In October 2020, Amazon announced that it had completed a global roll out of a brand new feature within its Sponsored Display ad solution. Launched just weeks before ‘Prime Day’, the new customisation feature is now available to advertisers in the UK, as well as those in the United States, Canada, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Japan, and the UAE.
The update creates new opportunities for advertisers to better personalise their Sponsored Display ads – both across the Amazon advertising network and through off-Amazon platforms – to enhance brand engagement at a time when there is a seemingly growing disconnect between businesses and their customers. But how can advertisers make the most of this new feature and how can this help to drive growth?
Let’s take a look…
What is Sponsored Display?
To answer these all important questions, we need to start at the beginning and explore Amazon’s Sponsored Display ad solution. Sponsored Display is a relatively new addition to the Amazon platform, joining Sponsored Products and Sponsored Brands as yet another campaign option for reaching relevant audiences and enhancing the journey.
Amazon reports that 64% of its shoppers use at least one other platform as part of the buyer journey and this is where Sponsored Display really demonstrates its value. Available both on and off Amazon, the ads are responsive which means that they display optimally on desktop and mobile as well as within mobile apps.
Sponsored Display ads are also quite diverse, with three distinct targeting options for advertisers to choose from depending on what results they want from their efforts:
- Views-Based Targeting – With a views-based Sponsored Display ad, advertisers can target sales-ready prospects based on their individual viewing history. The algorithm segments audiences who have already viewed a product, or a similar product, and displays an ad to re-engage them.
- Interest-Based Targeting – With an interest-based Sponsored Display ad, the algorithm segments customers by any browsing or other behavioural signals which suggest they may be interested in a specific product. This helps to boost awareness and recognition of brand and product.
- Product-Based Targeting – With a product-based Sponsored Display ad, advertisers can promote their products specifically to prospective customers who are already engaged with the product, or with a similar product or similar category, to persuade and convert sales-ready leads. It is the third type of targeting, product-based targeting, that’s of particular interest here with Amazon’s new Sponsored Display feature integrating directly with this option.
A Closer Look at the New Feature
With the roll out of the new feature, advertisers can now customise their product-based targeting ads within the Sponsored Display campaigns to incorporate their brand logo, along with personalised headlines that communicate the brand’s message or values. Following approval of the creative, customised Sponsored Display ads can be featured on product pages, within customer reviews, on SERPs pages and as a ‘Featured Offer’.
By using the product targeting campaign management dashboard within Sponsored Display, advertisers can design and create their own tailored ads featuring more of their brand’s personality and message. Both logos and headlines can be edited as necessary with a built-in preview function making it easy to see how the customisation will appear to audiences before submitting for approval by the Amazon creative team.
Of course, there are a few rules that advertisers will need to follow to ensure their creative is approved. Amazon has published a full list of Sponsored Display ad specs which details terms of logos and customised headlines specifically, but to summarise:
- Logos must be owned by the brand (or the brand must have legal rights)
- Logos must fill the space, or be provided on a plain white background
- Logos must accurately reflect the brand
- Logos must not be a product or non-logo image
- Logos cannot contain additional headline text
- Logos must be individual, rather than a combined image
- Ad copy must contain excellent grammar and spelling
- Ad copy must not use title case, mixed case, all caps, or all lower case lettering
- Ad copy must not contain emojis
- Ad copy must not contain a call to action
There are additional requirements depending on the product category, so it’s always worth having a flick through the criteria to ensure headline and logos are permitted.
The Benefits of Customisation
In the announcement, Senior Product Manager Issei Suzuki said that Amazon is ‘continually listening to your feedback and working to make our products more useful for you,’ suggesting that these enhanced customisation features have been requested by advertisers.
The biggest benefit for advertisers, of course, is that the prominent appearance of a brand logo and brand message instantly connects the ad – and the product – with the brand to increase customer engagement and connect more easily.
Why You Should Care About Brand Engagement
“The global pandemic has reset the standards for brand engagement”.
That’s according to Salesforce; a sentiment that’s echoed and supported by many others.
The COVID-19 outbreak has changed the way that customers perceive brands which means that it’s more important than ever before to utilise features and functions – such as the new Sponsored Display update – that enable us to connect and engage.
Perhaps one of the most worrying things about COVID-19, in terms of brand perception at least, is that most brands have reacted to the situation in much the same way.
And the truth is, they’ve had to. There are very few variations in how a business can react to such an event. However, this does pose a pretty significant problem.
From a customer perspective, brands are beginning to merge together into one giant brand where it’s becoming increasingly difficult to identify individual traits and visualise each brand.
A YouTuber known as ‘Microsoft Sam’ posted an important video that all brands need to see. Titled ‘Every COVID-19 Commercial is exactly the same’ the video is a compilation of what Sam calls, ‘…derivative, cliche ads,’ that make it almost impossible to tell which brand the ad is for.
And this is something that is quickly carrying over to digital. At a time when physical stores are closing, and more retailers are shifting online, it’s becoming more and more difficult for Amazon sellers to stand out from the crowd for their product ranges or their stock availability. But what they can still stand out for is their own brand message, showing just how important it is to be getting that out there.
In recent years, a number of big name brands have attempted to downplay the importance of branding. Doritos, for example, famously launched a campaign in 2019 that they claimed was ‘logo-free’ and featured no mention of the brand name.
What it did feature – heavily – was the infamous triangle shape that has become synonymous with the Doritos chip. Branding matters, and Amazon’s new Sponsored Display feature is emerging as one of the best ways to incorporate branding into on-site and off-site ads.
A Renewed Focus on Branding
The roll out of this new Sponsored Display customisation feature appears to be yet another step forward in Amazon’s shift from a primarily sales-based platform to more of a hybrid sales/awareness platform. In fact, there have been a number of new brand-based features introduced recently alongside Sponsored Display, including:
- Posts – Currently only available in Beta, the Posts feature is anticipated to be given a widespread launch shortly. This new option will allow shoppers to stay up-to-date with their favourite Amazon brands with stories and news content.
- Follow – The new follow button makes it easy for Amazon users to ‘follow’ their favourite brands with instant notifications of new content, new products and new deals and offers. It’s becoming a big noise in boosting brand loyalty.
- Store functions – Amazon’s Stores have undergone a significant makeover recently with a number of new features being introduced. A highlight is enriched content which includes images, links, and even 20-second background videos.
Amazon is really putting a great deal of effort into helping sellers to boost brand engagement and it appears to be working. Surveys find that the gap between brands using Amazon for sales, and brands that use Amazon for branding, is rapidly closing. Today, it’s believed that only just over half – 62% – use Amazon specifically to drive sales with the remainder focusing on brand awareness and customer acquisition.
Making the Most of Amazon’s New Feature
With the Sponsored Display customisation feature available for product-based targeting, brands should now be thinking about what types of product ads will benefit most from personalisation.
While there’s no right or wrong, low-converting products stand to benefit most from this feature. That’s because, while the ad itself may not achieve much in terms of direct conversion, a logo and headline can improve brand recall, making the brand a ‘go to’ option for another purchasing need in the future.
It’s important to remember that not every product will sell to every shopper. But even those products that don’t have what it takes to convert can still have a big impact on boosting awareness and brand recall, making customisation a critical driver of growth.