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eCommerce Reacts To COVID-19

eCommerce Reacts To COVID-19

Thanks for subscribing to The Cache - a weekly summary of the most important stories, trends, & commentary in eCommerce marketing, curated by Rob Bettis.


A bit of housekeeping - I have added a new section for Coronavirus news. I was hoping that would be necessary and I am still hoping it will be short lived. But it exists for now.

I have also updated the email address this newsletter comes from. It is now newsletter@robbettis.com. You may want to add that address to your contacts to avoid issues with spam filters.

Lastly, after a week for the country to catch its breathe, this was a remarkably busy news week in eCommerce. Let’s jump in.


🔎 Search

Google limits My Business listings during coronavirus outbreak, affects updates, more

Google will be prioritizing reviews for updates and new listings for medical-related businesses. Alongside that, the company will also “prioritize reviews for open and closed states, special hours, temporary closures, business descriptions, and business attributes edits for other verified businesses.”

Temporary closures is a new addition to My Business listings and one many folks should consider updating to keep their data up-to-date.


🗣 Social

How Retailers Are Transitioning In-Person Events & Communities To Online Environments

As health officials advise people to institute social distancing and to self-quarantine around news of the coronavirus spread, retailers across verticals are having to find unique and creative ways to transition their in-person gatherings to online environments.

The hope: The switch will help keep their communities engaged.

Several are already leveraging digital platforms and finding effective ways to quickly transition traditionally in-person events.

Social is the new, new in-person.


Brands Are Creating Zoom Backgrounds to Class Up Your Quarantine

Luckily for everyone on lockdown, some clever brand marketers have developed a solution to a problem we didn’t even know we had until a few weeks ago. As video platform Zoom explodes in popularity and users play with its “virtual background” option for green screen-like video backdrops, brands are quickly jumping in to get ahead of the demand for suitable images.

Behr Paint has developed Behr Your Background, a new library of styled and stylish room designs that anyone can download free for their next Zoom video call.

Furniture and home decor retailer West Elm has also developed a range of backgrounds, including uber-stylish log cabins and chic living rooms, which you can download direct from its Instagram account.

There is a market in everything.


Introducing the Today tab for daily inspiration

People need ideas today. So we’re moving up our launch of the Today tab, a source of daily inspiration with curated topics and trending Pins that makes it easy to explore popular and timely ideas. Over the coming weeks we’ll be featuring expert information here from the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control on topics like hand washing during the coronavirus epidemic. In addition, we’re also showing inspiration in categories that are particularly popular right now like kid-friendly baking ideas, self-care tips, family-favorite movies and comfort food recipes.

How retailers can find success on Pinterest

As we continue to invest in shopping and the success of retailers, we’re introducing new features to help retailers of all sizes get discovered, and distribute their products in the spaces where Pinners are most likely to shop, including the launch of the Verified Merchant Program, new conversion reporting opportunities, and updates to Catalogs and dynamic retargeting.

If your brand is active on Pinterest, please note the new Verified Merchant Program.


📈 Reporting & Revenue

E-commerce ad spend doubled as social distancing behavior took hold

E-commerce ad spending jumped from $4.8 million the week of February 17 to $9.6 million the week of March 9. The data, released by media sales intelligence firm MediaRadar on Friday, encompasses advertising spend across national TV, print and digital media, including websites, Snapchat, YouTube and podcasts.

Earlier data from Quantum Metric indicated that e-commerce sales for retailers that also have brick and mortar locations ” saw an average revenue weekly growth rate increase of 52% and an 8.8% increase in conversion rates” between January 1 and February 29. Many merchants have reported e-commerce sales exceeding rates of Black Friday and Cyber Monday levels.

🛍 Marketplace

Luxury brands gear up to deal with massive inventory problem

The proportion of products on sale is already up from last year; luxury brands wanting to protect brand equity will face hard decisions over discounting.

Brands that have not developed cross-seasonal products due to the demands of the fashion calendar are the most exposed.

Kitchen Quarantine: Instagram Cooking Classes With Michelin-Starred Chef Massimo Bottura

Massimo Bottura, the Michelin-starred chef behind Osteria Francescana (look him up), is no stranger to turning things around in times of crisis. When Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region was hit by earthquakes damaging 360,000 wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Bottura came up with a solution that led to all wheels being sold.

The recipe for risotto cacio e pepe (the dish that arguably saved all that cheese) was described as a social gesture – not just a recipe. Now, chef Bottura is “staying the fuck home,” to spread the love of cooking through Instagram with a new show fittingly named Kitchen Quarantine.

The show is down to earth and features the chef’s charming family, as they are all quarantined together at home. If you ever wanted to learn from a top chef, this is probably the time to do it as you’re stuck at home like nearly 2 billion others across the globe.

In last week’s newsletter, I mentioned refining your existing marketing message to speak to your customer, instead of conveying the panic many of us feel. I noticed several wonderful examples of that this week, including this story.


📦 Distribution

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson suing Amazon over unlicensed merchandise

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson filed a lawsuit against Amazon on Wednesday, claiming the world’s largest internet-based retailer is selling unlicensed merchandise using his likeness and registered trademarks.

In the complaint, the reigning NFL MVP is seeking Amazon to remove those products, some of which feature lines such as “Lamarvelous,” “Action Jackson” and “Not bad for a running back,” as well as provide compensation and damages.

Jackson has asked for “the court to require Amazon to count sales it generated from merchandise that features Jackson’s name, image or likeness and ban the website from offering such items without authorization,” according to the lawsuit. Jackson is also looking for additional damages that he feels “Amazon inflicted upon him and his company.”

The lawsuit states Amazon’s actions brought “significant damage” to Jackson’s brand. He runs his own merchandise company, Era 8 Apparel.

We have talked a lot about Amazon’s issue with fraudulent products in its marketplace. I had never considered how that might flow into the world of licensed apparel. We will soon find out.


🔒 Security

This blog post covers several enhancements to Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) in iOS and iPadOS 13.4 and Safari 13.1 on macOS to address our latest discoveries in the industry around tracking.

Cookies for cross-site resources are now blocked by default across the board. This is a significant improvement for privacy since it removes any sense of exceptions or “a little bit of cross-site tracking is allowed.”

It might seem like a bigger change than it is. But we’ve added so many restrictions to ITP since its initial release in 2017 that we are now at a place where most third-party cookies are already blocked in Safari. To keep supporting cross-site integration, we shipped the Storage Access API two years ago to provide the means for authenticated embeds to get cookie access with mandatory user control. It is going through the standards process in the W3C Privacy Community Group right now.

While this is a significant step in user privacy. It doesn’t come without some drawbacks.

Back in February 2019, we announced that ITP would cap the expiry of client-side cookies to seven days. That change curbed third-party scripts’ use of first-party cookies for the purposes of cross-site tracking.

However, as many anticipated, third-party scripts moved to other means of first-party storage such as LocalStorage. If you have a look at what’s stored in the first-party space on many websites today, it’s littered with data keyed as various forms of “tracker brand user ID.” To make matters worse, APIs like LocalStorage have no expiry function at all, i.e. websites cannot even ask browsers to put a limit on how long such storage should stay around.

Now ITP has aligned the remaining script-writable storage forms with the existing client-side cookie restriction, deleting all of a website’s script-writable storage after seven days of Safari use without user interaction on the site.

So as WebKit deletes all local storage after 7 days, what does that mean to you? It means that while your sessions will be more secure, your web apps are now significantly hamstrung.

For one real world example, let’s look at my favorite password manager, 1Password.

Luckily for 1Password, they have native MacOS and iOS apps to fall back on. But many web apps don’t have that luxury. Additionally, I suspect this will hinder online stores too, as their logins will expire within the same 7 day window.


🦠 Coronavirus

Google pledges $340 million in Google Ads credits for SMBs

Google released an update on its efforts aimed at providing support for businesses, health workers and organizations as well as governments during the coronavirus pandemic on Friday. As part of its overall commitment of more than $800 million is $340 in ad credits for small and medium-sized businesses.

In the coming months, Google said, eligible advertisers will see notifications about available ad credits in their Google Ads accounts. The credits can be used throughout 2020 on ads across the Google ecosystem, including Search, Display and YouTube, and on any campaign types.

To be eligible, SMBs will need to have had active Google Ads accounts since January 1, 2019.

Coronavirus will boost ecommerce in the long run, but brings new risks

Another challenge e-retailers face is that Amazon appears intent on taking advantage of the closing of many bricks-and-mortar stores to increase its already-dominant online market share, Roth says. To do that, he says, it’s placing orders for all kinds of merchandise—not just hand sanitizers and bleach—in a bid to garner sales from consumers unable or unwilling to go to physical stores.

He says Amazon has placed “massive orders” with two companies he’s in touch with that sell goods not related to healthcare or cleanliness, Roth says.

“That tells me Amazon is saying, ‘If we have the supply, we’re going to get the sales,’” he says. “Amazon is going to look at this as an opportunity to take share.”

COVID-19 plummets store visits by 90% in one month

COVID-19 dominates new searches

Mobile search traffic cut by nearly 25% in March

Cross-network opportunities grow as Google search traffic falls

If you have been impacted by any of these trends, check out the article for lots of supporting data and suggested responses.


Here is A Coronavirus Placement Exclusion List for Google Ads

After a client requested that we pull their ads off of as many news sites as possible because of the increasing Covid-19 Pandemic, we thought it made sense to cease marketing to these unique web pages as people seek out information about the pandemic. Therefore we compiled this placement list from ZATO clients of various news organizations websites to exclude, and thought we would share it with the broader PPC community. Feel free to add them in as exclusions if you feel so inclined.

If you are doing significant display advertising, this could be a wonderful addition to your account.


COVID-19 Is Changing Behavior on Social Media for Both Brands and Users

As most would expect, the worldwide pandemic has had an effect on brands’ social media strategy and performance. This can be seen in a variety of areas, including a lower demand for paid ads on Facebook, the increased performance of organic content, and perhaps a hidden opportunity for brands that do have some budget to spend and increase their reach because of the lower costs of ads on Facebook.

Because people have been forced into social distancing at home, they have more time to consume social media content and as a result the supply is trending up. That has also created new possible opportunities for smart marketers to create engaging content.

CPM’s and CPC’s are both on the decline, although so are CTR’s. Note the article above about placement exclusions that could help you combat the slumping CTR’s.


Pause your business online - Google

If you’re unable to fulfill orders or many of your products out of stock, you may be considering temporarily closing your online business. If the situation is temporary, meaning you expect to be able to sell products in the coming weeks or months, we recommend that you take action that preserves as much of your site’s standing in Search as possible. This guide explains how you can safely pause your online business.

🛠 Tips & Tools

Stripe leads $20M Series A into Fast, which is building a universal checkout service for e-commerce

Let’s explain Fast’s product by way of analogy. You and I read the news, and we buy things online. Logging into news services is a colossal pain in the backside, and if you’re buying something other than on Amazon, you probably have to re-login, which is irksome and slow and generally annoying.

Fast, per its name, wants to make logging in far quicker, and also wants to help you check out at online stores more simply, and, as before, rapidly. In an interview with TechCrunch, CEO Domm Holland said that Fast wants “to be the intermediary for all consumer interactions,” which he broke down as a “fancy way of saying we want to give you one-click login, one-click payments, one-click data everywhere.”

In short, Fast wants to be your profile for signing into services and buying goods online, everywhere that it can be.

This is an ambitious goal. Perhaps they can catch the Apple Pay team distracted on other priorities.


🤷🏻‍♂️ Just For Fun

No, Netflix Is Not Spoiling Its Own Shows To Fight Coronavirus

The fake campaign is the brain child of Seine Kongruangkit and Matithorn Prachuabmoh Chaimoungkalo, known as Brave, of the Miami Ad School Europe in Hamburg, Germany. They figured that the best way to stop coronavirus is to stay at home, and what better way to get people to do that than threaten to spoil their beloved Netflix series?

A truly genius ad campaign.


👋 Holla!

Questions, comments, inquiries? I’d love to hear from you! Email newsletter@robbettis.com.