Product Led Advertising: Two years ago in 2017, we saw digital advertising spending outpace TV spending for the first time. Now in 2019, we have reached an even more monumental inflection point, as spending on digital advertising is projected to outpace spending on all traditional advertising combined.
One of the big drivers of this surge in digital ad budgets is undoubtedly mobile, which is set to nearly double in spend compared to 2016. You also have the rise of video as a powerful ad format pushing digital budgets up.
But digital’s unique ability to provide measurable, performance-based, product-led advertising that generates online sales and conversions has increasingly led to brands allocating more and more dollars to digital and away from traditional media.
Product-led advertising is growing rapidly in these segments of digital
- Traditional keyword-focused search ads
- Google Shopping’s Product Listing Ads, which display product images and descriptions against relevant searches
- Retargeted social ads such as Facebook dynamic ads that target consumers with products and offers based on their browsing history
The newest category is product-led advertising on ecommerce sites.
For example, brands are showing increasing interest in search ads on Amazon with spend on these ads growing nearly 3x between the 3rd quarter of 2017 and the first quarter of 2018 according to our own data. It even rose 16% between Q4 2017 and Q1 2018 – despite the fact that online ad spend traditionally peaks in Q4 due to the holiday shopping season when consumer retail spending is at its highest.
Recent third-party data also backs up this assessment. According to a 2018 report from Merkle, spend on Sponsored Products ads was up 165% in the second quarter of 2018, and accounted for the majority of Amazon search investment, taking 88% spend share in Q2.
And that trend continued in Q4, when Amazon Sponsored Products spend saw 15% growth year over year, while Sponsored Brands (formerly known as Headline Search Ads) grew 26%. Sponsored Products accounted for 87% of all Amazon ad spend in Q4.
Product-Led Advertising: Marketers are increasingly using this channel for brand awareness
For example, when eMarketer analyzed data for the CPG sector it found that the majority of CPG sales are still done in store. But consumers are increasingly searching for these products online, and those searches often lead to ecommerce platforms. Many brand managers are now viewing ecommerce as one more marketing channel.
At Skai, we work with clients to aim higher up the funnel on Amazon, using product-led advertising for brand awareness and competitive positioning. This is still done in the context of a performance advertising program, but with the understanding that more and more consumers spend their online shopping time on Amazon.
When brands want to better engage or win over competitive mindshare they spend more of their budgets on Amazon. We now see two peaks to shopping behavior, where more customer discovery is done on Amazon—sometimes weeks ahead of the actual shopping decision, which could happen in-store.
This means that brands are now more keen to understand branding, market share and other directional growth metrics that may fall outside of traditional performance measurement, especially as it relates to the massive ecommerce channel opportunities like Amazon.
Product-Led Advertising Requires a Holistic Strategy
Building a broader strategy that may include pulling brand spend into the mix—where traditionally trade spend and co-op budgets ruled—requires that marketing leaders have a more holistic approach to measurement. They need a clearer understanding of a channel’s relative performance by product compared to other digital product ad channels, and wider data sets to drive campaign decisions beyond the basic clicks and conversions that are the traditional metrics for product-led advertising.
When brand marketing comes into the mix, measurement standards have to shift. Instead of only focusing on the channel’s profitability and spending within the margin, brand spend can open up the purse strings. On an important channel like Amazon, goals such as brand building and increasing market share can encourage marketers to aggressively attack a category. Where previously the investment in product ads had been measured on pure Return on Ad Spend (ROAS), now the advertiser may be tasked with tracking market share or category share, by product.
Typically brand studies, lift tests, and other more scientific measurement strategies for brand marketing spend are not easily accomplished on Amazon, but data available through Amazon Retail Analytics Premium and some third party data providers (which many large brands already leverage, just not on their advertising decisions) can help provide a better data set for triangulating the efficacy of investment in Amazon advertising beyond ROAS.
In addition to seeking out stronger digital retail signals and competitive intelligence, advertising teams need access to effective product-centric marketing automation software that allows them to take meaningful action on these insights.
Product-Led Advertising is a new frontier
The brands that win with this new breed of product-led advertising on ecommerce platforms will be the ones that can find the right balance between pure performance marketing and branding, richer data for decision making and technologies for scale and optimization, together with a product-centric view that encompasses an array of channels and waypoints in the customer journey.