Amazon’s Soaring Advertising Costs Reach US$20.6 Billion, Outpacing Alibaba and eBay

Article by Lucia Laurer | July 18, 2023


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Advertisement expenditure plays a crucial role in establishing dominance in the competitive eCommerce world. Uncover the promotional expenses incurred by eCommerce market leaders Amazon, Alibaba and eBay.

In the fast-paced realm of eCommerce, giants like Amazon, Alibaba Group, and eBay have revolutionized the way we shop and conduct business. They are among the leading eCommerce players globally, with Amazon and Alibaba running the top 3 online marketplaces by total GMV and eBay in rank 9.

These industry leaders owe much of their success to strategic advertising investments that help them attract and retain customers in a fiercely competitive landscape. Although market dominance is shaped by a number of factors, advertising strategies and expenses are a critical point.

By analyzing the annual advertising costs of the three eCommerce giants, it becomes clear that they do not seem to follow the same path when it comes to the commitment to and investment in promotional activities:

Annual Advertising Costs and Promotional Expenses of Selected eCommerce Companies, 2014-2022_1

Amazon, Alibaba Group, and eBay, as global eCommerce leaders, have consistently devoted significant resources to advertising efforts. When comparing the annual advertising costs of the three players between 2014 and 2022, Amazon emerges as a front runner, with its costs steadily growing from US$3.3 billion in 2014 to an impressive US$20.6 billion in 2022 – with a small reduction in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Amazon: Unprecedented Growth in Advertising Costs

This substantial investment highlights Amazon's unwavering commitment to enhancing brand visibility, expanding its customer base, and exploring innovative advertising initiatives. Meanwhile, Alibaba Group, primarily operating in the Chinese market, has witnessed remarkable growth in advertising expenditure as well, with costs increasing even faster from US$0.3 billion in 2014 to US$14.9 dollars in 2022.

Alibaba Group: Closing the Gap with Rapidly Growing Ad Spend

Although Alibaba’s ad spend is still notably lower than Amazon’s, the Chinese giant has caught up and could potentially overtake Amazon in advertising costs if the rapid increase continues.

In comparison, eBay's advertising costs have remained relatively stable, ranging from US$1.0 to US$1.3 billion over the period between 2014 and 2022. The fact that eBay's advertising expenses have remained stagnant does not come as a big surprise, considering the company's overall trend of stagnation, which is also evident in GMV figures: Despite some ups and downs over the years, eBays global GMV remained nearly unchanged between 2014 and 2022, with US$27.1 and US$27.2, respectively.

These figures underscore the varying levels of investment and strategic approaches employed by the three eCommerce giants, contributing to their respective market positions and success in the highly competitive industry. Understanding the advertising activities and the importance of advertising for the operators of leading online marketplaces is crucial for sellers seeking success in the highly competitive eCommerce market.


Amazon, Alibaba and eBay, the leading eCommerce players, have made strategic advertising investments that have played a critical role in contributing to their success.

Each eCommerce giant has adopted differing levels of resource commitment to their promotional activity. Amazon has the highest level of resources allocated towards increasing brand visibility with its advertisement expenditure steadily growing from US$3.3 billion in 2014 to US$20.6 billion in 2022.

Amazon is followed by Alibaba, with advertising costs increasing from US$0.3 billion in 2014 to US$14.9 dollars in 2022. eBay’s advertisement expenditure has remained stable with costs ranging from US$1.0 to US$1.3 billion over the period between 2014 and 2022.

Key Takeaways

1. Amazon, Alibaba and eBay owe much of their business success to strategic advertisement and promotional investments.

2. Amazon is the market leader with advertising costs growing from US$3.3 billion in 2014 to an impressive US$20.6 billion in 2022.

3. Alibaba’s advertising expenditure is increasing and could potentially overtake Amazon.

4. Understanding the pivotal role of advertising in eCommerce is crucial for sellers aiming to achieve success in the competitive digital landscape.