Merkle’s just-released Digital Marketing Report shows that the pandemic continued to impact marketers in Q3 2021 across digital platforms. The acceleration of ecommerce growth that started in 2020 kept competition and costs high, especially for retailers. Additionally, the unusual performance that occurred in 2020 created tricky Y/Y comps across channels from a traffic perspective. Looking within the quarter, month to month trends in different industries correlated with shifting COVID-19 cases, with retail seeing more online activity and travel seeing less online activity as case numbers increased.
Below is a sampling of key data points from Q3, looking beyond the high-level trends at channel-level performance.
Facebook ad spend grew 24% Y/Y despite impression declines
Facebook CPM remained high Y/Y, increasing 46% over Q3 2020. With iOS 14 privacy updates, advertisers had smaller targeting pools available. This drove up CPM because bids needed to be higher to compete for them. With less visibility into performance, some advertisers may have spent more in an effort to meet revenue goals. With more expensive traffic, impressions declined 15% Y/Y.
CPC on Amazon Sponsored Brands ads increased 76% Y/Y
Sponsored Brands experienced large Y/Y CPC increases for the second quarter in a row, showing that there’s increased competition across both of the main formats on Amazon search. Elevated CPC drove 56% Y/Y spend growth on Sponsored Brands, despite an 11% Y/Y drop in click traffic. As with Sponsored Products, sales growth declined with advertisers driving less traffic.
Amazon’s Google Shopping impression share continued to grow, averaging 55% in Q3
Amazon’s impression share on Google Shopping auctions averaged 55% over the course of Q3, climbing three percentage points over Q2’s average. Impression share jumped at the end of July, as did Amazon’s impression share on Google text ads, but remained elevated through the end of August. Amazon’s impression share remains slightly below 2019’s peak levels.
Organic search traffic for essential goods declined just 2% Y/Y
Essential goods organic visits declined slightly Y/Y, improving from Q2 Y/Y figures. Within the category, pharmacies and grocery showed the most strength. Apparel also improved, growing Y/Y by 8%. This shows the current consumer mindset – shoppers are investing in clothing again, as they leave home more frequently, while continuing to take advantage of online conveniences for grocery items.