Amazon’s Prime Day on July 15, 2015 was met with many reactions, from shoppers upset at the fact that some products sold out quickly, to criticism of the product selection chosen for the sale, to Amazon’s own trumpeting of its first attempt at creating a sales holiday that was ‘bigger than black Friday.’
While numbers across the industry indicate varying levels of impact for businesses outside of Amazon, our own data shows that advertisers saw big movement in Amazon Product Ads traffic and conversion rate surrounding Amazon’s big day. Further, it appears Prime Day shoppers spilled over to search engines in order to verify that the discounts they were getting really were good deals.
Amazon Product Ads Traffic Up, Conversion Rate Down
Amazon Product Ads are paid listings featured on Amazon that are targeted to users who are searching for similar or related items.
Taking a look at click traffic and conversion rate of Amazon Product Ads for advertisers in a wide variety of retail verticals, it’s clear that while the shopping holiday did provide a boost in clicks, conversion rate did not follow suit.
As you can see, click traffic began climbing in the days ahead of the big event, with a corresponding decline in conversion rate.
This rise in traffic is likely the result of people visiting Amazon ahead of the event in order to get more information about the promotions and details of the event. As such, they were likely looking to wait until the 15th to actually make purchases, and to only purchase from Amazon as opposed to through third party sites through Amazon Product Ads, resulting in the lower conversion rate observed.
The day of the sale produced the biggest spike in clicks on Amazon Product Ads, while conversion rate was the second lowest figure observed since the beginning of July (only the day prior to Prime Day produced a lower conversion rate).
Thus, while Amazon was able to drive up traffic and sales for its own products with this event, the result for advertisers bidding on Amazon Product Ads was a big increase in spend with a reduced return on that investment.
In the days following the event, both conversion rate and traffic returned to more normal levels.
The ‘Trending’ Ad Issue
That users were increasingly clicking on Amazon Product Ads when it was apparent that their interests lie in the Prime Day discounts reminds us of a similar issue observed in the paid search space surrounding Yahoo’s Trending Now feature. This is a box on the Yahoo homepage that provides links to search results for topics that are currently popular.
While many topics included in Trending Now have to do with celebrities or current news stories that don’t produce ads when searched for, some are keywords that advertisers are bidding on. In the example above, a click on the ‘Las Vegas resorts’ link produces ads at the top of the page and on the right hand rail that users can then click on.
This often has the effect of driving up click traffic for advertisers while reducing conversion rates, just like we saw with the Amazon Prime Day results for Amazon Product Ads. Users arrive at a page with ads because of their interest, but don’t end up converting at the same rate because they have different intent than a typical Yahoo search or Amazon user.
In search, advertisers will frequently pause keywords which are being triggered by the Trending Now links in order to prevent big increases in spend without corresponding increases in sales. A similar strategy might end up being taken for advertisers on Amazon Product Ads when it comes to future Prime Days.
Increase in Google Search Price Comparisons
Taking a look at paid search traffic and conversion rate on Google, we find that there wasn’t a whole lot of change surrounding Prime Day that impacted advertisers’ costs or ROI. However, we did see a lift in non-brand impressions with a corresponding decline in ad click-through rate (CTR) on the day of the event, observed in roughly equal measure for PLAs and text ads.
These trends seem to indicate that, on Prime Day, users are likely to turn to search to check for quick price comparisons against the Amazon deals. As all PLAs and some text ads provide pricing information, users would need only see the results page to do a quick comparison, and would not need to click through to a site, thus the decline in CTR.
This is similar to how users will turn to online resources while shopping in brick and mortar stores to confirm that they are getting the best deal, commonly referred to as ‘showrooming.’
Takeaways for Advertisers
For advertisers bidding on Amazon Product Ads, it’s a good exercise to check into how they performed on Prime Day and what kind of spend increases were observed. If the spend increases and reduction in ROI were atrocious enough, it may warrant shutting off Amazon Product Ads for Prime Day in the future, especially if it grows in popularity.
Fortunately, in the search space, advertiser costs and ROI weren’t really impacted by the influx of users trying to compare prices. However, it’s good to know that there’s a strong likelihood for a decline in CTR on Prime Days in the future, and that Amazon is indeed big enough to impact paid search performance across the landscape by simply running a sale on their site.
Given the disappointment expressed by many consumers over the product selection and quantity limits of Prime Day, it’s hard to say if next year’s event will provide an equal or greater impact. But because it’s Amazon, we’ll certainly be preparing for and measuring the ripple effects.