Although Amazon and eBay are retail marketplace giants, the companies supply data and sell media placements in very different ways. These differences, reflected in their respective digital go-to-market strategies, trace back to each company’s origin. EBay’s roots in auction-based, consumer-to-consumer (C2C) business give marketers and advertisers a much different value proposition than Amazon’s original B2C play.
The Data Difference
Both Amazon and eBay have programmatic offerings in their ad sales businesses. EBay has its buy-side eBay Audience Platform whereas Amazon has a demand-side offering, Amazon Advertising Platform. But the two companies supply different levels of intent data.
For instance, eBay is more flexible than Amazon about opening its own data for audience targeting purposes and for making it available in standalone data sets.
“EBay is very transparent about buying data or standardized ad units with targeting while Amazon is more about buying the ‘consumer’ and letting them dictate where that inventory is actually being bought at,” said Jim Barkow, GM of media at ecommerce and media network Bazaarvoice. (Bazaarvoice competes with eBay and Amazon.)
He points out that Amazon’s reluctance to put intent data directly in the hands of advertisers or third parties isn’t because it lacks ability. “I think Amazon has a better chance of providing a relevant, intent-based experience but the ownership of data and security around the intent is their core, secret sauce so they don’t want to allow advertisers or channels to penetrate that intent necessarily,” Barkow explained.
Once source told AdExchanger that eBay has “some interesting data around 60-70 million unique [impressions through its commerce network] on leads out to retailers on product pages with conversion and sales data on about 40% of that.”
So not only does eBay provide intent data, it equates with Amazon in terms of scale as well.
Who can execute?
Yet, the source also pointed out that compared to Amazon, eBay is “way behind in terms of execution.”
Industry insiders speculate this execution gap exists because of eBay’s traditional C2C focus. EBay originated as a marketplace through which consumers could locate hard-to-find, out-of-stock items. By contrast, Amazon competes with Google for search share.
“EBay is like an open exchange where all buyers at the center can participate,” said Alan Yan, a former eBay marketing executive who is currently CEO of advertising technology company AdChina. “On the other hand, if you look at Amazon, it’s fixed-price, premium stuff and not everybody can participate on the supply side. It’s invitation-only where brands are verified or approached by Amazon.”
How they sell
Amazon and eBay’s inventory-selling strategies also differ in how each company facilitates the buying process. Triad Retail Media, the authorized online media supplier for eBay Advertising, oversees eBay’s audience retargeting, extensions and standard ad buys. Amazon operates Amazon Media Group services in-house.
Amazon, Barkow said, is a great example of a company integrating its consumer retail experience into its ad inventory.
“They own it internally, completely, and on top of that, they look at how to incorporate data into the ad unit itself,” he added. “I would say they’re by far the most experimental and progressive as far as what type of advertising works better for retail environments,” such as embedding add-to-cart buttons directly in placements. Amazon offers a number of custom media "packages" for its site and slew of owned-and-operated properties like IMDb and Zappos.com
Owning The Digital Ecosystem
Amazon has a large opportunity to extend its media-services business by ramping up what Yan described as an “Apple-like ecosystem,” one in which Amazon already has access to multiple supply sources, buyers and channels. “I think they’re saying, ‘If I open up [data] today to third parties, what are the benefits I’d gain?’” Yan said. “[The answer is]: Not much yet.”
Specifically, Yan feels Amazon should develop its own integrated digital marketing platform, a move that would play to its commerce strengths. “In a market where [Alibaba’s] Taobao Marketplace is so powerful, as a merchant you don’t just want to stay on Taobao,” he explained. “You don’t want all of your eggs in one basket. You want to have a platform market strategy.”
Amazon, he said, has the ability through its Amazon Web Services infrastructure, advertising solutions and first-party data access, to develop a cross-platform digital solution that manages marketing spend across even a so-called competitor site like Tmall or Taobao. This could potentially pad out its own advertiser insights while serving its merchant partners.
By comparison, eBay sells digital marketing solutions under its eBay Enterprise Marketing Solutions arm, which brings together capabilities like display, retargeting, mobile, affiliate and paid search through a number of marketing and agency-services acquisitions the company has made in recent years.
Last quarter, eBay’s marketing and services business experienced only 5% growth, a total of $238 million for the division. During its Q3 earnings call, eBay CFO Bob Swan credited that weak uplift to the impact of “re-platforming and branding efforts to consolidate nine companies into one.” eBay’s continuing challenge will be unifying and integrating these various point solutions and services.
In terms of audience reach, eBay advertisers have access to intent data on about 116 million users to Amazon’s some 215 million active accounts. “I would not say Amazon is in a ‘better’ position than eBay, it’s just a different position,” Yan noted. However, when it comes to enterprise traction, Amazon has the head start because of its premium brand partnerships and “very robust” cloud-based infrastructure AWS affords businesses to build upon, Yan said.
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