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Top Ten Tips for Retail Marketers

Written by Jacob Fairclough, Senior Account Analyst

Stand Out From the Crowd


Retail accounts for a massive amount of the total US digital ad spending (22%).  eMarketer estimates that retailers’ will spend $12.91 billion in 2015 and that figure will continue to increase over the coming years, to a projected $19.98 billion in 2019. For those selling online, this means that the marketplace will only become more competitive and fully optimized ads and product landing pages will be of the utmost importance.


It’s no longer acceptable to just sell online, other companies are selling similar and/or the exact same products you are. Therefore, it is paramount to find the qualities that make your business stand out and personalize the experience for your customers. As more users go online for their research and purchase needs make sure you have a solid plan in place for advertising. Here are 10 tips to assist in your PPC strategy development for your retail marketing efforts.


Tip #1: Create a Testing Budget


We’ll start with a tip that is more about mindset and planning than tactics. Setting aside part of your budget for testing forces you to look towards new avenues to grow your account. Rather than viewing testing as taking away from your current budget, you’ve already set aside a portion dedicated to testing.


This not only helps account growth, but also builds a more robust account.  If you ever see a dip in performance on your platform of choice, you will not be devastated.  It’s both a diversifying strategy and a future proofing strategy.


You only need to dedicate a smaller portion of your budget, such as 15%, to see the benefits. No matter how traffic moves over the months and years, you’ll have already tested the waters in other areas and capable of reinvesting as needed.


Tip #2: Implement Ad Customizers


Retail marketers must balance the fact that specific ads are great but are also difficult to scale. For example, adding a specific price to each product’s ad is both time-consuming and error prone.


Thankfully, ad customizers are now available. Ad customizers allow you to implement ad templates and use a feed to manipulate the variables in the template.


A heavily overlooked bonus is that the template stays as what was approved, not the actual visible ad. This is a crucial difference as you can change the data in your feed without resubmitting the ads for review. Running a promotional price? You can automatically update the ads without any downtime waiting for approval.


(ad customizer template)



(customized ads)



Tip #3:  Differentiate Your Business In Ads


Sometimes you need to focus on what your business offers, not just the product. The retail space is crowded and extremely competitive. If you want to stand out from the sea of retailers offering similar or the same products, you should highlight what makes you different. If not, those companies with bigger budgets will use their spend to overpower you.


Rather than focus on a standard free shipping policy, try to find something unique. Do you offer same day shipping? Is your inventory much larger than your competitors, meaning less backorders and quicker fulfillments? These will vary based on your business, but should get you thinking about ad language that will set you apart from the competition.


Tip #4: Segment Your Shopping Campaigns


One of the greatest features of Google Shopping is how easy it is to set up. No keywords, no ad copy, just a feed.


However, one of the largest missed opportunities for an account is using a single ad group for all products. This doesn’t necessarily lead to poor performance, but definitely leads to sub-optimal performance.  It doesn’t have to be a decision between bidding on all products or bidding in each SKU individually. There is a healthy middle ground.


Consider segmenting your product groups by product type and brand. These are two of the largest differentiators and are quick to implement. In a few minutes, you’ll have greatly increased bid control and data visibility.


How you divide the groups is up to you but you should err on the side of specificity. For example, you may create a group for footwear but you could go much further. Footwear includes sandals, boots, and athletic shoes. Consider breaking out these sub-categories to ensure you are both showing the right products and bidding accordingly by seasonality.


Shopping campaigns collect data at the product ID level, so if you decide to change your structure, the data will repopulate as needed unlike a search campaign where a reorganization forces you to start from scratch.


Examples of segmentation:


All Products Campaign

  • Lower Max Bid
  • Target All products

Product Group Campaign

  • Target by group such as footwear.
  • Additional layers as needed such as boots vs. sandals

Branded Product Campaign

  • Similar to Product Group Campaign but with branded targeting.
  • Example: Take your running shoes campaign and add a top level brand filter for Nike
  • Generally higher CPCs


Tip #5: Build Your Landing Pages for High Traffic Searches


Often times, your site structure is logical but it doesn’t completely line up with user expectations. Organizing a new page could be as intensive as bringing many products together in a new grouping, or creating a more specific page, such as creating a sub-page for certain colored products.


For example, imagine you drive a lot of traffic to your home furniture landing page. Looking into the query data, you find that 25% of queries are looking for home bedroom furniture. That is a substantial amount of your home furniture traffic. Your next step is building a bedroom furniture specific page, allowing the user to go right to the page they need.


This not only helps the user find what they are looking for, but also improves your relevancy for ads and keywords, providing you with lower CPCs and hopefully higher CTRs.


Tip #6: Segment Your Data By Time


Averages lie. A 3.0 average position does not mean your ads are showing in the third position at every point during the day. Higher competition in the afternoon hours may push your average position down. This means less visibility at crucial times and you’ll often miss it if you don’t segment by hour.



Generally revenue and sales increase in the afternoon but not every account has the same sessions to revenue curve.


Segmenting data provides valuable insights into which periods you should focus on. Do most of your sales come in the middle of the day or in the evening? By understanding key moments, you can adjust your bids and tactics as needed. Rather than focusing on the down hours, you focus on the hours where you are actually making sales.



Not all impressions are equal. Look for performance during peak hours.



Tip #7: Use AdWords Dynamic Search Ads to Increase Coverage


Dynamic search ads provide a simple way to expand your query coverage. Rather than rely on keywords, dynamic ads are based on your site content. You target specific sets of pages and AdWords serves the ads.


AdWords not only matches the relevant queries but provides additional value through dynamic titles and final URLs. Dynamic ads will update your title and landing page to the page triggered by the query.


These ads also provide actionable ideas for keyword expansion. If you see multiple conversions from a group of terms, it’s worth adding them as keywords with their own ad copy.


If you want to be more aggressive with these dynamic search ads, you can layer them with remarketing audiences. This allows you to increase bid aggression, open up your targeting, and see how your users are finding their way back to your site.



Tip #8: Use Geo-Targeting to Your Advantage


Not all locations are created equal. Make sure you take advantage of any relevant modifiers for select locations. You can find this data in the dimensions tab and segment by country, state, and city. See a location with great returns? Bid up!


You don’t have to rely solely on platform data. You can also use your knowledge of purchasers to plan ahead. An outdoor retailer may decide to increase bids in their winter gear campaign at different points in the year. The retailer could increase bidding aggressiveness earlier in northern states to capture those sales, while keeping less aggressive bids in warmer climates.


Tip #9: Test Your Landing Pages


You should approach this tip in two ways. First, are you using the best landing page? Second, could you improve the conversion rate on your landing page? Both can provide huge boosts to your conversions. It also increases the profitability of the traffic you already have. This means you don’t have to continually reach into new areas in an effort to improve performance.




Use the destination URL report in your analytics platform, which can be found in the dimensions tab. This report delivers metrics tied to each unique URL in the containing entity. Depending on your scope, whether it be account, campaign, or ad group, all metrics will be totaled based upon each URL. This allows you to assess performance of pages against each other without having to combine metrics across different ads with the same destination URL, using filters or a program like Excel.


Look at conversion rates, revenue per click, bounce rates, etc. of your landing pages. This will give you an idea of the value and appeal of the page. From here, you can decide which pages are worth sending traffic to and which pages need work. This can also serve as a tiebreaker for more generic queries that could potentially direct to many different landing pages.


If your pages aren’t currently converting well or you are looking for a boost in post click performance, you can implement small conversion rate tests on the pages. Tools like Optimizely and VWO make this simple with easy to use page editors. You can start with small changes to buttons or the cart pages and evaluate performance.  You won’t always find that huge win, but those 5-10% performance gains add up quickly.


Tip #10: Utilize Dynamic Display Remarketing


We covered specific ads in the first tip. What if you could create hyper-specific display ads? Dynamic display ads are your answer.


No need to remarket with ads featuring your top products; you can show that user the actual product they viewed or add it to their cart. You don’t even need any special coding on your end, just populate the remarketing code snippet and you are done.


Data gathered through a remarketing script creates ads for users based on the products and types of pages they visit. This data is matched up with your feed and new ads are built for each impression.


If you still aren’t convinced, Sierra Trading Post increased conversion rates by 5x with dynamic remarketing. While that example refers to AdWords, Facebook also rolled out dynamic ads on their platform.



Don’t Just Be Online – Personalize To Your Users

With an increasing base of users utilizing online resources for their purchase needs across multiple devices, it is critical to plan, execute, and optimize PPC ads for both current and potential users. With these 10 tips, you’ll have more successful PPC campaigns and produce impressive results for your retail sales and profitability.