The Key to a Successful Holiday Season: Shipping

The Key to a Successful Holiday Season: Shipping

Retail

Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals are just table stakes for retailers to compete in the first-ever $1 trillion holiday shopping season. The real competitive advantage is coming from shipping.

Based on the client work I do, I’ve always known that favorable shipping can help a retailer compete more effectively during the holiday shopping season. Low-cost, rapid shipping caters to the needs of today’s on-demand consumer who want products curated and sent to them and oftentimes at the last minute.

But what’s changed dramatically about the 2018 season is the Amazon effect. Earlier in November, Amazon announced free shipping with no minimum purchase required from November 5 onward. Amazon did not announce a cut-off date, but it will probably be December 22. Now, this change to its shipping policy is huge. Amazon accomplishes two objectives with free shipping during the holidays:

  • Beating Target and Walmart. These two retail giants had announced more liberal shipping and returns policies of their own in October. Walmart had announced it would expand two-day shipping to the entire Walmart marketplace beginning November 1. And Walmart also said that products purchased through its marketplace could be returned Walmart brick-and-mortar stores products purchased through its marketplace. Target had announced free two-day shipping with no minimum purchase or REDcard membership required from November 1-December 22. Amazon trumped both.
  • Luring shoppers to Amazon Prime. Amazon hopes that anyone using free shipping during the holidays will get a taste of what Prime members enjoy all the time – and, presumably, sign up for Prime, where many more benefits await. For example, Prime members get free same-day delivery on millions of items and free two-day shipping on many more. Prime is the center of Amazon’s on-demand world, which encompasses services ranging from entertainment to retail.

Smaller retailers have a harder time competing on those kinds of terms, but try they must. If you’re a brick-and-mortar retailer, advertising on-demand services such as delivery, shipping, and online ordering/in-store pick-up is key to winning this holiday season. It’s important that you manage your online advertising, including your paid search and display, to show how well you service the on-demand shopper. If you need help, contact True Interactive.

Image source: Walmart

Google Responsive Ads: What You Need to Know

Google Responsive Ads: What You Need to Know

Google

Google is working harder to woo advertisers as the company faces stiffer competition from Amazon and Facebook. For example, Google rolled out responsive search ads and responsive display ads to make the advertising platform more flexible for brands. It is important that advertisers understand these features and how to maximize their value.

How Responsive Search and Display Ads Work

According to Google, responsive search ads make it possible for advertisers to enter multiple headlines (up to 15) and descriptions (up to four) when creating a search ad. Then Google Ads applies machine learning to automatically test different combinations and learn which combinations perform best. In addition, per Google, advertisers can add a third headline and second description to your text ads, and your descriptions can have up to 90 characters.

Responsive display ads work the same way, with advertisers submitting up to up to 15 images, five headlines, five descriptions, and five logos for a display ad. As with responsive search ads, Google uses machine learning to test different combinations and show the ads that work best. According to Google, “On average, advertisers see 10% more conversions at a similar CPA when using multiple headlines, descriptions, and images with responsive display ads (versus a single set of assets).”

What You Need to Know

Based on our experience with clients, I see some near-term ramifications:

  • Your advertising will become more effective. These formats are exciting because they capitalize on machine learning to scale your advertising content. As Google notes, “Great display ads assist consumers using rich images and useful information. However, showing the most relevant and engaging ads across millions of sites and apps isn’t easy.” Responsive ads are a compelling solution.
  • Organic content pays a price. By making ads more effective, Google will push organic listings down in search results.
  • You need to invest more effort. Yes, Google does do the heavy lifting when it comes to executing on your ads. But to get the most out of this format, you’ll need to come up with more variants of your message and images. (That’s the point of responsive search and display: Google takes multiple inputs to give you optimal results.) In addition, you’ll want to monitor which assets are performing best, which takes time and effort (although Google provides tips for doing so on its blog).

What You Should Do

  • Review your messaging strategy. Having more variants of your content presents an opportunity to review your messaging and differentiators. You obviously don’t want to create content willy-nilly. All your content should support your brand in some way.
  • Learn. The Google blog links I’ve shared above contain a number of tips for maximizing the value of these ads. For instance, with responsive search ads, Google advises that you include at least one of your keywords in your headlines, and create headlines that are relevant to the keywords you’re targeting. Furthermore, provide as many distinct headlines as you can. Per Google, “More headlines gives Google Ads more options for assembling your messages into relevant ads, which may increase performance.”

At True Interactive, we’re working with clients to plan and execute advertising with these and many other tools. We’ll report our learnings on our blog. Watch for our posts, and contact us if you need help with your online advertising.

Advertiser Q&A: Amazon Display Ads

Advertiser Q&A: Amazon Display Ads

Amazon

All eyes are on Amazon this holiday season, with eight out of 10 shoppers planning to search Amazon for holiday deals. In September, Amazon organized all its advertising tools under one offering, Amazon Advertising, to help businesses capitalize on the gushing river of shoppers flooding the site. Our clients have been asking about the tools available under Amazon Advertising. Perhaps you are wondering, too. Recently I blogged one of those products, Amazon sponsored ads. Now let’s take a look at Amazon’s display advertising solutions.

1 What is Amazon’s Display Advertising Solution?

Amazon has two very different display advertising options. The first, which was discussed in the last post in this series, consists of product display ads. This ad type is part of Amazon’s pay-per-click (PPC) offerings, has limited reach and ad options, but is available to everyone who wants to advertise on Amazon.

The second option, and the main focus of this post, consists of Amazon display ads. These ads use specific audiences with custom creatives to target people on Amazon and Amazon-owned and third-party sites, apps, and devices. An advertiser can manage the ads themselves through the Amazon demand-side platform (DSP), or they can work with a team of experts.

2 Why Would an Advertiser Use Display Ads?

Just like any programmatic display strategy, an advertiser would use display ads on Amazon to show relevant ads to people who are in their target audience. The seemingly endless list of ad sizes, formats, and placements means that there is just as many options for creative customization, reaching consumers on all devices, both on and off Amazon. Couple that with the advanced audience options available, and almost anything becomes possible. An advertiser can reach current and new audiences at any stage in the search funnel:

  • Build awareness of a brand or product by using look-alike audiences based off of current customer information.
  • Get people when they are in the research phase through product or interest-based targeting.
  • Reengage with customers during their purchase decision using audience lists based on buy behaviors and what pages they’ve visited on and off Amazon.
  • Send customized messages to people who’ve already made a purchase encouraging them to become repeat customers.

3 Are There Any Limitations to Display Ads?

The main limitation with Amazon display ads is the price. Amazon requires a $35,000 budget for a campaign before they will let you have access to any of these features. The product display ads that are part of the sponsored ad solutions do not require any minimum spend amounts and may be a better fit for smaller advertisers or advertisers looking for a smaller test on Amazon.

4 How Can Advertisers Maximize the Value of Display Ads?

Think about your brand and what’s already on the plan for the year. Is there a big product launch or holiday push coming up? Are you noticing declining new customer sales? Is it time to reengage previous purchasers? Taking the time to identify what you really want to achieve with the display ads is the first step in maximizing the value of this ad format. Identify what the goal is, what the important metrics are, and how success will be measured.

Next, don’t rush the creative process. Have unique ads for each audience and goal, if there’s more than one. Understand that someone seeing an ad while they’re relaxing at home during the evening might respond differently than someone actively searching Amazon on their lunch break.

Finally, consider using display ads as a part of a larger tactic strategy. Display ads may not result in immediate direct sales, but do have an impact in other areas. Product searches and subsequent purchases typically go up once a display campaign has been launched. Visits to the brand website can also be expected to go up.

If you’re interested in Amazon display ads, but don’t know where to start or need assistance strategizing and managing them, please reach out to us at True Interactive.

Watch our blog for the final post in the series on Amazon video ads.

Image source: https://www.udemy.com/amazon-pay-per-click-advertising-ppc/

Coming Soon: A $1 Trillion Holiday Shopping Season

Coming Soon: A $1 Trillion Holiday Shopping Season

Retail

Get ready for a strong holiday shopping season. eMarketer has raised its 2018 holiday shopping forecast, with total retail spending growth expected to be 4.1 percent, up from eMarketer’s previous prediction of a 3.8 percent growth rate. The 2018 season will approach $1 trillion in spending, or $986.77 billion to be more precise. In addition, eMarketer says that retail ecommerce will grow at 16.2 percent, with that growth being driven largely by mobile.

“We expect that the 2018 holiday retail season will be one of the strongest in recent years,” eMarketer said in the October report, Holiday Shopping 2018. Reasons for a strong season include:

  • A strong economy that will fuel spending.
  • A lengthy shopping season, with 32 days occurring between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the longest possible calendar between these two landmark dates. “This will give shoppers ample opportunity to complete more of their holiday shopping online,” noted eMarketer.
  • The growth of mobile. “The other key growth factor is the extent to which mobile is fueling consumers’ ecommerce migration” said eMarketer. “Mobile now drives nearly two-thirds of online shopping activity, according to research firm comScore, and is inching ever closer to a majority share of ecommerce spending. Although shoppers are still much more likely to shop than buy on mobile, they are increasingly comfortable transacting on smartphones, thanks to more seamless, optimized experiences on both mobile web and apps.”

The prospect of a stronger holiday season is good news for retailers and consumer electronics firms. Per eMarketer, “Consumer electronics will prove popular during the 2018 season, particularly with an ever-expanding slate of voice-activated and connected home products hitting the market. Apparel and accessories will continue its online migration, while the toys and hobbies sector promises to get more competitive.”

The companies in the best position to thrive:

  • Have strong mobile commerce operations.
  • Capitalize on an expected intense period of spending around Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Black Friday is no longer a single-day event. The day really begins on Thanksgiving now.
  • Effectively invest in advertising across the digital world, with a focus on Google, Amazon, and Facebook.

To make sure you benefit from the holiday spend, be sure to check out some recently published resources from True Interactive:

  • Advertiser Q&A: Amazon Sponsored Ads,” a post from Samantha Coconato that discusses one of Amazon’s popular advertising products for businesses that have a presence on the platform.

At True Interactive, we’ve been actively working with clients to create successful holiday advertising campaigns online. Contact us if you need assistance with yours. We’re happy to help.

Photo by Anna Dziubinska on Unsplash

How to Succeed in Amazon’s World

How to Succeed in Amazon’s World

Amazon

One of the most significant advertising stories of the year is the rise of Amazon as an ad platform. As we discussed on our blog earlier this year, Amazon’s advertising products have been enjoying phenomenal growth albeit off a much smaller base compared to Google and Facebook.

And Amazon shows no signs of slowing down. In September, eMarketer reported that in 2018, Amazon will become the third-largest digital advertising platform behind Google and Facebook. On October 8, CNBC reported that some advertisers are moving as much as half of their search budgets from Google to Amazon. According to CNBC, “Amazon appears to be emerging as the most credible threat to Google’s cash cow advertising business since Facebook conquered mobile advertising beginning shortly after its 2012 IPO.” Those reasons include:

  • Amazon’s continued growth as an ecommerce platform beyond retail, which gives Amazon a larger pool of advertisers.
  • Amazon’s popularity as a search engine. According to Survata, about half of product searches begin on Amazon.
  • Amazon provides a seamless search-and-purchase option. Per CNBC, unlike the case with Google, “Using a Google search ad to lead to a purchase may require a person to set up an account and input their credit card information with a separate website. Especially for smaller brands, there’s not really an advantage between selling direct to the consumer versus selling through Amazon.”

Google holds a strong lead over Facebook and Amazon. But especially for businesses that sell products on Amazon, Amazon’s advertising products are increasingly attractive.

To help our readers better understand how to succeed with Amazon’s advertising solutions, on our blog we are casting a spotlight on three Amazon products: sponsored ads, display ads, and video ads. The first post in our series, “Advertiser Q&A: Amazon Sponsored Ads,” is live. As my colleague Samantha Coconato writes, Amazon’s sponsored ads are Amazon’s pay-per-click (PPC) advertising solution. They are available to sellers, venders, book venders, and Kindle Direct Publishing. Sponsored ads take a consumer directly to a product page or brand site within Amazon.

To maximize the value of sponsored ads, advertisers should spend time to really think through which products and offers would make the most sense on this platform. For example, putting up ads for a seller’s entire inventory all year round would probably not be a wise use of your money. Pulsing the ads on and off during seasonal or clearance sales and using a promotion or discount would be a better way to generate sales and to raise awareness of your products or store.

For more insight into Amazon sponsored ads, check out our post. And stay tuned for more insight. If you have questions about maximizing the value of digital advertising, contact us. We’re here to help.

Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

Advertiser Q&A: Amazon Sponsored Ads

Advertiser Q&A: Amazon Sponsored Ads

Amazon

Amazon is creeping up on Google and Facebook as an online advertising platform. According to eMarketer, Amazon will become the third largest online ad platform in the United States in 2018, generating $4.6 billion in ad revenue. Amazon’s online advertising market share is way behind Google’s and Facebook’s – but the trillion-dollar company is making strong moves to strengthen its services. In September, Amazon consolidated all its digital advertising services under one offering, Amazon Advertising, which provides the following products:

  • Sponsored ads: sponsored products and brands.
  • Display ads: reach audiences on Amazon sites, apps, devices and third-party sites.
  • Video ads: showcase brand messages on Amazon sites, devices and third-party sites.
  • Stores: create multipage brand stores within Amazon.
  • Measurement solutions: gauge advertising impact across Amazon and third-party sites
  • Amazon DSP: programmatic advertising solutions (formerly Amazon Advertising Platform).

These services have sparked a number of questions among advertisers, such as:

  • What exactly are these services?
  • How and why should an advertiser use them?
  • Do they have any limitations?
  • What’s the best way to maximize their value?

I’m going to answer those questions through a series of blog posts that focus on three products especially relevant to True Interactive’s clients: sponsored ads, display ads, and video ads. Today let’s take a closer look at sponsored ads.

1 What Exactly Are Sponsored Ads?

Sponsored ads are Amazon’s pay-per-click (PPC) advertising solution. They are available to sellers, venders, book venders, and Kindle Direct Publishing. Sponsored ads take a consumer directly to a product page or brand site within Amazon.

To reach customers, sponsored ads use keywords (either your own list or a list suggested by Amazon), products, and product categories for targeting. There are three types of sponsored ads:

  • Sponsored products.
  • Sponsored brands (previously headline search ads).
  • Product display ads.

2 How and Why Would an Advertiser Use Sponsored Ads?

Sponsored ads should be used when advertisers want to drive sales and awareness while maintaining more control over budgets. Since sponsored products and brands ads only incur costs if they’re clicked on, it’s easier to see the return on investment of this ad type. Amazon recommends using sponsored ads to showcase offers, clearance items, seasonal offerings, and unique items.

            How to Use Sponsored Products

Sponsored products are used to promote a single product and take the consumer directly to the product page. Additional creative such as images and text are not needed, making sponsored products the simplest ad to set up. Use keyword targeting to match products to a consumer’s search and show ads on the search results page or product detail page. 

            How to Use Sponsored Brands

Sponsored brands allow for multiple products or titles to be promoted together using a custom headline and logo. Consumers are taken to a product page if they click on a product, or to a designated landing page if they click on the image or ad text. Sponsored brands are good for driving awareness, in addition to sales. For example, advertisers can pair new or seasonal items with a related top seller in an ad to increase visibility in other product offerings. Or if a seller has multiple versions of the same product, say different versions of the same phone, using sponsored brand ads would showcase the variety available within a single ad.

            How to Use Product Display Ads

Product display ads use relevant products, product categories, and interests to target consumers and show image ads within product detail pages, reviews, and merchandise emails. These are a great ad to showcase complementary or competing products. This ad format is also a self-service option and is specific to the individual ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) of a product. Think of product display ads as a conquesting campaign, or as a last chance way to capture interest away from another product or brand.

3 Are There Any Limitations to Sponsored Ads?

The keyword targeting can be somewhat limited for sponsored products and sponsored brands. Although Amazon uses the same match types as other PPC platforms, the keywords must be relevant to the metadata on the product page. So, for example, if you’re selling toys around the holidays and want to boost holiday sales, it’s unlikely having keywords around “Christmas Toys” will generate impressions of your ads unless the product page metadata contains those words. But if you’re selling a toy specific to the holiday, then your ad more than likely will show.

In addition, for product display ads, due to the competitive nature of the ad format, it may be harder to generate sales unless the product has a great offer or discount attached to it. Since product display ads are only visible after a consumer shows interest in a related product, the offer has to convince the consumer that the product they were originally interested in is not as good of a product as in the display ad.

4 How Can Advertisers Maximize the Value of Sponsored Ads?

To maximize the value of sponsored ads, spend time to really think through which products and offers would make the most sense on this platform. For example:

  • Putting up ads for a seller’s entire inventory all year round would probably not be a wise use of your money.
  • Pulsing the ads on and off during seasonal or clearance sales and using a promotion or discount would be a better way to generate sales and to raise awareness of your products or store.

Knowing about the competition on Amazon is another way to increase the value of sponsored ads. If you sell unique items that someone may not know how to look for, do a quick search on what related items are already for sale on Amazon. Using that information, you can target those products and categories so that your product ads show up when people search for those items.

Although you also want to give your campaigns time to collect enough data to see what works and doesn’t work, Amazon Advertising isn’t a “set it and forget it” platform. Things can change quickly, and someone else can emerge with better offers or newer products. Updating promotions and switching out products regularly gives you a better chance at figuring out what works best for your inventory.

If you’re interested in Amazon sponsored ads, but don’t know where to start or need assistance strategizing and managing them, please reach out to us at True Interactive.

Watch our blog for follow-up posts on Amazon display ads and video ads.

Amazon Gears Up for Holiday Advertising – and So Should You

Amazon Gears Up for Holiday Advertising – and So Should You

Analytics

Amazon is testing a new attribution tool as it ramps up its platform for holiday advertising. According to Digiday, Amazon has invited a select number of advertisers to test Amazon Attribution, which “lets advertisers compare whether ads on its sites are more effective than those on its rivals.” Amazon Attribution includes page views, purchase rate, and sales among the conversion metrics advertisers can select to understand the impact of their display, search, or video ads outside of Amazon.

As we have reported, Amazon’s advertising services are growing as more brands capitalize on Amazon’s popularity for search. As Marketing Dive notes, Amazon is positioning itself for an uptick in brand advertising for the 2018 holiday shopping season. Even if you are not one of the businesses using Amazon Attribution, I suggest you get a jump on the holidays by building awareness now inside and outside Amazon. You don’t need to do holiday advertising just yet – but you should prime the pump for the holidays by:

  • Building your name awareness on Amazon by using some of the advertising tools that Amazon has rolled out. Amazon has launched products such as display advertising designed to make it easier for merchants to reach its vast audience with paid media. Some of those products also help businesses advertise outside Amazon. Amazon’s advertising products were recently bundled under Amazon Advertising. For more insight, check out this Amazon page.
  • Step up digital advertising outside Amazon, too. Rolling out holiday ads in September is not the point – priming the pump by building general name awareness is.

You can measure the effectiveness of your pre-holiday campaign by expanding the conversion pixel of your display ads for a maximum of 90 days. Per Google, a conversion window is the period of time after a customer clicks your ad during which a conversion, such as a purchase, is recorded in Google Ads. The default window is 30 days.  But you can change the conversion window as often as you’d like. Doing so can makes it possible for you to track behavior all the way back to the click someone made on your display ad.

A Caveat

A caveat is in order: if you use the Google Ads conversion pixel as your primary source for tracking purchases, then it may not be the best idea to expand the pixel window to 90 days. Doing so can cause results to become inflated. If you are using another source as your true north (e.g. Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, or a third-party platform like Marin or Search Ads 360) then the inflated conversion totals aren’t as much of an issue.

How are you preparing for the holiday season? Contact True Interactive if you need help. We collaborate with brands on all aspects of digital marketing every day.