Amazon is closing the gap on Google’s paid ad dominance – what should marketers understand about differences between the two platforms?
WPP’s Martin Sorrell famously described Amazon’s rise to prominence in the paid advertising arena as a challenge that keeps him awake at night – and with good reason.
With an estimated 40%+ of product searches now beginning on the Amazon platform, the sway the company holds over the ecommerce sector is without parallel, and it’s no wonder that the retail giant has made improving its offering to paid advertisers a top priority in recent years.
Helmed by the richest man in modern history, Amazon certainly isn’t short of resources to take the fight to established paid search heavyweight Google and their flagship Ads product.
So where is the opportunity for marketers, building strategies to achieve maximum return on brand and client ad investment across an evolving landscape?
Amazon vs Google – how do the platforms differ, and how does this impact ROAS?
We highlight 4 key differences between the reigning champion and the intimidating challenger…
1. Funnel stage
Amazon’s in-built advantage over Google is that users on the ecommerce platform are typically lower in the sales funnel, closer to making a purchase decision and often in buying mode.
Google users are more likely to be conducting research or exploring options.
This foundational difference is reflected in click-through and conversion rates, with studies such as Marin’s benchmarking report showing a clear lead for Amazon ads in basic metrics.
Amazon’s ecommerce infrastructure is also a key balance-tipper – many users browse the platform with billing and shipping details pre-registered, Prime delivery accounts and even 1-click ordering.
For advertisers paying premium rates to drive users to product pages, the additional ease of purchase feeds back into delivering maximum ROI.
A complexity of the Amazon platform is the inclusion of user reviews in its core algorithm.
Although many new security measures have been introduced to crack down on review manipulation (in the form of discounted products or even paid incentives for users to leave positive product comments), many retailers still exploit the power of a 5-star heavy review page to ‘game’ the system wherever possible.
Both an opportunity and an obstacle for marketers, the importance and prominence of the user review feature needs to be factored into any overall Amazon marketing strategy.
Just as Google’s algorithm changes have fought to provide users with genuinely helpful content and eliminate out-dated SEO link-building shortcuts, so Amazon will continue to focus on promoting products their user base endorses.
Where Google Ads typically redirect users to other sites, a fundamental platform difference is that Amazon advertising keeps users within the Amazon site.
This gives Amazon marketers multiple opportunities to impact buyer behavior, with a range of tools and products available to deploy at different moments (brand ads, sponsored products, display ads, video ads, stores etc.).
Amazon’s own suggestion engine also feeds into the mix, with “customers also bought” and “compare with similar items” features offering further product promotion opportunities.
Where a Google ad can ultimately end in a terminated session if the user decides not to purchase a product, Amazon retains shoppers within the core platform, where marketers can use a comprehensive strategy to have a second (or even third) shot at securing a sale.
Although much has been made of the dizzying array of data held by Google on its product users, Amazon’s user information is more uniquely concentrated in the e-commerce field.
Via its maps, search, mail and other products, Google may well know more about general human behaviour than any company past or present.
Amazon, however, possesses a treasure trove of data exclusive to online shopping.
Not only monitoring which products have been viewed and bought, Amazon also knows what has been added to wishlists, which reviews are read, how those reviews impact purchasing decisions… as well as understanding which products are returned, re-purchased or bought as gifts.
The sheer volume of pure purchase-related information gives Amazon a current and future advantage to refine its offering to marketers and continue targeting greater ROAS for its growing user base.
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