Consumer Shopping Trends for the 2021 Holiday Season

Consumer Shopping Trends for the 2021 Holiday Season

Amazon Google Social media

What does the holiday shopping season hold for businesses? We have already heard plenty about the potential problems that a global supply chain crisis will pose. They include product shipping delays, bare shelves, and higher prices. But how are consumers planning to research and buy as the shopping season kicks into full gear? A recently conducted webinar by ChannelAdvisor, “Navigating Online Consumer Behavior: 2021 E-Commerce Trends and Forecasts,” provided some answers.

ChannelAdvisor and Dynata surveyed 5,000 global consumers to learn how they are shopping this holiday season, including 1,000 U.S. consumers. ChannelAdvisor also relied on secondary research from sources such as eMarketer. Here are some major takeaways:

E-Commerce Is Exploding

eMarketer data

 

Chart showing people shopping more

E-commerce has accelerated by two-to-three years as a percentage of total retail sales. ChannelAdvisor says that the accelerated pace will continue for the next few years. That’s because Covid-19 forced more shoppers online. Nearly 60 percent of consumers are shopping online more frequently than before the pandemic, and 32 percent of U.S. consumers have more confidence shopping online than they did before the pandemic. A whopping 58 percent of consumers are spending more time on Amazon.

Key takeaway: businesses should expect the major ad platforms such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok to integrate advertising and commerce more aggressively. We recently saw Google make it easier for shoppers to find products through visual search and display. TikTok continues to launch new shopping features. It’s important that businesses capitalize on these opportunities to capture revenue in these moments when people are searching and browsing on digital.

Get Ready for a Strong Holiday Shopping Season

A chart showing people shopping online

Holiday shopping is increasing in 2021

More than half of U.S. consumers will shop online more than before the pandemic. By contrast, 38 percent of U.S. consumers said they’d shop more online when they were surveyed in May 2020. And 37 percent of U.S. consumers expect to do more holiday shopping online compared to 2020. Only 6 percent of shoppers will shop less.

This finding is not surprising. We saw that even during the hardest days of the pandemic when the world faced economic uncertainty, consumers were willing to open up their pocketbooks and spend. But as ChannelAdvisor noted, much of that spending happened online.

Key takeaway: it’s going to be a busy holiday shopping season, and savvy advertisers are already ramping up their holiday shopping advertising. According to Deloitte, consumers will spend 9 percent more this holiday season compared to 2020. A new survey from JLL says that consumers plan to spend an average of $870 per person on holiday expenses this year, a 25.4 percent increase from last year. Consumers are ready to shop. On the downside, if the global shipping crisis is as bad as economists say it’s going to be, those consumers may experience the disappointment of product shortages. So advertisers are encouraging people to shop sooner while inventory is in stock.

Amazon and Google Dominate Product Research and Purchase

 

Research online

Purchase online

Amazon is the Number One destination for people to research product: 41 percent use Amazon to research products. Google, though, is a strong second place finisher. Amazon has built strong trust because when people are checking reviews, prices, and product inventory, Amazon gives them one easy place to do all that. During the holiday shopping season, even more consumers will do research on Amazon, and  65 percent will purchase on Amazon.

Key takeaway: capitalizing on Amazon Advertising products is a must if you want your brand to be visible when shoppers are doing deep product research. But don’t shift your ad budget from Google if you’re already a Google Ads customer. A two-pronged approach works best.

Social Media Is More Important for Younger Audiences

 

chart showing Instagram usage

People buying on social

Social is the key research channel for younger audiences. 53 percent of 18-to-25 year olds have researched products on Instagram. 51 percent have discovered products they purchased on social media sites. Facebook remains a strong source of product research for 26-to-35 year olds. Meanwhile, 30 percent of 26-to-45 year olds will do the majority of their holiday purchasing on social sites.

Key takeaway: although social media sites lag far behind Amazon and Google for product research, they index high for Millennial and Gen Z shoppers. Given the popularity of Instagram as a shopping destination, it’s important that advertisers capitalize on Instagram ad products such as Instagram Shop to reach younger shoppers. Essentially, Instagram ad products make it possible for businesses to turn posts and stories into ads. Instagram also makes it possible to create ads across Instagram and Facebook, which sounds very efficient – but remember that what works on Instagram might not be as effective on Facebook because Facebook appeals to a slightly older audience.

For more insight into holiday shopping trends, read a recently published True Interactive post, “How Retailers Can Prepare for the Holiday Shopping Season.”

Contact True Interactive

To maximize the value of your holiday shopping ad campaigns, contact True Interactive. We help our clients create effective online advertising all year-round, including the holiday season, and we understand the nuances of creating effective holiday ad campaigns.

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Why Google’s Ad Revenues Are Rising

Why Google’s Ad Revenues Are Rising

Google

A year ago, Google was feeling the pain of an economic downturn caused by the pandemic. My what a difference a year makes. On October 26, Google’s parent Alphabet reported that Google had beat earnings expectations across the board for the third quarter. Why is Google growing so well?

The News

Here are the financial highlights from Alphabet’s earnings announcement:

  • Google’s advertising revenue rose 43 percent to $53.13 billion, up from $37.1 billion the same time last year and slightly higher than the prior quarter. YouTube ads rose to $7.21 billion, up from $5.04 billion a year ago.
  • Retail was the largest contributor to year-over-year ad growth. Media and finance spending was also big.

Google, like its Big Tech rivals Amazon and Facebook, is benefitting from the surge in e-commerce that happened during the pandemic. With more consumers spending online, more businesses advertised online. The increase more than offset the slowdown Google suffered in 2020 when its travel and leisure clients scaled back advertising amid widespread travel restrictions. As we look closer at Google’s growth, we see two take-aways:

Privacy Is Google’s Ace in the Hole

Apple has enacted privacy controls that give users the choice of opting out of being tracked by apps on Apple iOS. As a result:

  • Google rival Facebook has experienced a slowdown in revenue in its most recent quarter as Facebook users opt out of having their behavior tracked, which hurts Facebook’s ability to serve up targeted ads for its customers.

Brian Wieser, GroupM’s global president of business intelligence, told The Wall Street Journal, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Whatever data they have [at Google] is better than what most others have.”

And Google’s data is going to look even better once Google successfully phases out third-party cookies on Chrome, which is the most popular browser in the world. Subject to regulatory oversight, Google will phase out cookies in 2023. This means that advertisers will no longer be able to rely on third-party cookies to track user behavior across the web in order to serve up personalized ads. Google will work with advertisers to create alternatives to third-party cookies through its Privacy Sandbox project.

Meanwhile, Google’s own powerful ad platforms, such as YouTube and Google Search, will be exempted from Google’s phasing out of cookies. That’s because those platforms use first-party data, or data collected from user behavior on those sites. They don’t rely on third-party cookies. When the dust settles, Google will emerge even stronger.

Google Is Making a Play for e-Commerce

We reported on our blog that Google is making some changes that will strengthen Google’s position as a challenger to Amazon’s e-commerce business. For instance, Google will make online searching and shopping more visually appealing by emulating the product display features you see on Amazon. For certain items such as apparel, Google will return search results with a page that resembles a visual store, not a list of links and text descriptions. Google will also soon introduce a new way to search visually, with the ability to ask questions about what you see. These changes will build on some moves Google has enacted already to become more influential in e-commerce. As The Wall Street Journal reported:

Much of the company’s growth has come from e-commerce advertisers eager to reach customers whose product searches begin online, as noted earlier. The company joined with Shopify Inc. this year to simplify search listings and ad purchases for 1.7 million merchants. The effort, which aimed to enliven its e-commerce segment, has helped turn retail ads into Google’s largest growth contributor.

Most product searches begin on Amazon, a scenario that is not likely to change soon. But Google still commands a large share of product-related searches. The explosive growth of e-ecommerce during the pandemic has suited the company well – and will continue to do so.

It’s clear that Google’s position among the Big Three online platforms (along with Amazon and Facebook) is as strong as ever. And Google is taking steps to write its own future through stronger consumer privacy measures.

As for what’s next? Look for Google to make more investments in artificial intelligence to fuel the development of more ad products. This commitment reflects a broader push into AI for Alphabet. As Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said in a call with investors, “In 2016, I laid out our vision to become an AI-first company. Five years later, this quarter’s results show how our investments in AI are building more helpful products for people and for our partners in local communities.”

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Google Firebase: A Workaround for Apple’s Privacy Controls

Google Firebase: A Workaround for Apple’s Privacy Controls

Apple Google Privacy

Apple’s Application Tracking Transparency (ATT) privacy control has caused understandable alarm among businesses that rely on mobile to create personalized advertising. But advertising agencies and their clients are figuring out workarounds. One of them is Firebase. Here’s a quick overview:

The Fallout of Apple ATT

Apple’s ATT is a consumer privacy control that Apple rolled out with an update to Apple’s operating system in 2021. ATT requires apps to get a user’s permission before tracking their data across apps owned by other companies for advertising, or sharing their data with data brokers. Apps can prompt users for permission, and in Apple Settings, users will be able to see which apps have requested permission to track so they can make changes to their choice at any time.

Advertisers have feared that ATT will trigger an uptick in users opting out to having their behavior tracked. Consequently, advertisers will have a harder time serving up targeted ads because they cannot track user behavior. This concern is well founded. As many as 96 percent of users in the United States are opting out of having their behavior tracked. A number of businesses are shifting their ad budgets to the Google Android operating system and away from Apple’s iOS.

Others are trying to find workarounds. And this is where Firebase comes into play.

How Firebase Works

Firebase is Google’s mobile, cloud-based platform that helps users quickly develop apps. People and businesses can use Firebase to accomplish a variety of tasks, such as accelerating app development and test the performance of apps, including A/B testing. Businesses can integrate Firebase with Google’s Android operating system, iOS, and the web. This Venture Beat article delves into more detail (probably more than an advertiser needs to know), and Google provides context as well.

Firebase becomes really interesting to advertisers for this reason: with Google Analytics for Firebase, a business can export its mobile app data (iOS and Android) to a Google-hosted data warehouse known as BigQuery. From there, a business can match behavior via Google User-ID, a feature that lets a user or business associate a persistent ID for a single user (with that user’s engagement data from one or more sessions initiated from one or more devices).

By contrast, before the era of ATT, an advertisers would have access to mobile device IDs for Android and iOS environments. The advertiser could download device IDs from Apple iOS. Then the advertiser could target different people directly with personalized ads – at scale. That’s because the advertiser would have access to those individual device IDs from app analytics accounts. But you cannot do that with Apple ATT anymore.

Firebase does not track mobile device IDs, per se. Rather, Firebase creates audiences inside Firebase based on user events, such as a person registering to use an app, installing it, or making a purchase on the app. With Firebase, the advertiser downloads that audience transaction data through the dashboard the advertiser uses to create Google ads. (For more detail, check out this article, which delves into the mechanics of managing data on Firebase to understand user behavior across apps.)

We have been using Firebase to support clients’ mobile ad campaigns, and we are seeing results. For one client, we’ve seen an increase in revenue by up to 7 percent over the past six months while cutting ad spend in half.

It’s important for True Interactive to continue delivering excellent results through online advertising. We’re actively monitoring our clients’ advertising performance results as we assess the impact of ATT. Yes, the world is changing. But as you can see from our client experiences with Firebase, an increased privacy control does not mean the end of effective advertising.

Contact True Interactive

To achieve results with online advertising, contact True Interactive. We’ve been helping our clients enjoy measurable results as these case studies show.  We’re happy to collaborate with you.

Why Google Is Doubling Down on E-Commerce

Why Google Is Doubling Down on E-Commerce

Advertising Google YouTube

How often do you go shopping on Google? If your answer is “Never,” you’re not alone. Google is feeling the heat from Amazon’s rise as an e-commerce giant. Most product searches begin on Amazon, not Google. Amazon is easily the Number One online retailer, and that’s saying something at a time when e-commerce growth overall has accelerated by five years.  And throughout the past few years, Amazon has been building on all that search and purchase activity to create a gold mine of customer data that it has used to develop a thriving advertising practice. Although Google remains the largest online advertising company, Amazon is coming on strong. All this is why Google announced a major change September 29 to compete more effectively with Amazon.

What Google Announced

Google announced that it is:

  • Making online searching and shopping more visually appealing by emulating the product display features you see on Amazon. For certain items such as apparel, Google will return search results with a product results that page that resembles a visual store, not a list of links and text descriptions.
  • Soon introducing a new way to search visually, with the ability to ask questions about what you see. According to a Google blog post, “With this new capability, you can tap on the Lens icon when you’re looking at a picture of a shirt, and ask Google to find you the same pattern — but on another article of clothing, like socks. This helps when you’re looking for something that might be difficult to describe accurately with words alone. You could type ‘white floral Victorian socks,’ but you might not find the exact pattern you’re looking for. By combining images and text into a single query, we’re making it easier to search visually and express your questions in more natural ways.”
  • Including in search a feature, “Things to know,” that will make it easier to explore and understand new topics. For example, if a person searches for “acrylic painting,” Google understands how people typically explore this topic, and shows the aspects people are likely to look at first though “Things to know.” Google says it can identify more than 350 topics related to acrylic painting in this example.
  • Introducing a new experience that identifies related topics in a video, with links to easily dig deeper and learn more. Per Google, “. . . we can even show related topics that aren’t explicitly mentioned in the video, based on our advanced understanding of information in the video.” Interestingly, Bill Ready, Google’s president of commerce, told the Wall Street Journal that Google “wants to stitch e-commerce across Google’s entire suite of offerings from search to maps to YouTube. Mr. Ready envisions people watching a YouTube video of someone unboxing new apparel and viewers being able to click nearby to purchase the items, or being served an ad on Google Search if they later look for the clothes.”

What Advertisers Should Do

  • Capitalize on Google’s advertising tools that are designed to be more visually appealing. For instance, Google recently rolled out Discovery ads, which are image-rich ads designed for a more “laid back” search experience (more about that here). Google is clearly doubling down on the visual web, and advertisers should expect more visually appealing ad products as it attempts to become a stronger e-commerce player.
  • Make use of more tools that make it easier to connect online searching and shopping. Google isn’t the only company figuring out search and commerce. Instagram is another, as we discussed in a blog post recently. And there are many more apps doing the same thing.
  • Do a gut-check with your organic search team. How well are they aligning content with visual search, for example? How will Google’s “Things to know” feature affect the depth and breadth of content that you provide on your website, Google My Business listing, and elsewhere?
  • Keep your eyes open and your budgets flexible. The online advertising space is getting more competitive and interesting for retailers. We have been blogging about the rise of Amazon Adverting for some time – as well as the growth of advertising services from retailers such as Macy’s, Walmart, and Walgreens. They’re all using their first-party customer data to build online advertising platforms. Depending on your target audiences, they may provide very competitive alternative to Google – an example being Macy’s for fashion-conscious shoppers or Walmart for advertisers whose audience aligns with Walmart’s multi-channel customer. (And we can help you succeed on all these platforms.)

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Google’s Optimized Targeting Feature: Advertiser Q&A

Google’s Optimized Targeting Feature: Advertiser Q&A

Google

Managers of Google Ads accounts were surprised recently when Google began to gradually roll out a new feature, optimized targeting, apparently with little fanfare. It’s important that Google Ads users understand what’s going on with optimized targeting. The new feature may provide benefits but also higher costs for performance marketers. Let’s take a closer look.

What Is Optimized Targeting?

According to Google, optimized targeting helps businesses using Google Ads to reach new and relevant audiences who are likely to convert. Optimized targeting looks beyond manually selected audience segments in a campaign in order to find audience segments that an advertiser might have missed. The overall goal of optimized targeting is to improve the campaign’s performance.

When Should a Business Use Optimized Targeting?

Per Google, optimized targeting works best when a business wants to expand an audience segment most likely to convert, acquire new customers (beyond existing segments), identify new audiences who will perform well for an existing campaign, and increase conversions without increasing bids or the cost per customer. A recent Search Engine Land article notes that optimized targeting is beneficial if an advertiser is not sure who their audience is.

What’s the Difference Between Optimized Targeting and Audience Expansion?

Many advertisers already use the Google Ads audience expansion feature to expand an audience segment. Audience expansion does so based on an advertiser’s manually selected audience segments. Optimized targeting uses real-time conversion data to find more users who are more likely to convert.

Google cites the hypothetical example of a business that wants to attract people to the upcoming launch of a new running shoe. The business targets people using two audience types: a custom segment based on top performing keywords from their search campaigns (e.g., “running shoe sale”), and the “athletic footwear” in-market segment. Audience expansion and optimized targeting may handle the company’s campaign as follows:

  • Audience expansion: in addition to the business’s manually selected audience segments, audience expansion includes similar segments such as the “trainers sale” custom segment and the “sporting goods” in-market segment.
  • Optimized targeting: optimized targeting expands to users who are likely to convert by creating a profile of what a converter looks like based on real-time conversion data. For example, that data could include Google searches for specific running shoe brands or clicks to a popular sportswear website. While advertisers’ manually selected audience segments provide a starting point, optimized targeting looks for conversions outside of their selected segments.

According to Google, Discovery and Video campaigns that use audience expansion will transition to optimized targeting.

How Do I Get Started Using Optimized Targeting?

If you manage a Google Ads account, Google already got the ball rolling for you by enabling optimized targeting for all campaigns automatically. And you might encounter an initial fluctuation in your Google Ads costs as a result. Per Search Engine Land, “This could potentially be an expensive option if your budget is lower as your initial conversion quality could fluctuate as the data is collected and optimized targeting figures things out.”

What if you don’t want Google to automatically enable optimized targeting? To disable it, you need to change your ad group settings. If an ad agency manages your account for you, ask them how they are managing this feature and the impact on your budget. At True Interactive, we’re keeping a close eye on this new feature and protecting our clients’ budgets.

Our advice to advertisers who use Google Ads:

  • Watch your account closely. As Search Engine Land reported, managers of Google Ads accounts began to notice the roll-out of optimized targeting through a new “Signal” indicator that appeared in their Google Ads account.
  • Watch your budget closely. As noted, the automatic roll-out of optimized targeting could create an increase in costs.
  • Work closely with your ad agency partner to understand what’s happening and why. If you work with Google directly, reach out to your Google rep and ask for clarity about any future product changes in store.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here, and learn about our services here.

Why Google Delayed Its Plan to Scrap Cookies

Why Google Delayed Its Plan to Scrap Cookies

Google

Not so fast, Google. The company has announced that its campaign to kill cookies on the Chrome browser is slowing down. This is an increasingly complicated story with a simple conclusion: no matter what Google does or does not do, ad personalization is alive and well.

What Google Announced about Blocking Third-Party Cookies

In a blog post, Google said that its plan to block web tracking on Chrome – originally planned to happen in 2022 – will be delayed until later in 2023. The company also indicated that its timeline is subject to its engagement with the United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). In other words, Google will need the cooperation of legislators who are growing very concerned about Google’s growing power. This is an important development. Previously, Google was rolling along unchecked with its anti-cookie measures despite an outcry from advertisers and ad tech firms — who are concerned that Google is amassing too much power and restricting their ability to deliver personalized ads by tracking users across the web.

A Brief Timeline of Google’s War against Third-Party Cookies

Google’s announcement is best understood in context of a series of moves that the company has made since January 2020. Let’s break it down for you:

January 14, 2020: The Bombshell

Google said it will phase out support for third-party cookies on Chrome, which is the most popular browser in the world. Advertisers rely on third-party cookies to track user behavior across the web in order to serve up personalized ads. Google said it wanted to make the web more private. Google said it would work with advertisers to create alternatives to third-party cookies through its Privacy Sandbox project.

The news created a wave of protest from advertisers and ad tech firms. They accused Google of stacking the deck against them by denying them the ability to use third-party cookies to personalized ads. Meanwhile, Google’s own powerful ad platforms, such as YouTube and Google Search, would be exempted from Google’s phasing out of cookies. That’s because those platforms use first-party data, or data collected from user behavior on those sites. They don’t rely on third-party cookies. Advertisers complained that Google was creating an unfair competitive advantage.

January 8, 2021: A Regulator Steps In

The United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced it was investigating Google’s Privacy Sandbox because the CMA was getting concerned that Google was potentially violating anti-trust laws. This was an important development leading up to Google’s June 24 announcement.

January 25, 2021: Will FLoC Float?

Google announced it was developed an open-source program that would ease the pain of businesses eventually losing access to third-party cookies. This open-source program is known as FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts). FLoC will make it possible for businesses to group people based on their common browsing behavior instead of using third-party cookies.

March 3, 2021: Google Doubles Down

Google doubled down on its campaign against cookies. Google said that once third-party cookies are phased out of Chrome browsers, Google will not build alternative identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will Google use them in its products. Examples of those alternative identifiers include Unified ID and LiveRamp IdentityLink. Instead, Google pushed advertisers to adopt FLoCs developed out Google’s own Privacy Sandbox initiative (as noted above).

Notably, Google  also said, “We will continue to support first-party relationships on our ad platforms for partners, in which they have direct connections with their own customers. And we’ll deepen our support for solutions that build on these direct relationships between consumers and the brands and publishers they engage with.”

March 11, 2021: Google Keeps Pushing First-Party Data

Google announced some product developments intended to make it easier for publishers to use their first-party data programmatically for ad buys. The announcement was seen as another sign of Google’s intention to bring about the demise of third-party cookies and push businesses toward using first-party data to personalize content.

June 11, 2021: Google Feels the Heat

Feeling the heat from the CMA investigation, Google made some public commitments to protect free competition, such as “no data advantage for Google advertising products” and that “We will play by the same rules as everybody else because we believe in competition on the merits. Our commitments make clear that, as the Privacy Sandbox proposals are developed and implemented, that work will not give preferential treatment or advantage to Google’s advertising products or to Google’s own sites.”  Google also pledged to cooperate with the CMA.

June 24, 2021: The Cookies Are Still Baking

As a byproduct of pledging to cooperate with the CMA, Google agreed to slow down its phasing out of third-party cookies. The CMA wants Google to proceed more cautiously and thoughtfully with the CMA’s oversight, especially amid the ongoing outcry from advertisers, ad tech firms, and competitors.

The New Timeline

Google shared a revised timeline. Here’s exactly how Google describes it:

“After this public development process, and subject to our engagement with the CMA, our plan for Chrome is to phase out support for third party cookies in two stages:

  • Stage 1 (Starting late-2022):Once testing is complete and APIs are launched in Chrome, we will announce the start of stage 1. During stage 1, publishers and the advertising industry will have time to migrate their services. We expect this stage to last for nine months, and we will monitor adoption and feedback carefully before moving to stage 2.
  • Stage 2 (Starting mid-2023):Chrome will phase out support for third-party cookies over a three month period finishing in late 2023.

Soon we will provide a more detailed schedule on privacysandbox.com, where it will be updated regularly to provide greater clarity and ensure that developers and publishers can plan their testing and migration schedules.”

What Does All This Mean?

  • The demise of third-party cookies is still happening – just not as quickly as Google originally planned.
  • Google now has oversight. The CMA could pull its support or impose more restrictions if it feels Google is not playing fair. And who knows what would happen to Google’s Privacy Sandbox if that were to happen?
  • Personalization is alive and well. As we noted on our blog, even if Google succeeds ultimately, businesses have access to alternatives to third-party cookies such as Unified ID 2.0 — is a next generation identity solution built on an open-source digital framework.
  • First-party data is more important than ever. That’s because Google isn’t the only Big Tech firm clamping down on web tracking. So is Apple with its Application Tracking Transparency privacy control, which requires apps to get the user’s permission before tracking their data across apps or websites owned by other companies for advertising, or sharing their data with data brokers.

What Businesses Should Do

  • Heed Google’s advice and monitor the detailed schedule for its next moves on privacysandbox.com
  • Work with your advertising agency to understand what’s happening and how you may be affected. That’s exactly what our clients are doing with True Interactive. That’s what we’re here for.
  • Don’t abandon ship with ads that rely on web tracking. As you can see with Google’s June 24 announcement, things may not proceed the way Google plans.
  • Do invest in ways to leverage your own (first-party) customer data to create personalized ads. We can help you do that.
  • Consider ad platforms such as Amazon Advertising and Walmart Connect, which give businesses entrée to a vast base of customers who search and shop on Amazon and Walmart. True Interactive offers services on both platforms in addition to our longstanding work on Google, Bing, and other platforms.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash

For Further Reading

Apple Announces New Privacy Features,” Mark Smith.

Why the Google Ad Juggernaut is Back,” Tim Colucci.

Why Amazon and Facebook Are Catching up to Google,” Kurt Anagnostopoulos.

Google Unlocks First-Party Data for Publishers,” Mark Smith.

Google Rejects Alternatives to Cookie Tracking,” Mark Smith.

Google Responds to Apple’s App Tracking Transparency,” Taylor Hart.

The Facebook Spat with Apple,” Taylor Hart.

Google to Stop Supporting Third-Party Cookies on Chrome,” Mark Smith.

Why the Google Ad Juggernaut Is Back

Why the Google Ad Juggernaut Is Back

Google

Google’s advertising business has come roaring back. In 2020, Google found itself to be in the unusual position of seeing a downturn in its advertising revenue for the first time in 29 years. That’s because a pullback in ad spending among Google’s clients, many of whom come from a travel/hospitality industry ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, hurt Google even as ad competitors Amazon and Facebook were reaping a windfall. But Google’s recent financial results show that the downturn was temporary, and Google will continue to exert an enormous influence on the advertising world.

Recently, Google’s parent firm Alphabet announced quarterly earnings that exceeded investors’ expectations. Although the growth of Google’s cloud computing business had a lot to do with Alphabet’s success, the rebound of Google advertising played a big role, too. Google’s advertising revenue rose to $44.68 billion for the first quarter of 2021, up from $33.76 billion the year before, prompting CNBC to note that the ad revenue spike was the fastest annualized growth rate in at least four years. So, what can we conclude form the turnaround?:

  • Google is benefitting from the popularity of video. YouTube earned $6 billion in revenue for the quarter, increasing 49 percent from a year earlier. Earlier in 2021, we predicted a surge in online video consumption, a reality that has been borne out during the pandemic. To be sure, online video is much bigger than YouTube, as the success of TikTok demonstrates. But as Google reported later in 2020, during the pandemic, people were turning to video more as a learning tool when in-person learning options were shut down, which benefits YouTube given the amount of instructional content that exists there. The only question that remains now is whether the popularity of online video, and, by extension, YouTube, will remain as strong in a post-pandemic world.
  • Google’s Knowledge Graph is becoming more powerful. The Google Knowledge Graph consists of all the sources of information that Google draws upon to provide search results to queries. It’s a wonky concept that people in the search engine optimization (SEO) industry follow closely. But the Knowledge Graph applies to advertising, too. When Google provides answers to searches such as “Where can I find a plumber near me?” or “Where can I find Anime T shirts?” Google draws upon sources such as Google Maps, Snippets, and a company’s Google My Business (GMB) listings (among other sources) to share information about relevant businesses. Well, guess what? Google is doing such an effective job tapping into its Knowledge Graph to serve up answers on search engine results pages (SERPs) that people are finding answers to what they need on Google without needing to click anywhere else. More eyeballs on Google SERPs means that Google can deliver a larger audience to advertisers through Google Search. As Google becomes an even stronger all-purpose search tool (hard to believe given Google’s dominance in search already), the company becomes even more valuable to advertisers.
  • Google is creating its own future. As widely reported, Google has intensified its war against third-party cookies that are essential for businesses to deliver ads based on a person’s browsing behavior across the web. As Google forces the demise of third-party cookies, advertisers will need to tap into businesses that possesses first-party data (such as Amazon) in order to continue to deliver effective personalized ads. And as it turns out, Google is sitting on a lot of first-party data through that Knowledge Graph I mentioned. When people use Google Maps, YouTube, and other Google properties, they give Google a ton of information about their search and purchase habits, which Google uses to create better ad products. According to Brendan Eich, cofounder and CEO of the privacy-focused browser company Brave, “The reality is that Google already has first-party access to nearly every site—via Google Analytics, ad words, Google Tag Manager, Google Maps, etc.—and that its users are being data mined for profit.”

All of this is not to say that businesses need to dial up their advertising on Google. We’ve always recommended that advertisers go where their audience is, period. At the same time, Google has demonstrated the wisdom of businesses taking the long view with their advertising. The Big Tech ad platforms – Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft – have carved out a powerful space in the advertising world. Those companies are all big targets for critics, which has resulted in antitrust action and negative PR. But the negative PR can lead a business around by the nose, too, resulting in short-sighted thinking. The ad giants are not going away. If they’re important to your business – and I suspect they are if you’ve read this far into my post – don’t pump on the brakes in 2021.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash