Why Agencies Must Look Beyond Social to the Next Frontier: eCommerce

art shot of shopping cart

By Jeff Bander, Head of U.S. Market, EyeSquare

For the past several years, Google and Facebook have dominated digital advertising as twin titans; according to eMarketer, the two companies accounted for more than half of all digital ad spending in 2020, with Google covering 28.% of spending and Facebook responsible for 25.2%. In response to this established duopoly, agencies have devoted tremendous financial and human resources to social advertising in an effort to maximize returns from these crucial platforms.

We can expect Facebook and Google to maintain important positions in the market for years to come. However, a rising power has the potential to turn the dynamic duo into a big three: according to a recent report on CNBC, Amazon eclipsed 10% of the market for the first time in 2020. Online shopping experienced an unprecedented boost as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we can expect Amazon’s position in the digital advertising ecosystem to only continue to grow as we move forward.

Elevating eCommerce alongside social

While the leading story surrounding eCommerce advertising is undoubtedly Amazon’s rise over the past 18 months, the channel’s importance was already growing in advance of March 2020. Amazon grew to become the third-largest digital ad seller in the U.S. before COVID-19, while eCommerce giants such as eBay, Target and Walmart made similar plays to expand their advertising efforts.


What this channel does for advertisers is effectively cut out the middleman and bring advertising collateral as close to the point of sale as possible. With customer data, advertising measurements and sales figures all collected under one roof, it becomes much easier to make connections and understand the precise effect that certain campaigns are having on the bottom line.

Social advertising grew to dominate the market because of its unprecedented targeting and measurement capabilities. However, the channel is limited in its ability to measure precisely how many conversions resulted from an individual advertisement or campaign. The addition of eCommerce as a viable advertising channel helps marketers to cover the last mile of the customer journey, understanding the direct and immediate impact of their collateral on sales performance.

Best practices for eCommerce advertising

As marketers increase their spending across eCommerce platforms, they will need to develop teams and strategies to match their social efforts. For those making their first investments into eCommerce advertising, the following best practices can help to ensure that campaigns immediately begin bearing fruit and driving conversions:

  1. Measure in context: Amazon and other eCommerce platforms offer the opportunity to test advertising collateral in a live environment, without placing any conscious focus on the advertisement itself. This “ad-to-cart” process, which follows the user from an individual advertisement through the product search to the purchase itself, provides marketers with the most comprehensive testing solution available today. Testing in a live environment offers a pure picture of how customers respond to your advertisements, which can then be used to inform future decisions.
  2. Identify what is driving to cart: Testing advertisements in eCommerce offers remarkable levels of precision, with a spot’s effect on sales able to be parsed into milliseconds. This data granularity enables brands and advertisers to identify the specific moments that drive customers to their product—and to put the product in their shopping cart. Analyzing this information then empowers marketers to develop similar campaigns or to heighten the emphasis on high-performance moments.
  3. Compare creative executions: Not all eCommerce platforms are alike, and some advertisements will perform better than others depending on the site. These disparities in performance are often a result of the duration of ad contact: a story-based advertisement will see a stronger performance with longer playback times, while a more immediately impactful graphic will excel on platforms with short playback times. Understanding these nuances will help marketers to develop custom advertisements that play to the strengths of each platform.
  4. Test and refine: Like all marketing efforts, the success of eCommerce advertising is dependent on your ability to analyze performance and refine your campaigns accordingly. One-size-fits-all will never be a successful strategy; instead, a continuous series of tests driven by granular data insights will help to improve ROI with each new campaign.

While the world returns to the office and in-person entertainment, analysts expect no regression in the adoption of eCommerce. As online retail clearly demonstrated its convenience and efficiency, global consumers made an irreversible shift in their habits and preferences. Advertisers must recognize the importance of eCommerce as a marketing pillar and begin increasing their investments to match their well-established social media programs.

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