E-Commerce Sites Exploring Selling Ad Space

Sep 15, 2010

By Tom Ryan

While Amazon.com is apparently testing running display advertisements
on its website, Backcountry.com, a leading e-tailer of outdoor products, has
formally launched a program offering advertising space available on its websites.

a subsidiary of Liberty Media Corp., said the program will be available first
to Backcountry.com’s vendors and partners, but will open it up to "customer
complementary" advertisers shortly. The company
said the program offers exposure opportunities to Backcountry.com’s one to
four million unique monthly visitors who engage in 10 to 35 million page views
per month. It will also allow advertisers to reach its
niche audience of hardcore outdoor enthusiasts.

"Most people still use the internet as it was originally intended: a
research medium," said Dustin Robertson, Backcountry.com’s chief marketing
officer, in a statement. "Having customer-complementary ads on our sites
can enhance the customer’s shopping experience as well as provide the customer
with more brand and product information opportunities while they are in their
research phase."

Advertisers can buy inventory available on a navigation
level basis (e.g., Men’s Clothing, Women’s Clothing, Hiking) as well as on
all Product Detail Pages. Potential advertisers will also have the ability
to send traffic to any destination URL they choose; from their own site, to
a smaller retailer or to a custom campaign.

"We would much rather have our customers exit to a vendor site to learn
more about the products they are researching than go anywhere else," said
Mr. Robertson.

Meanwhile, on Amazon.com, the bottom of the front page on Tuesday
afternoon showed an ad for ING Direct with a click-through link to the bank’s
website. Clicking on the words "ad feedback" underneath the advertisement
brought up a survey asking clickers two questions: "How relevant is this
ad?" and "How
appropriate is this ad for Amazon?"

A link to a page, "About Amazon’s
Advertising Program," included
the explanation, "As you’ve noticed, Amazon.com has recently started
incorporating display advertising on some of our pages. At Amazon, our ultimate
priority is to ensure that your shopping experience is a good one. When companies
place ads on Amazon we generate additional revenue, which allows us to offer
lower prices to you, something we are dedicated to doing in every way we can.
All 3rd party advertisements will always be clearly labeled as such."

Discussion Question: What do you think of e-commerce sites selling display
advertising space? Will consumers accept the rationale that ads enhance their
shopping experience?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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7 Comments on "E-Commerce Sites Exploring Selling Ad Space"

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Max Goldberg
11 years 8 months ago

They can couch it anyway they want, but this is and effort to garner more revenue, not a way for consumers to find more information about products. Why shouldn’t online retailers accept advertising? It’s done all the time at their brick and mortar counterparts. Consumers will vote with their clicks. If the ads bung up the shopping experience, they will simply click on a competitor’s website.

Joel Rubinson
11 years 8 months ago

I think this makes all the sense in the world. Advertising is not evil, it is helpful, especially if it is served up based on addressability rules that maximize relevance to the shopper. Along those lines, it will be interesting to monitor the reaction to Target giving customers the ability to personalize the offers they receive via promotional e-mails.

Evan Schuman
Evan Schuman
11 years 8 months ago
I’m really not seeing much–any, actually–downside to this. First, yes, it generates additional revenue and highly profitable revenue at that. Secondly, it’s highly unlikely to offend any customers, who are quite used to seeing ads everywhere else they research. Thirdly, I think the ads–if selected properly–certainly could enhance the experience if they are offering complimentary products that the retailer doesn’t want to offer. Consider a page on McDonald’s site about Egg McMuffins, with an ad for a local grocery store pushing a deep discount on organic brown eggs? No conflict as it’s unlikely many Egg McMuffin prospects would opt to avoid it and make it themselves (and if they were inclined to do so, they didn’t need an ad to reveal to them that they can simply buy their own eggs.) Or an add at The Pep Boys site pushing a local car dealership? (As long as the ad was pushing deals on cars, rather than car components.) If the e-tailer carefully screens ads for relevance and appropriateness, it could REALLY be turned into a… Read more »
Gene Detroyer
11 years 8 months ago

Why not?

Don Delzell
Don Delzell
11 years 8 months ago
I’m going to take the opposite position to those posted so far. Retail websites have three significant objectives. Drive sales unique to the channel; help drive sales or support merchandising initiatives in other channels; and support/enhance the brand. Along the way, an additional objective is to attract and keep new shoppers (which is one of the objectives of brand enhancement). There is absolutely nothing about selling advertising on the website which supports or empowers reaching those objectives. Competing offers (and and ad is a competing offer…do not fool yourself with “noncompetitive” distinctions) do not enhance the ability the sell the merchandise offered on the site. Click away enablement does nothing to support in-store programs or help drive cross-channel synergy. There is a small, albeit feeble argument that selling ad space to brands with values which through association enhance your own actually supports the last objective. This is a rarely successfully, documented tactic, however. Brand rub-off just doesn’t happen that much. Retail websites have enough to do. Becoming billboard space for additional revenue is both short… Read more »
Lee Peterson
11 years 8 months ago

This is kind of a funny question. My first thought was, “they don’t already?” All of us are exposed to so many online ads every day that throwing them onto Amazon or any other B to C site wouldn’t make any difference at all. Think of ESPN.com or perhaps the worst, the Weather Channel.com or even the New York Times’ site. They (and many more) are like playing a video game of “Ad Dodging” at hyper speed. But it’s just a modern fact of life anymore.

A question here though would be; would they be effective ads? Because, like levels of a video game, you can get very adept at shutting those ads down and completely ignoring them altogether. I’m sure Amazon will be able to measure their effectiveness and feed that back to the companies running the ads though, right?

John McNamara
11 years 8 months ago

Why do so many internet sites forget what made them popular in the first place?

Ads are a distraction to the customer and for the few cents they may bring in in ancillary revenue they take with them dollars in lost revenue.

Although every customer is different, I doubt that the majority of them are browsing through Amazon.com because they have hours of time to kill.

I also doubt that a CEO or Purchasing Director would appreciate the extra distractions and competition an ad on a website brings. Just imagine how many ads use misleading slogans that sound better than the product the customer is about to buy. Those ads would in essence infuriate the customer even more and would be a good reason to avoid that website in the future.


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