2020 Digital Marketing and Ecommerce Q1 Round-Up

The news this quarter has been flooded with one topic: the COVID-19 virus – and rightly so. It’s affecting nearly every industry (some positively, but most negatively), and nearly everyone across the globe.

In this round-up, we’ll look at one update related to the coronavirus, but after that we will give you a break. We talked about the coronavirus’ impact on ecommerce on our blog this month — so if you want to get more in-depth then head over there.

For this round-up though, let’s see what going on with Amazon, Pinterest, and Google.

1. Facemask Ads Banned Globally on Google

In the wake of false information surrounding COVID-19, many sellers wrongly tried to profit off the hysteria. In response, Google banned all ads for facemasks globally.  Even if retailers sold “dust masks” before the virus started, their ads will also be paused. 

“The proliferation of Gas Mask Advertising demonstrates the varying effect that the COVID-19 is having across eCommerce industries. Retailers who carry these products stand to profit from these products, so much so that several retailers have abused the demand for face protection by raising prices and spreading misinformation about the Coronavirus. As a result of this retailer misbehavior, Google has acted to ban all face-mask advertising on its platform for the foreseeable future. It blows me away seeing the impact that this pandemic is having on ecommerce businesses across all industries. Some retailers are feeling the strain harder than ever, while others are taking advantage of the increase in demand for products relevant to their industry.”

2. Who is Jumping Ship on Amazon in 2020?

Even though Amazon’s ad business grew 40% in 2019, a few companies have found themselves at odds with Amazon in 2020.

Major mail carriers have started to see Amazon as a competitor — not an ally. Both FedEx and UPS have introduced a $24 fee for packages over 50 pounds. The question on everyone’s minds is, “Who will be absorbing these shipping costs?” Some retailers have taken it upon themselves by splitting up orders so that packages do not hit the weight limit. 

Direct to consumer (DTC) brands are also hitting a wall with Amazon. Smaller retailers are leaving Amazon, due to cheaper counterfeits, lack of transparency from Amazon’s algorithm, and issues handling customer service outside of Amazon. 

“2020 could be a watershed year for some retailers on Amazon. DTC brands are increasingly leaving the platform behind, citing brand trust issues and growing suspicions about Amazon’s motives. IKEA and Nike have both pulled their products from Amazon, and smaller retailers aren’t far behind. Unfortunately, as those brands depart, they’re facing new logistical issues. As Amazon ships more and more products through its own logistics branch, FedEx and UPS are feeling the squeeze. This has led to rate increases and new feeds on packages over 50 lbs. Larger companies should be able to bear the impact —but small to medium ecommerce businesses may struggle to cover the cost.” 

3. Google is on a Global Watch List 

In the US, the DOJ is looking into Google Ads Manager more closely. Specific issues cited include: the way the ad server and ad exchange is combined, and Google’s choice to make advertisers use Google’s own tools in order to buy ad space on YouTube. The DOJ claims that the combination of ad server and ad exchange gives Google too much power “over the monetization of digital content”. 

In France, Google has been fined $166 million for suspending ads. France’s antitrust regulator claims that Google has “the power of life or death” over companies when they arbitrarily choose to suspend ads. The regulator want Google to further clarify suspension rules and create a warning system for advertisers before ads are suspended.  

“The recent fine in France boils down to a perceived lack of transparency in Google’s use of ad suspensions to enforce its advertising policies. Many times when an ad is suspended, it is done so by an automated system. While automation can save a great deal of time, there is often a sacrifice in interpretability of the algorithm’s output. The outcome of this case could put more pressure on Google to provide more context to users when handing out ad suspensions. The DOJ inquiry centers around whether Google has too much control over digital content due to the integration of its ad server and ad exchange, and Google’s decision to require advertisers to use its tools to buy ad space on YouTube. The outcome of this investigation could see Google playing a smaller role in its third-party ad tools, or divesting them entirely.” 

4. The Next Big Paid Social Platform – Pinterest? 

Pinterest CEO, Ben Silbermann, says in 2020 Pinterest will focus on “delivering relevant content, ads and shopping experiences.” After their Q4 earnings announcement on February 6th, they have started to pitch the shopping experience even more. Here’s a few stats from Pinterest: 

  • Number of monthly shopping ads increased 125% last year
  • 97% of top searches are still unbranded
  • 83% of users have made a purchase after seeing branded content 

It is clear Pinterest is trying to bring new businesses to their platform. This is highlighted by a recent partnership between Pinterest, Mercedes-Benz, and Kia. Together the companies tested car and dealership advertisements on the platform — straying away from their typical product categories and audiences. 

“Pinterest could be a game changer in a post Coronavirus economy. As brands and retailers focus on profitability and running lean, Pinterest has the ultimate advantage that other social platforms don’t have: search. Search enables them to have more ad inventory and the advertiser to use intent. Seeing Mercedes-Benz and Kia dealerships doing well on the platform, means this is not longer a platform for DIY and recipes. Additionally, with less competition it means CPCs are lower in the auction system. Don’t overlook this platform when considering your advertising channels.

5. Google Recommendations for Partner Agencies 

Have you seen this badge on company websites?

That’s the Google Partner Badge. It shows that a company is accredited by Google — and proves they know what they’re doing when it comes to Google Ads. 

Recently, Google has changed the way they award the partner badge. Following recent updates, businesses can only keep their badge if they maintain a 70% or higher optimization score. How do you maintain a good optimization score? By following Google’s recommendations for improving your account.

“With Google’s announcement that agencies must maintain an overall 70% Optimization Score to remain in the Partner program, they have taken a significant step towards forcing the point of automation. While the 70% mark is not particularly alarming in and of itself (most of our clients fall above this), I find it unlikely that this forced adoption policy will stop there. With the vast majority of our available optimization score points coming from automated bidding solutions, one day soon we may face a choice – adopt Google’s automated bidding solutions or cease to be a partner.”


That’s it for Q1 — did we miss anything that’s impacting your business?

Let us know what news made a difference in your Q1 — and here’s to a better Q2. 


Savannah is a Marketing Specialist at Omnitail. She has a Bachelor of Science in Marketing with a minor in Graphic Design from George Mason University. She enjoys working with the amazing team at Omnitail to create original, helpful content.

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