Merkle (www.merkle.com), a leading technology-enabled, data-driven customer experience management (CXM) company, has released its Q2 2021 Digital Marketing Report (DMR), a quarterly research report that analyzes and highlights trends within paid and organic search, Amazon ads, paid social, and display ad spend. Q2 2021 was marked by a strong rebound across channels with year-over-year spikes for Amazon – which hosted its first Q2 Prime Day – along with other key platforms like Google, Facebook, and Instagram. Notable sectors re-entering the digital media environment include travel and B2B advertisers, who made their long-awaited growth acceleration.
The Q2 2021 DMR demonstrates changing consumer behaviors with pandemic restrictions easing and vaccines now readily available to a larger portion of the US population. For example, travel sites experienced a 140% increase in visits and an 84% increase in click volume Y/Y during Q2, following several quarters of Y/Y declines. Consumer behavior also influenced grocery-led visits, which declined by 17.7% Y/Y, and big box retailers, which had a 30% Y/Y decline. Visits to essential retailer sites declined by 20% Y/Y, down from 33% Y/Y growth in Q1. Overall, retail saw monthly click declines averaging 20%.
The supercharged economy was also evident through 15.7% Y/Y growth in the high tech / B2B sector, as well as 52% increase in clicks Y/Y.
During Prime Day in June, Amazon Search sales increased 4.3x the daily average, while spend increased 4.6x. Advertisers that ran deals experienced greater growth with 5.2x higher sales and 5.5x higher spend than the daily average. Advertisers that did not run deals missed out on both sales and traffic with a lower lift of 1.4x the average daily sales and 1.75x average daily spend.
Spend on Amazon Sponsored Brands saw major growth, having increased 82% Y/Y. As with Sponsored Products, CPC was a key factor, with Sponsored Brands CPC up 75%. Clicks and sales both experienced the lowest growth in recent years. Clicks saw a slight increase of 5%. Sales increased 20%, continuing the trend seen in Q4 2020 and Q1 2021 of lower growth compared to drastic growth increases in Q1-Q3 2020, when Amazon expanded Sponsored Brands formats and placements.
Spend growth for Amazon Sponsored Products ads increased 28% Y/Y, due to CPC hikes (+55%) and Prime Day. For the first quarter in recent years, click growth saw a deceleration, as it dropped 18%. Sales were up 8%, which showed modest growth but not keeping pace with spend trends. Over the past couple years, sales have consistently grown but at a steady decrease in rate over time.
Overall search ad spend growth decelerated from Q1, as CPC and clicks faced a reversal of last year’s trends. Spend increased 8.7% Y/Y despite a drop in click growth by 19%. CPC increased 35% Y/Y as last year CPC declined by 21% in the first full quarter within the pandemic.
Spending on Google Shopping ads grew 15% Y/Y, up from 4% in Q1, while Google Text Ads decelerated from 31% down to 7%. The shifts are driven by the relative shifts in CPC compared to clicks coupled with strong text growth last year causing headwinds in 2021. Shopping clicks fell only slightly, down 5%, with increased CPC, up 21%. Text ads saw large drops in clicks, down 21%, on increased CPC, up 35%.
Total Y/Y organic search visits decreased 9.7% in Q2, following four consecutive quarters of Y/Y growth. Mobile traffic, measured as a combination of organic search visits from phones and tablets, declined 2% Y/Y. While phone traffic decreased 0.9% Y/Y, tablet traffic experienced a larger 29.5% Y/Y decrease.
Facebook spending saw massive growth for Q2 2021 (+68% Y/Y), compared to a relatively flat Q2 2020 increase of 4%. However, impression growth did not keep up with this influx of spend into the platform (+13% Y/Y), signaling increased competition and continually rising CPM on Facebook.
Instagram spend slowed Y/Y growth for Q2 (+4% Y/Y), but saw a strong decrease in CPM (-31% Y/Y). This platform can continue to be an opportunity for growth across brands, especially if Facebook remains saturated with competition.
Outside of Facebook-owned properties, Pinterest and Snapchat both saw strong Q/Q increases in investment from advertisers, holding channel spend shares of 26% and 2.8%, respectively. TikTok debuted on this list for the first time, edging out LinkedIn for the number-three social platform outside of Facebook, in terms of advertiser investment.
As the US emerges from the pandemic, video and audio took a hit in spend share across advertisers who are investing in multiple digital channels, with the majority of Q2 budgets going toward display (63%), followed by social (22%).