September 24, 2013, 10:02 AM

EBay Enterprise merchants get an ad boost from Mercent

They can manage ads on comparison shopping engines via Mercent’s Retail platform.

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EBay Enterprise, the e-commerce technology arm of online marketplace eBay Inc., has begun offering its retailer clients access to Mercent Corp.’s technology for managing ads on comparison shopping sites and search engines.

The partnership is focused on what Mercent calls “product listing ads,” ads that typically include such information as price, ratings and reviews, and seller ratings, says Mercent CEO Eric Best. Mercent’s ad management platform, Mercent Retail, automates and optimizes how those ads run online, including on Google Shopping, Amazon.com Inc., Microsoft Corp.’s Bing search engine and social network Pinterest, Best says. For now, Mercent is not enabling eBay Enterprise clients to manage their product listings on e-marketplaces like eBay.com and Amazon.com, only advertising that drives shoppers back to a retailer’s e-commerce site to buy.

“This is an indication of the strategic importance of the Google product listing ad and Google Shopping ads,” Best says. Last year, Google began charging retailers and brands to show their products in an array that appeared high up in the natural search results area of Google.com search results pages. Google calls the new program Google Shopping and the ads that appear there Product Listing Ads. Mercent’s retailer clients have shifted more than 50% of their Google advertising budget—formerly spent entirely on AdWords campaigns—to Google Product Listing Ads, he says. While those ads cost slightly more per click than AdWords ads, they convert more often, generating a higher overall return on investment for advertisers, Best says, without giving specific prices or conversion rates.

Additionally, Mercent clients have reported 100% year-over-year revenue growth from Google Product Listing Ads, compared with about 35% to 40% year-over-year revenue growth from similar ads on Amazon, Best says. “Our take is that, increasingly, Google and Amazon are the two companies that are vying for consumer search dominance in retail,” he says. “That’s what’s at stake here—it’s not just e-commerce transactions, but control over where consumers begin their shopping and perform their research.”

EBay Enterprise was formerly known as GSI Commerce Inc. EBay acquired GSI in 2011. The merchants affected by the deal include those using eBay Enterprise to either run their e-commerce web sites or manage their digital advertising via its marketing services division, True Action, Best says.  At least 29 such merchants are signed up to begin using Mercent Retail via eBay so far, he says.

“Mercent’s technology leadership in large-scale commerce merchandising and marketing directly aligns with eBay Enterprise’s strategic focus—to deliver commerce solutions that drive sales for our valued retail clients,” says Steve Denton, vice president of marketing solutions for eBay Enterprise. “With Mercent, we look forward to delivering on this promise for our growing portfolio of global sales-driven marketers.”

Mercent ranks No. 1 among comparison engine feeds and No. 2 for marketplace management in Internet Retailer’s Leading Vendors to the Top 1000 E-Retailers guide. 31 retailers in the 2013 Top 500 Guide and eight in the Second 500 Guide report using Mercent to handle their comparison engine feeds; 13 Top 500 retailers and four Second 500 retailers report it is their marketplace management technology provider.

EBay Enterprise (listed as GSI Commerce) ranks No. 5 among e-commerce platform providers in the Leading Vendors guide, as well as No. 10 among comparison engine feeds and No. 3 for marketplace management. 24 retailers in the Top 500 and six in the Second 500 report eBay Enterprise is their e-commerce platform provider, five in the Top 500 and three in the Second 500 use it for comparison engine feeds and four in the Top 500 use it for marketplace management.

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