and Christmas nearly a full week shorter, lending itself to more “last minute” holiday gift buying.

The bottom line is that on Amazon, it’s imperative that you consider uncapping budgets around holiday periods and other high-traffic events on Amazon in particular, provided you have the ability to set and adjust bids to align with the value of a given sale after discounts, fees, etc.

This is driven home by the overarching trend over the five-day period itself. Even in the face of a large number of sellers aggressively advertising during this time, the massive amount of consumers coming to Amazon and subsequently clicking on ads outpaced that rate. Across gift-giving categories and more than 219,000 products, Amazon ad spend was up significantly, but CPCs either remained flat, declined, or rose at a level far below the corresponding spend increase – compared to the prior four-week average.

In a sense, it was easy for a brand to spend substantially more on Amazon advertising over “Turkey 5” – we saw a 92% increase from pre-holiday levels on average – but they were likely driving sales at a more profitable rate from that ad spend. With conversion rates remaining high following Cyber Monday, that efficiency is likely to increase, albeit with less traffic overall.

Maximizing the holiday home stretch and beyond

With some time still remaining until the Dec. 22 shipping cutoff, there are some tactical levers brands can pull to capture more of those profitable sales. We talked about the value in uncapping budgets through Dec. 22, but that needs to be paired with bids that are set in line with any promotional or non-promotional pricing which may be in place for a given product.

By consistently bidding to value on an individual product level, brands can bring in more profitable sales on Amazon during these high traffic periods. Additionally, this is a good practice year-round, as it minimizes the risk of wasting ad spend while allowing for scale when a bump in user purchase activity warrants additional investment.

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Paid search trends to watch for the 2019 holiday shopping season

Google Shopping will likely be the star of retail, and Maps will play a larger role for retailers with physical stores, but Amazon is poised to play the Grinch.

The post Paid search trends to watch for the 2019 holiday shopping season appeared first on Marketing Land.

The holidays are here! That means search marketers everywhere are putting the finishing touches on strategies to make the most out of the next few weeks, the most important stretch of sales for many businesses.

However, don’t go into the holiday shopping season without reading up on these key trends which might help wrap up your strategy a little bit tighter.

Google Shopping will likely be the star of retail

It should be absolutely no surprise to retailers that Google Shopping is incredibly important to paid search success, and I’ve written about its rise many times over the years. This continues to be the case today, as Google Shopping accounted for 48% of all Google search spend in Q3 2019 for Tinuiti (my employer) retail advertisers. Advertisers should once again prepare for Shopping to play a key role during the winter holidays this year.

However, this Q4 and the months that follow will be an important time for both Google and advertisers in determining just how long Google Shopping can continue its torrid pace of growth, as we’re beginning to lap some shifts that happened at the end of last year that significantly drove up Google Shopping traffic.

As you can see from the chart below, Google Shopping click growth jumped from 41% last Q3 to 49% in Q4, and while growth has remained strong since, there has been a steady deceleration.

As has long been the case, phones in particular are driving much of the Google Shopping growth, and in Q3 2019 clicks grew 36% on phones compared to 27% overall.

The leap last Q4 coincided with an explosion in Google Shopping impressions, as Google seemed to prioritize Google Shopping over text ads. The impression growth was most pronounced on phones, where impressions increased 127% Y/Y in Q4 compared to 81% in Q3.

Some of this increase can certainly be attributed to newer, growing Shopping variations such as Showcase Shopping Ads, which produce advertiser-specific listings for more general searches.

The queries that trigger these ads tend to be about 20% shorter in terms of character count than the queries triggering traditional Google Shopping listings. While character count is far from a decisive metric with regards to determining how general or focused a search is, it does indicate that Google is finding shorter queries which likely include less product-specific qualifiers that it’s now showing Showcase ads for.

However, the impressive Shopping growth that occurred at the end of 2018 wasn’t just a matter of Google finding additional spots to throw Showcase ads, as true traditional Shopping listings also saw an explosion in growth. Taken together, the evidence points to a significant expansion in the share of search queries producing Google Shopping results.

All of this is to say that it’s unclear if Google Shopping has another big push like the one we saw last Q4 in it, or if Google has more or less used up its powder with respect to expanding these ad units to the extent observed at the end of 2018. As such, advertisers shouldn’t be shocked if Shopping growth is slower during the holidays this year than last year.

Nor should we be surprised if Google once again finds a way to push growth back up as it has so many other times. After all, the surge last year was unexpected, and Google’s latest additions of image search and YouTube inventory as well as additional Showcase-eligible product categories may help in a potential rebound.

Regardless, a rather large player you might have heard of stands ready to steal some Shopping clicks from under the tree.

Amazon poised to play Grinch more so than in past years

Much like the importance of Google Shopping, it’s difficult for U.S. retailers to be unaware of the trillion-dollar website in the room – Amazon. Even still, many retailers might be surprised to know just how dominant the e-commerce giant has become in Shopping over the last year.

This is most apparent when looking at Amazon’s Shopping impression share in apparel through Auction Insights reports. As of last October, Amazon was only barely visible in Shopping results against apparel retailers in the U.S., but that has changed rapidly.

Amazon’s impression share is now more than double what apparel retailers saw last December and has held steady for the last three months. In addition to impression share gains over the last year in other categories such as home goods, furniture and electronics, all signs point to Amazon more fully flexing its might in Google Shopping this holiday season.

Of course, given Amazon’s choice to take a couple days off from Shopping during Prime Day, it’s probably unwise for anyone outside of its paid search team to espouse confident opinions on its likely Q4 strategy. But the foundation seems laid for a bigger holiday presence than ever before.

What’s a competitor to do? There’s not much in the way of Amazon-specific advice for competing in Shopping, as competing with Amazon looks a lot like competing with any Shopping advertiser.

Stay on top of the queries triggering ads and funnel traffic effectively using keyword negatives. Keep feeds up to date and out of trouble by responding quickly to any warnings from Google Merchant Center. Take advantage of Shopping variations like Showcase ads and Local Inventory Ads (for brick-and-mortar advertisers) to ensure ads are eligible to show in as many different types of relevant scenarios as possible.

On the last point, Local Inventory Ads (LIA) are a nice differentiator for retailers with physical stores, since Amazon can’t offer the same in-store options. However, Amazon’s impression share is just as strong against LIA campaigns as traditional Shopping for many brands, so don’t think it won’t be lurking for searches with local intent as well.

Speaking of local intent – it’s time for my favorite paid search trend of the year.

Searchers turn to Maps for the Turbo Man dash

When it’s down to the Christmas wire and shipping cutoffs have left the prospect of getting a gift delivered in time shaky, many shoppers are forced to physical stores to make sure Jamie gets the right action figure.

This is readily apparent when looking at the share of Google text ad clicks which are attributed to the “Get location details” (GLD) click type, which comes predominantly from Google Maps according to Google. The chart below shows daily share for one national apparel retailer from last holiday season, for which GLD clicks accounted for 14% of all text ad traffic on 12/23 – the biggest daily share observed between November and December. A close second was Christmas Eve, with 13%.

These figures can vary significantly by advertiser, but the general trend of GLD clicks spiking in the lead up to Christmas relative to other days of the year is very common among brands with a brick-and-mortar presence.

In terms of accounting for this, advertisers often look to results from last year to determine if they overspent or underinvested on particular days. If a brick-and-mortar brand were to only look at the online conversions attributed to ads in assessing the value of traffic on the last days leading up to Christmas, the picture may not provide a true representation of the value of that traffic given the huge offline intent on these days. This is true throughout the year for brands with physical stores, but made more glaring in situations like last-minute holiday shopping.

Given the way the calendar falls this year, last-minute shopping is likely to be hugely important.

Shortest holiday season since 2013 will make for a time crunch

The period between Thanksgiving and Christmas will be a full six days shorter this year than in 2018, and we haven’t had a Thanksgiving occur this late into November since 2013. As such, the race will be on for both consumers and brands alike.

History offers us a helpful test on the effects of a shorter holiday shopping period in the form of a 1939 decision by FDR to move the Thanksgiving holiday one week earlier at the request of retailers who hoped to drive more revenue from the holiday season. 23 states immediately adopted the new date (the third Thursday of November), while 23 others stuck to the original fourth Thursday of November. Two states chose to celebrate both.

After the holiday season, businesses reported that total consumer spending was similar across states that adopted the earlier date and those that stuck with the later date, indicating a longer period between the two holidays didn’t produce more spending. However, the distribution of sales revenue throughout the holiday season was different between the two, with the bulk of holiday shopping occurring in the last week before Christmas for states with the later date compared to evenly distributed throughout the holiday season for those celebrating the earlier date.

Using this as an indicator for how shopping might shake out this year (though there may have been one or two major developments in retail since 1939…), the shorter holiday season shouldn’t in and of itself reduce holiday-related sales for retailers. However, the last week ahead of Christmas might be especially important this year.

Most importantly, the U.S. settled on the fourth Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day once and for all in 1941, meaning marketers will only have to deal with one Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And for that, I am thankful. Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

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