10 min read

Forget Friday, Welcome To Black November

What The DOJ's Suit Against Google Means For Advertisers, Facebook Expands Shop In Some Helpful Ways, & Is YouTube The Next Big eComm Hub?
Forget Friday, Welcome To Black November

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I’m back, ready, not-sunburned, COVID-negative, and ready to catch you up on the last two weeks’ worth of headlines. Let’s roll!

The headline of the week was the DOJ’s antitrust lawsuit against Google. Although initially thought to be advertising-focused, the probe landed elsewhere.

Google is a search monopoly, Justice Department says in landmark antitrust lawsuit - CNET

The federal government alleges that Google violated antitrust laws to act as a "gatekeeper" to the internet. The complaint says the company unlawfully blocked out competitors by reaching deals with phone makers including Apple and Samsung to be the preset, default search engine on devices. Google also abused the dominance of its Android operating system to strong-arm manufacturers to preload Google's apps onto phones, the lawsuit alleges.

"As the antitrust complaint filed today explains, [Google] has maintained its monopoly power through exclusionary practices that are harmful to competition," Jeff Rosen, US deputy attorney general, told reporters on a conference call. "If the government does not enforce the antitrust laws to enable competition, we could lose the next wave of innovation. If that happens, Americans may never get to see the next Google."

The reaction from the tech community has been cynical at best:

The legal opinion, however, looks much different:

The Google Case. An Explanation and Evaluation for… | by Tim Wu | Oct, 2020 | Medium

At bottom, what favors the Government is that their case is simple, and every box is ticked. It is about as straightforward as an anti-monopoly case can be. And they have a pretty simple message. If Google really was as good as they say they were, why did they need to pay Apply billions for nearly 50% of their mobile traffic? And, in the end, doesn’t that just lock up too much of the market?

What favors Google is the strong fact that their search engine is almost universally thought of as the best (other than by the privacy-inclined). They can also claim, in reasonably good faith, that everything they did was in the interest of trying to give users a good experience.

Myself, I don’t know who will win, and at some level it is surprising that Google hasn’t managed to settle this. While I’m not fan of bigness, I do admire and respect what Google has built. But I can’t help thinking that, if Google really is so great, why not settle the case and prove it, by competing without the exclusive contracts?

For us, as marketers, at least for the near future, it seems Google Ads is outside of the crosshairs of this investigation. Although Google losing market share could undoubtedly shake things up down the road.

Obviously, so much of this hinges on the upcoming election and how Washington’s priorities/focus may shift after January 20, 2021.


Google plans to turn YouTube into major e-commerce hub like Amazon, Alibaba

The world’s largest video site recently started asking creators to use YouTube software to tag and track products featured in their clips. The data will then be linked to analytics and shopping tools from parent Google.

The goal is to convert YouTube’s bounty of videos into a vast catalog of items that viewers can peruse, click on and buy directly, according to people familiar with the situation. The company is also testing a new integration with Shopify Inc. for selling items through YouTube.

Google Mobile First Index - Zero Desktop Content March 2021 - Search Engine Journal

John announced a firm date of March 2021 for switching the new mobile index. He said it was a huge internal undertaking that has resulted in some bugs that will not be fixed.

The most important takeaway is his statement that desktop only sites will be dropped from the index. Not only that, but any images or other assets that are in a desktop version of a site will also be dropped from Google’s index.
The IAB Europe’s Transparency and Consent Framework (TCF) can be seen popping up all over the regional web, asking users to accept (or reject) ad trackers — with the stated aim of helping publishers comply with the EU’s data protection rules.

It was the ad industry standard’s body’s response to a major update to the bloc’s data protection rules, after the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into application in May 2018 — tightening standards around consent to process personal data and introducing supersized penalties for non-compliance — thereby cranking up the legal risk for the ad tracking industry.

Yada, yada, yada. 15 foot wall. 16 foot ladder.

Google Testing Ads In Google Maps Autocomplete Suggestions

Google seems to be testing a new ad unit, this one is in the Google Maps search feature. So as you type, Google Maps gives you autocomplete search predictions. Google is also showing ads now for those autocomplete suggestions.

🗣 Social

As if managing Facebook campaigns wasn’t bad enough, it seems Facebook is now randomly turning campaigns back on. So that is fun.

Facebook launches new Shopping audiences, Instagram Product Tag ads, tests Shops discounts

As we head into the holiday season, Facebook is rolling out several new features for e-commerce marketers and brands. It is also launching promotional support for Black-owned businesses and training and software discounts for small businesses.

Instagram ads with product tags.

Shopping engagement custom audiences.

Shopping lookalike audiences.

Discounts in Shops.

A few nice additions to Facebook Shop, a product I’m still not convinced anyone will use.

But I am excited to have product tags in Instagram ads.

💃 Influencers

‘Influencers are being taken advantage of’: the social media stars turning to unions | Media | The Guardian

At the end of June, fashion blogger Nicole Ocran, 32, and influencer expert Kat Molesworth, 40, teamed up to launch The Creator Union (TCU), the UK’s first union for digital content creators. That same month, an industry trade group named the American Influencer Council was launched in the US; while in Germany, Jörg Sprave, a YouTuber with more than 2.6 million subscribers, is fighting to have his recognised by the tech giant. These are employees many people don’t think of as employees, in jobs many still don’t consider jobs.

TCU’s founders say influencers can be exploited in numerous ways: brands steal images, write legally unsound contracts, ignore invoices and coerce newbies into working for nothing.

⚖️ Legislation

California internet privacy bill (CPRA) could benefit news publishers - Vox

Lastly, and maybe most importantly, the CPRA closes loopholes that could be exploited by big tech platforms. One aspect of this is what we’re calling “the switch language,” which clearly aligns the obligations of third parties to serve the interests of consumers. It notes that when a consumer exercises their opt-out rights and a publisher passes their choice along to all the companies with which it works (third parties), those companies must stop reusing that consumer’s data for any other purpose. This essentially forces those companies to revert to the role of a service provider. The “switch language” also prevents any wiggle room by not allowing contracts to override this requirement. As publishers experienced in Europe, platforms like Google and Facebook often use their unbalanced negotiating leverage to force publishers to sign over these data rights, so this section is hugely important for individual publishers that do not have the leverage to force Google or Facebook to stop mining data off their properties.

Finally, CPRA clarifies that publishers are not responsible for third parties that violate the previous section as long as they do not have actual knowledge of the violation. Taken together, these provisions reflect a thoughtful understanding of how data flows in the digital economy. They also put the onus squarely on big tech companies to tailor their data collection practices in accordance with consumer preferences.

CPRA continues to shake up California (and probably soon, Federal) data collect standards.

📈 Reporting & Revenue

The new Google Analytics will give you the essential insights you need to be ready for what’s next.

By applying Google’s advanced machine learning models, the new Analytics can automatically alert you to significant trends in your data - like products seeing rising demand because of new customer needs. It even helps you anticipate future actions your customers may take. For example, it calculates churn probability so you can more efficiently invest in retaining customers at a time when marketing budgets are under pressure. We’re continuing to add new predictive metrics, like the potential revenue you could earn from a particular group of customers. This allows you to create audiences to reach higher value customers and run analyses to better understand why some customers are likely to spend more than others, so you can take action to improve your results.
With new integrations across Google’s marketing products, it’s easy to use what you learn to improve the ROI of your marketing. A deeper integration with Google Ads, for example, lets you create audiences that can reach your customers with more relevant, helpful experiences, wherever they choose to engage with your business.

More from Search Engine Land:

Meet Google Analytics 4: Google's vision for the future of analytics

Analytics in a cookie-less future. As third-party cookies are phased out, Google anticipates that data sparsity will become the new norm. It will rely on machine learning to fill in the data gaps.

“The norm is that we’re going to have a mixed set of data: We’ll have event data but not necessarily a user identifier associated with it. We’ll have gaps in data altogether and this is going to be true of all of all measurement providers,” Ketchum said, adding, “We don’t have any specific announcements on this today, but as we get into next year, we’re going to be using machine learning modeling to support various modes of analysis in Google Analytics.”

“We’ll have the ability to have different modes that maybe emphasize the user analysis side of it less, but focus more on the behavioral,” he provided as an example.

There is a belief in our industry that Facebook knows so much about its users than it can build profiles on folks who do not have Facebook accounts. Utilizing machine learning, it seems Google is taking a similar approach to connect the dots among all of its data points, despite the fact that they are increasingly disconnected.

How to steer clear of discounts this holiday season | Vogue Business

Boston Consulting Group (BCG) estimates that three quarters of all fashion and luxury businesses could face cash shortages at the end of 2020 as a result of a slump in sales of 25-40 per cent driven by Covid-19. With increasingly risk-averse retailers also low on cash, many brands are presenting smaller collections, focusing on staple, seasonless items with more staying power than trend-driven designs. Others have tried using flash in-season sales and upcycling to minimise excess inventory. To avoid steep discounting of leftover stock, BCG advocates for an agile strategy it calls three-season management, whereby brands use granular data to reallocate stock to different stores or seasons based on popularity. This balances when to sell, what to sell, where to sell it and what price to sell at, say managing directors and partners Filippo Bianchi and Stefano Todescan.

According to Bianchi, the average brand sells 60 per cent of its stock at full price, 30 per cent at a discount of 40-50 per cent and the remaining 10 per cent through an outlet or another liquidation channel. After Covid-19, he says the stock destined for discounts sits closer to 60 per cent than 30. “There is no way of going through that stock, no matter how aggressive your markdown policy. Three-season management is more sustainable environmentally and financially, and will hurt the brand less in the long run.”

🛍 Marketplace

The pandemic has accelerated ecommerce growth in the US this year, with online sales reaching a level not previously expected until 2022. In our Q3 US retail forecast, the top 10 retailers by ecommerce sales will tighten their grip on the retail market.

Beyond Amazon’s dominance in online retail, it is notable that almost everyone behind them (sans Apple, who isn’t a marketplace, and eBay) is growing a faster rate - many significantly faster.

Amazon Says Prime Day Generated $3.5+ Billion for Third-Party Sellers

Amazon told Business Insider that Prime Day 2020 was its biggest event by sales ever (again)...but it pushed third-party sellers into the spotlight.

Third-party sellers sold more than $3.5 billion of products over the two-day Instant Pot extravaganza. That’s a 60% increase over last year’s third-party sales, outpacing Amazon’s own retail business.

Final figures? They haven’t been released, but analysts estimate that Prime Day could have generated somewhere between $7.5 billion and $10 billion overall. Research firm Edison Trends reported that overall spending rose 36% during the two-day event—a decline from last year’s 42% bump.

The pre-order model: Why it’s working | Vogue Business

In the Covid-19 era, it’s a smarter way for brands to release their collections, says Thomai Serdari, a luxury marketing professor at New York University. “There is so much risk in the market today, and consumer behaviour is unpredictable. [Pre-orders] allow for better planning, production investments can be more accurate, and brands can also better measure consumer tastes and preferences, which is information they’ve lost if their retail partners are not there.”

Taking Stock With Teens - Fall 2020 Infographic

Instagram (read: Facebook) is hanging on for dear life.

📦 Distribution

Holiday Crunch Starts Early With More Packages Than Means to Deliver Them - WSJ

Both FedEx Corp. and United Parcel Service Inc . have told some of their largest shippers that most of their capacity is already spoken for, and that any extra trailers with holiday orders will have to wait to be picked up, according to shipping consultants and retailers.

“There will be days within the holiday season where the industry will be over capacity,” FedEx Chief Marketing Officer Brie Carere said in an interview.

The outlook has sent retailers on the hunt for alternatives with little luck. Smaller carriers in the U.S. like LaserShip Inc. and DHL eCommerce Solutions said they booked up their capacity for the holidays months earlier than usual and aren’t taking new customers until next year.

🦠 Coronavirus

Retailers brace for more pandemic trouble | Retail Dive

Those that were nimble enough to develop or perfect their BOPIS services as their stores were forced shut are also better prepared for the upcoming season, Witcher noted. "Q2 was a mess, but that's almost a throwaway quarter that doesn't matter as much as the holidays," he said. "Let's just thank the stars that it happened in Q2 because now we have it in place, let's call it a practice run. The thing about the virus is that it doesn't care when Christmas is or who's president

🛠 Tips & Tools

🤷🏻‍♂️ Just For Fun

A great thread on brand guidelines in the modern age:

👋 Holla!

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