This year the tail end of October saw the return of unBoxed, Amazon Ads’ annual conference dedicated to ‘new solutions and innovations to help brands big and small connect with customers, grow their brand, and prepare for the future.’
With numerous keynotes and breakout sessions to cover, we were delighted to have four experts in commerce – Mia Rodriguez, SVP, Head of eCommerce USA, Will Margaritis, SVP Global Commerce Solutions, Zach Weinberg, VP, eCommerce, and Drew Clements, VP, Group Director, Technology & Automation – at the Jacob Javits Center North to absorb everything in person and see the reaction from brands in the room.
This year’s conference placed a heavy emphasis on Sponsored Display Ads (SDAs) and interactive ads being rolled out more widely across the Amazon ecosystem, as well as new tools to help brands measure media conversions, quantify opportunities along each stage of the customer journey, and see how campaigns drive awareness, preference and purchase intent.
One product stole the show, however, featuring heavily in almost every keynote and breakout session. Below are our key takeaways from the event:
1. It’s critical for brands to understand Amazon Marketing Cloud (AMC)
For the Reprise Commerce team, AMC was the solution underpinning nearly every presentation and breakout session at Amazon Ads unBoxed, with Drew Clements sitting on a panel exploring How brands can achieve trust, scale, and efficiency with the help of Amazon Ad Tech.
“AMC will be critical for business with Amazon going forward.” says Mia Rodriguez, “It’s an absolute must that brands figure out how to work with AMC and utilize it in the right way.”
But what exactly is AMC? Amazon describes it as a secure, privacy-safe, and cloud-based clean room solution, in which advertisers can easily perform analytics across pseudonymized signals, including Amazon Ads signals as well as their own inputs.
Zach Weinberg is impressed by the scope of the tool: “What you’re getting with AMC is purchase data, ad-serving data impressions, and clicks across all of Amazon’s ad products, from sponsored products and brands to the Demand Side Platform (DSP), streaming TV, and more – you can pull all of that advertising data into AMC and see the impact of all those channels across retail sales on the Amazon platform.”
“It also can ingest external advertising data,” he added, “so it’s a huge unlock when it comes to triangulating advertising and retail data, together with consumer behavior.”
AMC marks Amazon’s first foray into sharing data that has previously been kept in a black box. From a competitive standpoint, the winners in this space will likely be the brands that are able to leverage AMC data to make faster optimizations and derive better insights.
2. Amazon takes the Google approach to teaching advertisers
From a product standpoint, Amazon is making great strides with new functionality, but they are also trying to educate users on how to optimize their adverts, make it easier for non-technical staff to use certain tools, and make the platform more accessible to smaller brands.
Zach Weinberg sees synergies with another large-scale advertising platform: “They’re really taking more of a Google-style approach, where they’re trying to teach advertisers and brands exactly how to leverage these different products to the best of their abilities.”
The release of Sponsored Display Video Creative – a video creation tool that allows advertisers to create product videos quickly and easily – is one such example of Amazon making its platform more accessible. More evidence can be found in the release of performance recommendations in the ads console, that enable ‘one-click’ campaign improvements, and 50 new pre-built instructional queries for AMC.
“Giving more of that data to advertisers will help internal teams justify the increased investment in Amazon,” says Weinberg, “they needed to be able to give these teams justification and that’s in the form of data.”
3. Sponsored Display grows as a testing ground for Amazon
Will Margaritis sees a trend developing for Sponsored Display: “These products have often been an area of innovation and experimentation for Amazon, and this year strengthens that trend with three key developments.”
“First, Amazon is introducing video to Sponsored Display,” explains Margaritis, “This will bring more attention to Sponsored Display Ads and empower brands to be more creative with the information they present to consumers.”
Amazon is offering a full creative video service to help bring these ads to life, as well as a new set of DIY video tools to help brands build their own video using templates, product images, and lifestyle images – all at no added cost.
“Second, Amazon is launching Rewarded Sponsored Display as a closed beta,” says Margaritis.
Similar to last year’s announcement of Interactive Incentives through Sponsored Display on Twitch, the functionality allows brands to add a shopping credit to the Sponsored Display creative which gives consumers a reward when they click on an ad and buy a product.
“This will increase click-through considerably, ushering consumers down the funnel faster than before. 92% of shoppers said that they are more likely to take an action if they receive a credit, which demonstrates the value brands can expect from this addition.”
Lastly, Sponsored Display is coming for non-endemic brands. For the first time, brands that do not sell on Amazon will be able to take advantage of Sponsored Display, gaining access to Amazon’s faster, more cost-effective display product.
“This doesn’t replace the power of the Amazon DSP, and the ability to laser-target high-value audiences, but it does give brands a way to be more experimental with how they approach consumers through Amazon.” says Margaritis.
This is currently in closed beta on Twitch but is expected to roll out wider over the next year.
4. Amazon is giving brands the tools to measure success
In what may be most exciting to advertisers, Amazon also announced several changes and improvements to how it measures the performance and success of its ad products, predominantly through omnichannel metrics and Amazon Brand Lift surveys.
Omnichannel metrics provide insights across channels, uniting online sales with offline sales, and allowing brands to see the total impact of their campaigns.
This is one of the rare areas where Amazon has been considerably behind some of its retail competition, and it’s the announcement Will Margaritis is most excited about: “You can now understand not only how consumers act on Amazon after seeing your ad, but also how they act across the US. This shows combined online and offline sales metrics, across Amazon and other retailers, directly in the DSP.”
Budget optimization can include offline sales, as the data is available immediately and continuously. Powering this is Amazon Shopper Panel data, which comes from 300,000 US and UK shoppers sharing their purchasing data and receipts with Amazon in return for rewards.
Amazon Brand Lift surveys are also expanding to the UK. Powered by the Amazon Shopper Panel, Brand Lift helps advertisers quantify how their Amazon Ads campaigns are driving marketing goals such as awareness, purchase intent, and ad recall.
This year’s edition of unBoxed certainly shows Amazon is moving in the right direction in terms of functionality. Amazon Marketing Cloud looks to be a long-term play for Amazon Ads, and brands would do well to seek out expertise in this area sooner rather than later. Mediabrands has partnered with Amazon to build out a range of use cases and AdTech solutions such as blending 1P AMC data with retail data.
Away from AMC, it’s clear that Amazon has its eyes on new retail media revenue opportunities with the opening of Sponsored Display for non-endemic brands, but the move also presents an opportunity to brands to experiment with a new medium. The best news for brands – and inhouse teams looking to justify Amazon Ad spend – is likely the range of new measurement capabilities.
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