Retailers possess a crazy amount of really valuable data for advertisers—e.g., what products someone has bought or have browsed through and may one day buy, potentially sooner if they’re shown an ad for that item.
That has positioned Amazon to ascend to Google’s and Facebook’s level as the apex companies of digital advertising. But one of Amazon’s foremost competitors, eBay, isn’t letting the Seattle-based e-commerce giant corner the market.
EBay has long used its proprietary user data and partnerships with data management platforms to grow its eBay Marketplaces business by promoting merchants’ products to users who have previously bought or shown interest in a related item on eBay.
“We’re now commercializing that capability for the benefit of other marketers who want to reach shoppers. That’s something new this year,” said eBay’s head of digital display in North America, Stephen Howard-Sarin, at AdExchanger’s Programmatic I/O conference in San Francisco today.
As with Amazon and any retargeting program, eBay walks a fine line of getting advertisers in front of the appropriate people without creeping them out. Someone might be OK with—and even appreciate—eBay knowing who they are and what pair of shoes they’ve bought or are looking to buy. However, “they expect eBay not to tell anybody else who they are,” said Howard-Sarin. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t create segments of shoe shoppers and let someone like Zappos—or actually not Zappos [which is owned by Amazon]—to target against those shoe buyers.”
Howard-Sarin offered a few common-sense examples of how it could put its user data to work for ad targeting. A truck maker told him that it was interested in advertising to people who have bought products that need to be towed. And “recently a large telecommunications company said they want people who bought a cellphone two to three years ago,” he said.
As with Amazon, brands need to go through eBay to run ads buoyed by the company’s user data. “My team does the buying on behalf of eBay as well as on behalf of all third-party marketers. We don’t bid against each other,” Howard-Sarin said.
Marketers may grimace at yet another platform mediating their media buys. But, he said, "if you’re an agency and it complicates your life because we’ve got a unique pool of data that you don’t have, tough. It would be shortsighted of us to give [that data] away [to be pooled within other media-buying platforms, like ones operated by Google, Facebook or Amazon].”