Retailers Ramp Up Online Ad Sales

Online retailers are moving into new territory: ad sales. Just last week Amazon.com, the Web’s largest retailer, quietly rolled out display ads on its home page, selling ads to companies like Ford Motor Co. and Fidelity Investments. A month ago, Home Depot announced it would run ads on its site. Wal-Mart has been selling space on its main page for some time. On it, you can find ads for everything from Motorola cell phones to Kleenex tissues. Frankly, it’s a smart way for retailers to exploit their heavy traffic. That traffic, coupled with the fact that most retail-site visitors are ready to buy items online, makes their home pages prime real estate for marketers. It makes sense that Wal-Mart and Home Depot will only sell ads from their suppliers; they want ads relevant to their users. You’d think that selling contextual ads on a page-by-page basis would be next, but is there any possibility of a user backlash? Users want unbiased content. As long as the displays are clearly delineated, it shouldn’t be a problem for retailers to sell ads on their pages. It’s a revenue driver for the retailer and a potential value driver for consumers. An Amazon.com rep points out that ad revenue “allows us to even further lower product prices for customers.”

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