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3 Winning Strategies for Holiday Shopping Ad Success

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As the holidays approach, many retailers are beginning to make preparations for the end of the year and the major shopping opportunities that come with Black Friday and Cyber Monday. While holiday strategies span many facets of a retailer’s business, one major growth area that marketers could see great success from focusing on this year is Shopping Ads.

Investment in Shopping Ads grew considerably last holiday season, increasing 47% from December 2013 to December 2014, and is expected to be even greater this year.

In addition to executing basic Shopping Ad best practices, advertisers should focus on the below actions as part of their holiday retail strategies to maximize their return on investments this holiday season:

  • Getting to know their audience
  • Determining what products their audience wants or will want
  • Learning how their audience searches

Getting to Know Your Audience
Advertisers should make sure they’re using audience targeting tools at their disposal. All three major search engines provide remarketing capabilities that advertisers can leverage in product listing ads (PLAs) to target shoppers. Because the majority of searches triggering PLAs are not advertiser-specific, it is important for advertisers to utilize remarketing lists for search ads (RLSAs) to more heavily weight the value of searchers likely to convert. Just as an advertiser would want to bid more aggressively on keywords that are lower funnel and more likely to convert, so should an advertiser want to bid more aggressively on users who are more likely to convert.

More granular variations of this tactic can also be employed based on the advertisers and their products that are being sold. An advertiser with a very diverse product offering may want to value users who have previously expressed interest in certain types of products differently. For example, a department store advertiser may want to increase bids by 50% for searchers who previously viewed their game consoles pages but only by 25% on those who expressed interest in apparel.

Depending on the number of visitors to an brand’s site, advertisers can take this strategy one step further and segment by recency as well. The table below shows how advertisers can initially set up a targeting matrix to set bid multipliers for users who have been to the site over the last 180 days and shown varying levels of engagement. When initially setting this up, an advertiser should gather data with 0% multipliers and then determine the best audience bid multipliers based on actual data.

chart 1Determining What Products Your Audience Wants or Will Want
Although Shopping Ads still lack a good amount of insight into many data points that are available in text search, they provide valuable insight into the most popular products among an audience. Advertisers should leverage previous year’s data to mine for any seasonal changes in product popularity, as well as use recent data to determine if new products have seen increases in volume of purchase. In addition to simply looking for the most in-demand products, scrubbing data for poor performers is also important.

Advertisers should use this data to ensure that the highest value products are broken out into separate product groups and/or campaigns to allow for granular bidding and budgeting. For example, if a retailer was selling the Disney Frozen Sparkle Elsa Doll last year, it should ensure that this product is broken out into its own unique product group this year. Additionally, this advertiser can likely expect that interest will exist for similar products this year, and therefore all new Elsa Dolls should be broken out as well into unique product groups in order to capture interest in the newer versions of these toys.

Learning How Your Audience Searches
If an advertiser sells a wide variety of products that are manufactured by a number of different brands, it is very important to treat brand-aware searchers differently than those who are not brand-aware. Keeping with the previous example of the Disney Frozen Sparkle Elsa Doll – this product is relevant to many different types of searchers. To keep things really simple, let’s consider two different searches: “dolls” and “elsa sparkle doll.” Both of these searches could prompt a shopping ad for this product; however, the expected conversion rate on this product will likely be very different. The user searching for “dolls” may be interested in Barbies, American Girl Dolls, or the 1987 horror movie “Dolls”; therefore, the advertiser must value this type of search differently than a more specific, brand-aware search like “elsa sparkle doll.”

In order to accomplish this style of targeting with Shopping Ads, advertisers will need to be creative with campaign structure. The Disney Frozen Sparkle Elsa Doll is only a single product, but can be duplicated across multiple product groups in different campaigns for targeting purposes. In the example below, there are two campaigns: Campaign 1 is meant to target upper-funnel searches on very general keywords like “dolls”; Campaign 2 is meant to target lower-funnel searches on more specific keywords. Intuition would tell us that an advertiser will likely want to bid higher and keep budgets uncapped in Campaign 2, and bid much lower in Campaign 1 where conversion rate will likely be lower.chart 2For this method of targeting to be successful, advertisers will need to be rigorous in the implementation of negatives from Search Query Reports in Campaign 2. Determining the negatives to use in Campaign 1 can largely be accomplished during setup; however, the vast number of searches that will need to be excluded from Campaign 2 can’t be predicted during setup.

Create a Structure that Allows Granular Product & Query Targeting
Although the three tactics just reviewed are all very important, they should not be ubiquitous within an advertiser’s shopping account. Advertisers and agencies must be smart about how, where and when to employ each of these tactics. Some products are so unique that there is no benefit to creating a structure that targets different types of searches differently through duplicated campaigns and negative keywords (i.e. The Pie Face Game). Additionally, most products sold by a large retailer will not have enough volume to warrant being broken out into unique product groups; advertisers and agencies must use proper judgement in deciding which products are highest priority, and employ these tactics with an 80/20 rule in mind.

As the 2015 holiday season fast approaches, advertisers can expect the trend of increased investment in Shopping Ads to continue as it did last year. By implementing these tactics in high priority areas of a Shopping Ad strategy, advertisers will set themselves up to capture interested shoppers more efficiently this holiday season.

Cover photo via Videomaker.