A little more than two weeks after Amazon.com Inc. abruptly halted its buying of Google’s Product Listing Ads on April 27, the retail giant began taking modest steps to buy up the visual-oriented ads, according to new data from Kantar Media. And it appeared to significantly ramp up its PLA activity in a number of categories around June 5.
Looking at Amazon’s share of desktop PLA clicks for the mattress category, for example, the retailer went from having no presence in the first two weeks in May to a modest share from May 16-June 4 to 9.2% of clicks from June 5-July 9.
It’s a similar, albeit less dramatic, story when it comes to toys. Amazon went from having no presence in the first two weeks in May to a modest share to 3.2% of clicks from June 5-July 9.
Amazon has also been increasingly aggressive when it comes to consumer electronics. It accounted for 3.8% of desktop PLA clicks from June 5-July 9, a 2.8 percentage point increase from the May 16-June 4 period. And it increased its back-to-school click share to 1.5% between June 5 and July 9 from 0.5% during the May 16-June 4 period.
Amazon’s latest moves are the latest in a series of curious steps by Amazon when it comes to the Google ad format. While Amazon has a massive marketing budget that grew 40.6% in the first quarter, it has long been restrained in its use of PLAs. In fact, it only began testing the ads in December 2016. Amazon then consistently bid on PLAs in 2017 in the home goods product category, and it also used PLAs to drive consumers to click and buy in categories such as furniture, office supplies and novelty gifts.
While Amazon last year began to garner a significant PLA click share when compared with home goods keywords bid on by Merkle clients that exclusively sell home goods, a recent analysis by digital marketing firm Merkle RKG found the retail giant had minimal impact on the broader PLA market. Looking at cost per click, for instance, Merkle found little difference between the categories where Amazon bid on keywords and those in which it did not, which suggests Amazon wasn’t aggressively bidding and driving up prices in those categories.
When Amazon pulled the plug on PLAs, some experts believed it was a sign of the growing tensions between the two technology giants, which directly compete in areas that range from smart speakers to cloud computing to advertising. E-commerce is increasingly a source of conflict, as Amazon accounts for 53% of product searches, according to Hitwise, which is owned by digital marketing firm Connexity Inc. That compares to just 39% for Google.
Amazon, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 1000, could not be reached for immediate comment on its spending patterns.