Amazon’s Next Frontier: Local Advertising
Amazon recently announced for the first time just how big Amazon Ads has become. And the number is very big. As in $31.2 billion. Amazon said in its in 2021 earnings announcement that Amazon Ads had achieved 32 percent year-over-year growth, which includes sales of advertising services to sellers, vendors, publishers, authors, and others, through programs such as sponsored ads, display, and video advertising.
$31.2 billion is not quite the size of Meta’s and Google’s ad businesses. By comparison, Google achieved $209.5 billion in ad revenue for its most recent fiscal year, and Meta achieved roughly $115 billion for the same time period. But Amazon Ads eclipses Microsoft, Pinterest, and Snap, and the company has earned a place alongside Google and Meta as one of the big three online advertising platforms.
And now, it looks like Amazon plans to get bigger in an untapped market: location-based advertising. Business Insider reported recently that Amazon is building a local ad business by advertising positions for a Local Ads team in major cities such as Chicago and New York. Apparently Amazon Ads will offer a slate of ad units, including streaming TV ads and a demand-side platform that sells ads off Amazon’s website. (Note that Amazon generates the lion’s share of its ad revenue from search ads that appear on the Amazon website; but Amazon has invested more in ad tech to get bigger ad budgets from advertisers.)
This is an intriguing development, to say the least. Location-based advertising capitalizes on the fact that local searches by consumers are wildly popular. This is a big reason why hyper local sites such as Nextdoor have achieved strong growth: people typically look for things to buy at stores close to their homes. So, businesses have a strong motivation to rank well in those “near me” searches, and of course advertising can amplify their presence. Meta and Google both offer strong location-based ad services, but lately Meta has taken a financial hit because of the impact of Apple’s Application Tracking Transparency privacy controls, which limit the effectiveness of ad targeting, including location-based ad targeting.
According to a Deutsche Bank report from 2021, 75-percent of Meta’s advertising revenue came from small businesses. Meta could be vulnerable if Amazon’s plans are rolled out. And Amazon doesn’t have to worry about Apple’s privacy controls. The company can sell ads based on first-party data, or data that people on Amazon share when they search and purchase (Apple’s privacy controls do not affect first-party data). Now, consider the fact that Amazon operates brick-and-mortar businesses such as Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh, which rely on location-based advertising. An Amazon location-based ad service could benefit the company’s own stores.
But that’s not all. Just as Amazon sells online ads to merchants, the company is apparently banking on the ability to do that for retailers, automotive dealers, restaurants, and other merchants that need to be present in local search results.
For now, Amazon will continue to grow its ad business mostly through Amazon.com, where companies pay to be listed as a “sponsored product” high up in the search results. Amazon also offers video commercials and ads on Amazon’s FireTV device. Amazon Ads also helps brands with online advertising on sites that it does not own. And Amazon has developed advertising in devices and platforms such as Twitch.
It will be interesting to see how this development plays out especially with Walmart leveraging its own small but growing ad business that capitalizes on the company’s online/offline presence. Walmart could be a strong alternative to Amazon.
We recommend that advertisers manage the online ad solutions that are most relevant to their own customers’ journeys from awareness to purchase. Keep an eye on Amazon. The company has built incredible momentum, and an increasingly privacy-centric landscape favors the growth of its ad business.
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