E-commerce Advertising Market Hits $83 Billion

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Advertising spend on e-commerce platforms is set to rise sharply this year despite the global recession, reaching a total of $US58.5bn ($83bn).

Advertising investment across e-commerce sites such as Amazon, Tmall and Rakuten, omnichannel retailers such as Walmart and Carrefour, and social commerce on platforms such as Pinduoduo and TikTok is set to increase 18.3 per cent worldwide, growing 30 times faster than the wider online ad market and in stark contrast to a forecast fall of -8.1 per cent for the total advertising industry this year.

The uptick in e-commerce advertising spend mirrors a rapid increase in online purchasing; consumers will spend an additional $183bn online this year as a direct result of COVID-19 with total e-commerce sales set to rise by 30.4 per cent – $677bn – to $2.9trn worldwide. Brands are flocking to leverage targeted advertising across e-commerce platforms as a means of getting closer to the consumer at the point of purchase.

Alibaba controls the world’s third-largest ad business, Amazon is growing well ahead of Google and Facebook

Alibaba is set to make $23.5bn from selling ad inventory across its e-commerce properties this year, giving it control of the third-largest ad business by revenue, behind only Alphabet and Facebook. Alibaba’s advertising income – across e-commerce sites like Taobao, Tmall and Lazada – is set to rise 6.6 per cent this year, though this a far slower rate of growth than its competitors.

Amazon, the fourth-largest ad seller by revenue, is among the fastest-risers this year – company filings show its ad business grew 4.5 times faster than Facebook and 63 times faster than Alphabet in the first half of 2020. Consequently, Amazon is on course to make $18.1bn from advertising this year, up by 35.6 per cent at a time when the wider internet ad market is flat (+0.6 per cent).

Elsewhere, Chinese social commerce platform Pinduoduo is set to see its ad income leap 33.8 per cent to over $5bn, ahead of local rival JD.com on $3.6bn. None of the e-commerce platforms monitored by WARC is expected to witness a fall in advertising revenue this year.

Consumers will spend an additional $183bn online this year due to COVID-19 

Online sales are set to rise 30.4 per cent to $2.9trn worldwide this year, according to data from Edge by Ascential. This represents a forecast upgrade of 8.2 percentage points – $183bn – since the COVID-19 outbreak began. Domestic growth rates range from +19.0 per cent in the UK, to +22.1 per cent in the US and +37.6 per cent in China.

Taken together, e-commerce sales will account for 88 per cent of global retail growth in 2020. The top five platforms will tighten their grip on the market this year, turning over an additional $529bn combined as a result of the outbreak. E-commerce platforms Alibaba (+$221bn), Pinduoduo (+$122bn) and Amazon (+$92bn) have seen the sharpest forecast upgrades since the outbreak.

Advertising spend – particularly within the FMCG sector – is moving online as a result of the shifting complexion of sales since the COVID-19 outbreak. Over 8 per cent of Unilever’s business is now done online – the company made 71 per cent (€2.2bn) of its total 2019 e-commerce sales in just the first six months of 2020.

Livestreams are growing to account for a fifth of Chinese e-commerce while the West has been slow to capitalise on social selling

Livestreamed commerce is booming in China – it is set to more than double to a sales value of $171bn this year. This represents 10.2 per cent of all e-commerce sales today, a share which is set to rise to a fifth (20.3 per cent, $421bn) in just the next two years.

Data from Yimian, a sister company of WARC, show that the top three platforms – Taobao, TikTok and Kwai – will see over two-thirds (69.1 per cent) of all livestreamed sales this year.

COVID-19 has pushed new consumers to the format; three in ten (30 per cent) have spent more than they used to on products sold via livestreams and intend to keep doing so. In total, livestreamed commerce has an estimated audience of 525m, equivalent to 62.8 per cent of China’s online population.

Summing up, WARC Data head of data content and author of the research James McDonald said: “With ad investment flat or falling across most media in the wake of COVID-19, e-commerce platforms – which have seen penetration balloon – are in a strong position to capture reallocated budgets by using sales data to demonstrate ad performance during a volatile economic climate.”


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