We’ve all heard the 2020 “un” words: unprecedented, unexpected, unpredictable. But as we approach this year’s holiday season, we can still be sure about a few things. Online gift shopping will continue to grow, probably even more than we’ve seen in past peak seasons. Last year, US shoppers said they made 58% of holiday purchases online, and our latest research suggests that almost 75% more plan to shop online for the holidays than previous years – both for buying and browsing for ideas.
Doing your holiday shopping from home, in your pajamas? You’re not alone.
The full story goes deeper. We expect to see various related trends this year:
- First, the shopping season has started earlier than ever. Supply chain disruptions from the spring have left a lasting impact on perceptions, and we’ve heard that 70% intend to shop early to avoid both crowds and items being out of stock.
- Second, consumers will be even more focused on value. COVID-19 has in many ways reset expectations for what people need or want to buy. We’re used to seeing searches for deals, coupons, and best prices. But this year, there’s been a rapid uptick in those looking for value in quality and price.
- Finally, customers are consolidating their shopping, spending less time browsing in-store, limiting their touching of products. We’ve noticed a striking increase in searches for actions happening before the store visit. The term “available near me” has doubled in popularity since last year, and 67% of shoppers said they plan to confirm online that an item is in stock before going to buy it. This all suggests that by the time they come into your store, more shoppers have already decided what they’re buying.
More than ever before, it’s important that your company’s online shopping experience is up to scratch so it can be easily discovered.
Why Advertise on Google During the Holidays?
Consider the last time you bought a gift online. Did you start your hunt on Google? If so, you’re not alone. 49% of surveyed shoppers said they use Google to find new items or products, making Google Ads an ideal way to reach shoppers at just the right moment, when they’re actively searching for products and ideas.
And remember that Google is not just a search engine. The tech company has at least eight properties with over a billion users, including YouTube, Gmail and Maps. That means that a single advertising solution lets you connect with a potential customer throughout their journey. You could introduce them to your brand with their initial search, and also get the chance to give them nudges and reminders when they next watch a video or check their mail.
With Ads, not only can you reach people across all of these platforms, but you’ll only be charged when you get results, in the form of measurable success like clicks to your website.
3 Google Ads Strategies to Explore this Holiday Season
With the end of this strange and challenging year fast approaching, it’s vital to bring your brand online to capture holiday demand. So what’s the best way to take advantage of Google Ads?
The following campaign types are just a few of the strategies Google Ads offers that make it easier for potential customers to find your products and business details in their exact moments of need or inspiration – or let them complete their purchase with you right on Google. You can run all three (and more) at the same time, or just focus on one, in which case we recommend starting with Shopping ads.
1. Find your next customer with Shopping ads.
75% of shoppers surveyed say that in the last week they’ve used a Google product in the past week to help with their shopping. Google Shopping ads help merchants to reach these shoppers across YouTube, Gmail, Search and the Google Display Network. Shopping ads feature an image of your product, plus a name, price, brand, and more. More descriptive ads give buyers a strong sense of your products and produce better sales leads.
Your business might also qualify for free listings on Google, which give your products additional exposure at no extra cost. According to internal Google data, both ads and free listings on the Shopping tab have produced a 50+ percent increase in clicks and a 100+ percent increase in impressions on average, with small- to medium-sized merchants seeing the largest share of these increases.
Before you create Shopping ads, you’ll need to assemble a product feed in Google Merchant Center: that’s a list of products to advertise, with relevant info and images for each one. BigCommerce’s Google Shopping by Sales and Orders lets you sync your feed automatically. Once the feed is approved, free listings will be enabled for eligible users and you can start building your ad campaign.
A useful variation on this is the Smart Shopping campaign. This kind of campaign combines your existing product feed with Google’s machine learning, letting the system test different combinations of the image and text you provide until it finds the most successful variations. To help you get the best value from each ad, Google also automates ad placement and adjustments to reach your best customers and get the best results.
You can create and manage Smart Shopping campaigns directly within BigCommerce using Google Shopping by Sales and Orders.
2. Get discovered with Search campaigns.
With Google Search campaigns, your ads show up alongside search results when people are looking for the products or services you offer. Running ads can supplement your normal listings on the search results page and boost your visibility.
Search campaigns are targeted to the actions you’d like customers to take, whether that’s clicking a link or making a purchase, and aimed at specific marketing goals. This goal should reflect whatever you’re trying to achieve – leads, sales, web traffic and so on. In addition, each campaign has settings options like location, devices, and language, which let you filter your intended audience. You’ll also need to set your budget and a bid strategy. (More on this below.)
After choosing your settings, you can create ad groups. These are bundles of keywords, related to important search terms, as well as the ads that they will trigger. For example, you might choose keywords like T-shirt, sweatshirt, hoodie as one ad group for your clothing company, while shoes, sneakers, boots could be another. Once you’ve established your keyword groupings, you can build tailored ads that reflect the theme of each ad group.
You can streamline your Search campaign setup and management using Google Ads Keyword Genius on BigCommerce.
3. Introduce your brand during normal daily activities.
Most shoppers are constantly on the lookout for new ideas or discoveries. And they tend to act fast when they find one. In fact, when they encounter a product that meets their needs, 85% of online consumers will take action on it within 24 hours.
But where do these discoveries happen? Often in a customer’s everyday environment, especially on their favorite feeds like YouTube watch lists, the Gmail promotions tab, and Google Discover itself, a news and information service used by millions. Ads in such locations can tap into a customer’s purchase intentions without the need for a deliberate search query, so they work great alongside Search and Shopping campaigns, helping to inspire new audiences to find your products.
Discovery campaigns have similar settings to Search and Shopping ads, including a primary marketing goal and your target audiences. You can let Google help you build strong campaigns by providing creative assets that it transforms into native ads.
Always use your highest quality images – for example, those that have already performed well on social media – and if you can, provide a good range of pictures, descriptions, and headlines to cover all your bases. Once again, machine learning is your friend: the system will experiment with different combinations to find the ads that get the best outcome.
To learn more about Discovery campaigns, visit the Google Ads Help Center.
5 Tips to Make the Most of Your Ad Campaigns
Regardless of the campaign types you’re using, here are a few ideas to supercharge your ad performance this holiday season.
1. Give your website a health check.
There’s nothing more frustrating than finding the perfect gift online, only to get a broken landing page. As consumers spend more time online, they have higher expectations from their websites and apps. For retailers, improving your site load time by just 0.1 seconds can boost conversion rates by 8%. And remember, last year, 61% of online holiday purchases in the US were made on a smartphone.
Before increasing traffic to your site, be sure to confirm that your landing pages load quickly, both on desktop and mobile, and that they include relevant product information, tailored to your users’ needs. To find areas for improvement, Grow My Store provides a free, personalized report on your ecommerce website’s performance.
2. Highlight unique offers and promotions.
Don’t forget to engage deal-seekers looking for end-of-year sales. Your ad copy is a good place to do this, and so are ad extensions. Extensions are free components that provide extra functions to your ad, like links or a call button, making your ads larger and more helpful to searchers. Google’s machine learning decides when they appear, and it’s recommended to add at least four extensions as potential options.
Countdown timers are a particularly effective way to boost your text ads for offers and deals. Another great choice to make your Shopping ads stand out are sale price annotations, highlighting special price cuts and promotions.
3. Leverage Smart Bidding to meet your holiday goals.
There are plenty of businesses who would love to put their ads at the top of Google Search. To determine which ads actually appear and in what order, Google uses a form of very fast auction. This occurs whenever someone makes a search or even visits a site that shows ads.
These instant digital auctions are not simply a matter of bidding the most money. Your ad’s rank is decided by three principal factors:
Your bid: Your bid tells Google the maximum you’re willing to pay for a click on your ad. The amount you actually pay is often less, and you can always change your bid. In most cases, it’s best to use an automated bidding solution, like target CPA bidding. This lets Google bid strategically on your behalf, trying to win as many auctions as possible at or below a price you set.
The quality of your ads: The bidding system also factors in how relevant and useful your ad is to the person who’ll see it. Your ad will be assessed and given a Quality Score, which you can monitor and improve in your Google Ads account.
The expected impact from your ad extensions and other ad formats: There is a variety of optional extra information you can provide to enhance an ad, from phone numbers to specific webpage links. These extensions usually improve your ad’s performance and visibility, making it more interactive and encouraging engagement. In addition, extensions and formats will help your ads do better in auctions.
All of three of these factors are important at times of high traffic, when many businesses are competing for ad space and conversion rates are much better, making each click more valuable. This applies to your bid especially – even the highest quality ad with the most extensions will do poorly in auctions if it lacks funding – so you should check regularly to make sure your budget is adjusted for any uptick in holiday activity.
Smart Bidding, Google’s automated version, can be particularly beneficial in the holiday season to help with this. It can handle rapid developments in real time, monitoring signals from across Google. Smart Bidding strategies learn from changes in consumer behaviour and can be focused on specific marketing goals. They can also help prevent your ads being outbid, so you don’t miss out on key periods of high traffic.
4. Optimize your Shopping feed.
If you’re running Shopping campaigns, make sure to give your Shopping feed ample love and attention. This is the heart and soul of your campaign. Your feed setup will impact who sees your ads on Google and how they’re displayed.
Make sure all products available on your website are in your feed, except for any you’re not planning to sell. It’s also critical to populate all relevant attributes in your feed. The more information Google has about your products, the easier it will be to match your ads to the right searchers.
Pay special attention to the images you provide – they should be as high quality as possible, and should aim to capture the viewer’s attention, even on a smartphone. And don’t neglect your product titles – it may seem straightforward, but try to go with something compelling that resonates with your audience.
5. Check-in on your performance regularly, but not right away.
Once you get your campaign up and running, your next step is to see how it’s performing. Tracking statistics like clicks and impressions is a great way to start. It’s also important to think about what you’re trying to accomplish with your campaign, so you can focus on the statistics that can help you achieve your goals.
If you’re leveraging automation, like Smart Shopping campaigns or Smart Bidding, a little patience is helpful at the start. We recommend letting your campaigns run at least 14 days before making any major adjustments or assessments of its performance. Why? The system has to collect data, try new combinations and calibrate.
Once your campaign has been live for two weeks or more, be sure to evaluate your performance regularly, and make adjustments as needed.
2020 might be unusual and unpredictable, but it’s not unmanageable. We have a good idea what’s coming this holiday season – likely the most digital-first shopping period we’ve ever seen – and we also know the best ways to approach it with Google Ads. Don’t miss out – make sure you’re fully prepared to make the most of what’s coming.