Should you run always-on campaigns on Amazon?
The simple answer is yes — you should run ‘always-on’ campaigns on Amazon.
The more complex answer is that it depends, and running an always-on campaign doesn’t mean you should not also run additional ‘burst campaigns’ at the same time. Your goals, the competitiveness and seasonality of your specific market, and the volumes of products you are selling can all impact the utility of an always-on approach.
Most Amazon Sellers already understand the significance of savvy marketing choices. In 2018, Amazon accounted for 49% of the US eCommerce market, amounting to over $250 billion in sales. The era of social distancing has accelerated the growth of ecommerce. With this much money up for grabs, a digital marketing strategy can make or break a brand.
The current global health crisis is important context to keep in mind when determining marketing strategies. However, unless you run out of inventory, current market volatility likely only compounds the value of an always-on approach.
Here we are going to look at why always-on campaigns are a good idea. Whether or not you are new to always-on marketing, or just looking for some advanced advice on the subject — you have come to the right place. Let’s get started.
What is always-on marketing?
Let’s first define always-on marketing. An always-on campaign is precisely as its name suggests: a marketing campaign that is always switched on. If you use this strategy, your marketing campaign runs consistently in the background, gathering leads, and driving sales 24/7.
The always-on strategy differs from a ‘burst’ marketing campaign approach, which is a short-term endeavor into which a brand invests a significant portion of its advertising budget and efforts. Traditional burst marketing campaigns focus on driving sales and maximizing returns during a defined period. Examples of burst marketing include brands pushing chocolate during Valentine's Day, swimsuits during summer, or children’s toys before Christmas.
While it’s true that occasion-based burst campaigns drive sales in the short-term, they don’t necessarily lead to long-term gains. The inherent limitations of burst marketing make it extremely challenging for a brand to gain any real traction with customers. In fact, many brands find that when their campaign ends, their sales drop off as well. This is where always-on strategies can help.
Why do I need an always-on strategy?
Good question. Let’s break it down: on Amazon, many Sellers naturally prefer to run ads when their sales volume is likely to be high, during profitable shopping periods such as Christmas, Black Friday, or Prime Day. However, your competitors are probably taking this very same approach, driving up the cost per click (CPC) for you.
By contrast, an always-on strategy allows you to build relevancy in a more consistent and ongoing way, and often with less competition, leading to lower CPCs. As you already know, Amazon uses your relevancy score as a factor in its auctions. In calculating this score, Amazon favorably weights continuous activity, so running campaigns in the periods leading up to big shopping days can help you increase and fine-tune your overall relevancy. For this reason, always-on campaigns enable you to not only win auctions but also to win them at a lower CPC.
Always-on marketing particularly lends itself to products that are not tied to specific times of the year or special occasions. But it’s also a great way to gear up for a seasonal product or new product launch. Again, this comes back to the weighting that the Amazon algorithm puts on sales and performance history, and the data you can collect about advertising strategies in the leadup to a launch. If you want the best chance at winning the buy-box, ranking organically and even winning ad buys, you should consider an always-on approach.
Why you might not want an always-on campaign
The main reason to stick with a burst marketing approach is seasonality. For example, say that you sell winter jackets. Most people don’t buy winter clothes in the summer. That means an always-on approach for that highly-seasonal product could lose money during the summer — not converting and not gaining valuable insights on which terms are working and which are not.
However, specifics, again, matter. If you can launch that season product in another marketplace — in this example in the southern hemisphere, that changes things. You could also consider restricting your campaign to very specific (but non-branded) keywords to capture the lower volumes of people looking for your product off-season. Either way, it's when there is very seasonal demand, or other reasons that make the capture of relevant data hard, that always-on campaigning might not be the right choice.
What are the benefits of an always-on strategy?
Always-on marketing allows you to build relevancy, win auctions, and drive purchases throughout the year at a steady rate. Here’s what else an always-on strategy can help you do:
- Make your product more visible: Product visibility is incredibly important, and search advertising is vital — you want to place your products where customers can actually see them. As an eCommerce platform, Amazon has much more ‘shelf space’ than physical retailers — in fact, their potential shelf space is virtually endless. But this unlimited shelf space also means there’s unlimited competition. Ensuring your product remains at the top of the first page of search results can help you expand and protect your market share, reach undecided shoppers, and introduce your brand to new customers. All of this ultimately translates to more sales.
- Boost brand awareness: Always-on marketing ensures that your products stay at the top of search result landing pages. Increased visibility not only means more sales but also that your products remain at the forefront of customers’ minds, making them more likely to seek out your brand for future purchases.
- Ensure a competitive advantage. Did you know that in 2019, Amazon’s advertising revenue grew 39% year-over-year and topped $14 billion? These statistics illustrate an important point: if you’re not participating in advertising, you can rest assured that your competition is. Running always-on campaigns not only keeps your brand competitive in terms of sales, but it also allows you to put upward pressure on your competition for ad space. When you’re not running campaigns, your competitors’ ads become less expensive, meaning their marketing budgets can stretch even further. Fail to act, and your competitors will reach customers, build relevance, and ultimately eat away at your sales and profit.
- Gather more data: Finally, always-on campaigns allow you to gather a higher volume of data on what search terms convert. Access to this valuable information will help you benefit from even bigger sales during high-volume periods, such as Christmas and Prime Day. Of course, you’ll need to use advanced analytics tools to derive the maximum benefits from these insights — we’ll take a closer look at this issue shortly.
Making the most of your always-on campaign
Now that you understand the basics and benefits of always-on campaigns, it’s time to think about your launch strategy. Here are a few tips to making the most of your always-on campaigns:
- Set realistic goals: Defining objectives is a good starting point. First, determine your specific, measurable goals. Then, rank these goals in order of importance and allocate suitable budgets for each target.
- Think like your customers: The principles of customer-centric marketing apply here. Before launching a campaign, it’s a smart idea to ensure you have a solid grasp on who your customers are, what your customers want, where your customers are located, how your customers use and talk about your products, etc.
- Get the basics of Amazon right: The quality of your listings, positive customer reviews/testimonials, fulfillment times and competitive pricing are all part of Amazon advertising readiness. If you don’t get these right, your campaigns will fall flat — ‘always-on’ or not. Make sure you have quality images, good product copy and meet customer expectations. This links into business fundamentals — product quality control, customer service, and social media presence — but also preparing for the specifics of Amazon. For example, make sure you know how product bundles work on Amazon.
- Get creative with keywords: Amazon Sellers know that keywords matter. To reach your target audiences with your campaign and convert sales leads, you should test various combinations of keywords, including branded terms, non-branded category terms, and key competitor terms. For information on how to use broad match bidding to find new keywords and then hone in on the highest converting terms, check out our blog on Search Term Optimization.
- Use Sponsored Brand messaging: To make the most of your always-on campaign, consider the value of leveraging your entire brand portfolio, in addition to promoting individual brands and products.
- Think about the ads types you choose: Amazon offers different types of ads, and they don’t all work the same way. Sponsored product ads work better further down the sales funnel. Sponsored Brand ads, Sponsored Display ads (and wider advertising options available through Amazon DSP), are better at generating awareness. The specifics of your product and brand matter, but awareness campaigns are generally a good starting place for your always-on approach.
- Experiment with different combinations: As mentioned in the previous point, if your company sells multiple product lines on Amazon, you should consider having at least one Sponsored Brands campaign running at all times. You might then also run one Sponsored Products ad for each ASIN you are actively selling. It’s worth noting that this doesn’t mean that you have to run the same campaign with the same keywords all year. Get creative and test different keyword sets, adjusting and optimizing based on the results.
How data drives always-on marketing
When browsing and buying on digital channels, shoppers leave behind breadcrumbs of information. This data can reveal what’s working well and what needs improvement. It also delivers key insights into customer motivations, behaviors, and patterns. Without data, it’s difficult to deliver truly effective always-on marketing.
Because always-on campaigns mean that you are running campaigns 24/7, it’s critical that you are making sharp, data-driven decisions every minute of every day. Tools like Amazon Brand Analytics are a great starting place. But there is more on offer in the Amazon analytics ecosystem.
Plenty of investment has gone into augmenting the toolsets Amazon provides Sellers. Advanced analytics software can deploy AI and machine learning to adaptively learn from data trends and deliver the most useful information and insights.
Although Amazon provides Sellers with a lot of data, that data is generally siloed across different reporting functions (Amazon ABA, Amazon MWS and Amazon DSP), making it very hard to transform those pieces of information into actionable insights. Third-party tools funnel that information into dynamic customer profiles, buying trajectories and CLV calculations — all of which let you make long-term and immediate decisions within your always-on campaign. You can wield these tools to improve your ad performance via in-depth reports that reveal wasted ad spend, missed revenue opportunities, and keyword improvement suggestions.
Remember: always-on marketing means your products and services are always reaching customers. To maximize this opportunity, you need always-on data and analytics tools. Unless you are a special exemption, your campaigns don’t stop — neither should the tools that support them.