Jan 17 2020
Basis Technologies

Top Challenges for eCommerce Advertising Platforms in 2020


Today’s eCommerce businesses have many options when choosing advertising platforms to work with, but the digital marketing landscape is constantly changing, along with the needs of advertisers. Platforms must keep up with these transformations in order to help eCommerce businesses drive more sales and revenue in the long term. 

Rather than change platforms year after year, advertisers should invest in solutions that can tackle these changes and adapt. Here are the biggest challenges eCommerce advertising platforms face in 2020, and how they can address them. 

Data Security Concerns 

Marketers’ responsibilities for data security and privacy continue to grow. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has been in effect for several years now. There’s also a strong digital privacy law in California, while new legislation is regularly introduced that could pass into law at any time. As such, data security is a top concern for eCommerce businesses today. 

Marketers that work with large media management platforms like Facebook, Amazon, and Google have less legal liability because the data they use is owned and managed by those entities. Businesses are still responsible for properly managing their own first-party data, though, unless they process it all together using features like Facebook Pixel. At the same time, relying too heavily on big players like Facebook or Google gives you no control over your own data management or analysis at all. 

That’s why many eCommerce advertisers today turn to mid-size data management platforms to help them meet regulatory standards while still maintaining control of their own data. 

Digital marketers recently surveyed reported that data privacy and tracking had the largest impact on business last year:

CHART: Biggest trends/challenges most likely to impact business

Rather than leaving it all up to individual businesses to meet data regulations, advertising platforms should step up to the challenge by offering internal features to facilitate this. For example, it should be easy to view the data profiles of individuals, so businesses can easily manage, export or delete this information at their request. Another important feature is offering transparency and options for people to participate in data collection or not.

Maximizing Data Insights to Target Micro-moments at Scale

Advertising platforms today offer a huge opportunity to automatically target and convert leads once they show purchase intent. Ninety percent of smartphone users are not absolutely certain of the specific brand they want to buy when they begin looking for information online. 

That said, there’s often only a short window of time to target in-market audiences before they make a purchase decision. Consider a woman shopping around for leather boots online. She visits a few eCommerce stores then makes a purchase. An hour or two later, she starts seeing remarketing ads for the boots she just bought. 

Targeting these “micro-moments” before people make a purchase decision requires automation capabilities beyond simple remarketing ad campaigns. Advertising platforms must be prepared to process relevant audience behavioral data in real-time, helping businesses reach shoppers before they buy. 

Beyond making fast automated bid adjustments for audiences that show purchase intent, advertising platforms can also help businesses target relevant audiences before they demonstrate their intention to buy. QuanticMind by Centro, for example, uses machine learning technology to process large amounts of audience demographic and intent data. Algorithms are able to identify the kinds of people who would be interested in a product before they start searching for it. 

The advertising landscape is highly competitive, while consumers make quick decisions when buying online. Today’s eCommerce businesses need platforms that offer advanced data insights to anticipate audience interests and target them ahead of time.

Balancing Best-of-Breed versus Consolidated Offerings

Businesses today have many options when choosing advertising platforms. The platforms themselves make efforts to stand out from the competition by offering unique solutions to specific advertising needs, such as search optimization, social, eCommerce, etc. This “best-of-breed” approach increases the value of certain platforms for some businesses but limits their applicability to omnichannel marketing. 

Meanwhile business leaders today are feeling more pressure to invest in solutions that help them manage all their advertising needs. Just a few years ago, Google and Facebook were the only major players in the advertising market. Now Amazon is seeing fast growth.

If advertising platforms want to remain valuable to eCommerce businesses in 2020 and beyond, they need consolidated offerings that help advertisers build an omnichannel approach to marketing. This includes features that help businesses strategically plan, buy, and optimize ads across paid media touchpoints, as well as generating insights to improve performance. 

Search-focused platforms are uniquely positioned to adapt and meet this need since search is still the main paid channel for many brands. Expanding targeting and optimization capabilities to include social and Amazon is a great place to start.

Helping Advertisers Prioritize Individual Consumers Over Strategy

Audience targeting options in advertising are more nuanced today than ever. Using the right advertising platforms, it’s possible to target just about any relevant consumer with ads all over the web. But helping businesses do this can actually hurt their relationship with some audience members while helping it with others. 

Simply put, not all people appreciate or care about ads. According to Forrester’s latest Omnichannel Advertising Playbook, only 42% of US online adults think advertising is a good way to learn about new products. For some people, targeted advertising is a great way to nurture leads. For others, it’s a strategy to alienate and annoy them. 

Ecommerce advertisers today are highly concerned with delivering a relevant message to their audiences based on their preferences and needs. As a result, top advertising platforms need to help businesses by offering flexibility in targeting options. Sometimes, simply maximizing ad visibility across the web is not the right approach. 

As businesses learn more about their leads, they can make informed decisions about what kind of advertising message to deliver, where to deliver it, and at what frequency. They need to understand:

  • Whether someone is familiar with their business or not.
  • What kind of relationship they already have with this person.
  • How the lead reacted to ad and marketing interactions in the past.

All of this can be automatically tracked using a customer relationship management (CRM) platform. Advertising platforms that integrate well with CRMs and allow users to automate changes to their ad targeting strategy based on CRM data are well equipped to address this issue for businesses. 

Advertising platforms today need to have enough flexibility to allow businesses to train their algorithms to consider the best interests of consumers over plain performance indicators like impressions or clicks. Delivering intrusive ads to people who aren’t interested can hurt their advertising efforts, decreasing the value of investing in advertising platforms in the long run.

Delivering Personalization at Scale 

Delivering personalized ads is the key to success with paid media today. Lots of people don’t even pay attention to ads. And those that do are most annoyed when shown ads that are irrelevant to them. Personalization opportunities are so great that consumers have come to expect them. According to Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report, in 2020, 51% of consumers expect companies to anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions before customer contact. 

In recent years, data regulations and the death of tracking cookies have made it very difficult for eCommerce businesses to target leads with a personalized message. Advertising platforms need to help address this need by facilitating ad personalization.

Adapting your strategy to consumer preferences (mentioned above) is one part of this. Offering features that help businesses build dynamic ads and landing pages is also an option for personalization at scale. Most importantly, advertising platforms can help by anticipating the interests and needs of audiences before they start shopping. This is done using full-funnel data insights and machine learning technology to make educated inferences. 

Even in cases where consumer data is scarce, AI-driven algorithms can draw correlations between other related data, making inferences about the kind of people that could be in-market for products like yours. Instead of relying on reactive remarketing campaigns to deliver personalized ads, advanced technologies can help businesses reach audiences with a personalized, relevant message in advance.

Marrying Automation with Insights and Control 

Google has been the leader in advertising automation for years now. Over time they’ve rolled out numerous new ways to automate bids, ad targeting, ad content, and more. Today, Smart Campaigns are the default option for new advertisers. Automation allows new advertisers to compete in their market without so much of a learning curve. But automation is equally valuable to enterprise-level businesses looking to streamline optimizations based on performance insights to scale their advertising strategy. 

However, not every aspect of eCommerce advertising can be “set it and forget it.” Businesses want and need some control over the algorithms that run their advertising campaigns today. Alternative automation technologies are charged with offering flexible solutions that allow users to benefit from streamlining automation, while also providing enough insights and control for their unique business needs. 

To start with, third-party advertising automation technologies can offer better insights with a unified data approach. Google Ads relies on data from Google properties to inform automated bidding decisions. Third-party technologies can use this data as well as other relevant business data to make more accurate bidding decisions. QuanticMind by Centro can analyze historical revenue and click information, offline revenue data, deep funnel data, cost data from publishers and more to offer better insights and optimization from automated bidding. 

Another area where advertising platforms can offer more control for advertisers is strategy. Google’s automated bidding offers a number of goals advertisers can choose from that dictate the choices of bidding algorithms, such as Target Return on Ad Spend or Maximize Conversions. But eCommerce marketing goals are rarely single-dimensional. There are a number of key metrics that are important for businesses to work towards. Advertising platforms can address this need by offering more nuanced and multi-faceted goal targeting options to inform automated bidding decisions.

How to Evaluate eCommerce Advertising Platforms in 2020 

Whether you’re just getting started or already invested in an advertising platform, it’s important to evaluate platform features and capabilities in 2020. Key trends from 2019 illustrate the importance of choosing the right advertising platforms to reach business goals today: 

Chart: Advertising projections

Investment in advertising data management and automation is growing immensely. Meanwhile businesses want to utilize more data, targeting and optimization features than ever before. Lastly, investing fully in an omnichannel approach means looking beyond using Google Ads, Facebook and other advertising platforms in isolation. eCommerce businesses need an integrated solution that helps them stay competitive in the advertising market. 

With that in mind, here are some important tips for evaluating eCommerce advertising platforms in 2020: 

Start with your current vendors.

Adopting new marketing technologies is always a significant undertaking for a business. So it’s best to take stock of your current capabilities and see how they measure up against your needs. That way you can focus on only adding necessary technologies to your MarTech stack. 

Look for sophisticated data management capabilities.

Advertising technologies can and should double as data management platforms. In order to gain the real-time insights eCommerce businesses need, platforms must store and process large amounts of new and historical data from first, second, and third-party sources. Since data privacy regulations are a growing concern for advertisers, providing a solution is essential for platforms to stay competitive in the long term. 

Minimize the number of tools you need.

Some enterprise businesses prefer to invest in all the “best-of-breed” technologies for their advertising needs. But this strategy tends to bring more problems than benefits. The more advertising technologies you use, the more integrations they need. You’ll also have to onboard each platform within your business. As omnichannel marketing becomes even more important, that just means more tools to bring on. It’s better to focus on using a few key solutions that offer the most value for your time and investment overall. 

Give value to flexibility.

Most technologies prioritize offering advanced automation solutions to make it easier for advertisers. But the challenge is finding a platform that also offers the flexibility businesses need to reach their unique marketing goals. Give value to tools that help you take advantage of automation while maintaining control of audience targeting, bid strategy, and more.

The Bottom Line 

Ecommerce businesses today don’t have the capacity to invest in new advertising technologies every year. It’s best to ensure you choose the best solution that will adapt to your needs and the market landscape in 2020 and beyond. Centro has a track record of evolving and tackling these top challenges as they come along.