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March 13, 2014

February 2014 ChannelAdvisor Same Store Sales (SSS) for eBay, Amazon, Search and CSE

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Note: This is a monthly feature published by ChannelAdvisor highlighting the Same Store Sales (SSS) across our wide range of thousands of retailers and billions in GMV.  Details on the SSS including background, methodology, disclaimers and the 2014 schedule can be found in this post.  

Apologies for the delay in getting this month's SSS out, we were backlogged with Catalyst US matched with the big eBay SR14.1 announcement.

Today we are releasing February 2014 SSS data for eBay, Amazon,Google Search and Google Shopping/PLA.  Overall the marketplaces we track here (eBay and Amazon) had nice bumps in February as the unusually bad winter weather snow storms cleared around most of the US and deliveries were back to standard delivery times.  With e-commerce forecasted to grow 15% (Forrester) in 2014, that is the baseline we use when comparing these results against e-commerce growth.

February 2014 SSS Results 

  • Amazon - Amazon's February came in at 23.0% compared to January’s 14.0%, a substantial m/m increase we believe due to the improvement in weather conditions 
  • eBay -  eBay's February came in at 15.0% up from January’s 12.7%. We have eBay details further down in the report that show what is going on with this marketplace.
  • CSE - Comparison Shopping Engines came in at 6.1% down from January's 12.0% (driven by softness in the non PLA engines)
  • Search - Search came in at 4.3% , an decrease from January's 10.3% y/y growth.  Later in the report we have more search details.

Reviewing these high-level results, eBay and Amazon definitely recovered well in February.  eBay's growth rate is the highest since September '13.

 

SSS Chart 

The following chart details the SSS data for February 2013 through February 2014: (click to enlarge)

02_14_sss_overall
 

This chart clearly illustrates the up-tick in marketplaces in contrast with the softness in the CPC search/CSE channels.

eBay Details

eBay's SSS for February was 15%.  To get a feel for what is driving the marketplace's performance, here are the interior data points for the month:

  • eBay auctions - Down 8.5% y/y. 
  • eBay fixed-price - Up 15.5% y/y - this was a nice showing for eBay and was the primary driver of the increase from January.  
  • eBay Motors  (parts and accessories) - P+A accelerated nicely in February coming in at  22.3% up from January's 17.6%.  Within P+A we saw broad-based increases, but tires were particularly popular in February.  Note this is the fastest P+A growth rate since July of 2013, so a strong showing and a great way for the category to start 2014.

 Here are the TTM (trailing twelve month) trends on these eBay internals.  (click to enlarge)

  02_14_sss_ebay_details

Supplemental data for Search

Here are the February Search internals: (click to enlarge)

  02_14_search_details

Note: these are all y/y comparisons (Feb 2014 vs. Feb 2013).

Search SSS increased 4.3% for February and you can see there was a mix of internals that drove that result.

First, clicks were down 9% due to consumers moving to PLA/Google Shopping.  Conversion rates ticked up 4% to 3.08% and CPCs declined to $.49 - a 7% y/y decline.  AOV increased 10% to $121.17.  We've mentioned it previously, but again this data suggests that the Google Search Engine Results Pages that includes aggressive PLA/Google shopping coverage % and placement has bifurcated the Google shopper:

  • Lower AOV items - The buyer hits the PLAs, buys and is done.  They don't need or utilize the rest of the adwords.
  • Higher AOV items - The buyer spends more time on these purchases, so while they look at the PLAs, they take the extra time to explore the adwords content on the page.

You can see this behavior pretty clearly in the conversion rates and AOVs of each program.

Supplemental data for Google Shopping

In September 2012, we introduced a new set of data around Google Shopping.  Here is the February Google Shopping/Product Listing Ad supplemental data:

  02_14_gs_details

Overall, Google Shopping came in at 48.0% y/y increase on a SSS.   While 48.0% is nothing to sneeze at, it is a clear slowdown from January's 62.8% y/y growth and the > 80% growth we consistently saw in Holiday 2013.  Looking at the data, what we are seeing is an normal aging of the program.  A digital marketing program like PLA has several key components:

  • Geographical reach - which countries is this program available in?
  • Merchant adoption (is a merchant in or out?)
  • SKU adoption (how many sku's does a merchant bid on?)
  • Search coverage - For X commercial product searches the unit shows up Y times - Y/X = search coverage.  e.g. 10 searches, 8 shows - 80% coverage.
  • UX of the 'ad unit' - Google constantly tweaks the layout, behavior and placement of PLA until the multivariant testing settles on a handful of formats that have been data-driven to be optimal.

With those attributes of the PLA lifcycle in mind, here is a quick summary of the 'Lifecycle of PLA/GS' goes as follows:

  • May 2012 - Google announces GPS is going away to be replaced by GS - US only.
  • July 2012 - GPS done, GS/PLA ramps in US with minimal UX, merchants and not many skus
  • Holiday 2012 - UX in place, lots of testing going on, low coverage, some more merchants, more SKUs.
  • Feb 2013 - GS/PLA comes to EU launched (announced in Nov 12)
  • June 2013 - GS/PLA in EU is launched
  • Holiday 2013 - Most markets are mature with strong merchant and sku adoption, search coverage is near 100%, the UX has settled on 'rail right' placement of a 8, 6, 4 box depending on selection, or an above the fold, below adwords row of 4 or row of 8.
  • Feb 2014 - Google introduces what we @ChannelAdvisor called "PLA on top" - moving the ad unit to the very top of the page for many results.

So now that the program is reaching the 18 month lifecycle, Google has picked much of the low hanging fruit and the biggest knobs left to turn are the merchant experience (to try and get more merchants and SKUs) and the UX.

One area where PLA (and Google overall) has faced headwind is on mobile (specifically smartphone). PLAs rarely show up, which is either because Google hasn't gotten to that rollout yet, or the ad unit does not perform well (most likely scenario given the form factor) in that environment.

Note that our deep dataset on PLA indicates that contrary to some reports Amazon does not participate directly in PLA.  Several Amazon subsidiaries do such as Zappos and Diapers.com.  eBay dabbled in the program since inception, but for Holiday 2013 went very deep and wide in the program, frequently to the extent that all 8 results would be from eBay.

The point of bringing the history and lifcycle of the PLA/GS program is to illustrate that any new program like this is going to have it's 'go-go' phase and then eventually settle down into it's organic growth rate as it matures across several variables.  It will be interesting in 2014 to watch where this trend goes and what Google does to continue to improve the program.

 

Conclusions 

We hope you are able to use the data provided here to benchmark how your e-commerce channels performed to your peers.  

Our next SSS post will be in April when we look at the March 2014 data to see how the first quarter ends for the top e-commerce channels.

This blog post was written by Scot Wingo, CEO, ChannelAdvisor.

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