Google Ads, Instagram Ads, and Google Shopping Ads are some of the best ecommerce advertising platforms. The right one for your business depends on your budget, your audience’s online behavior, and your target demographics.

Here, you’ll find a list of the top ecommerce advertising platforms and how to pick the best ones:

  1. Google Ads
  2. Google Shopping Ads
  3. Instagram Ads
  4. Bing Ads
  5. Amazon Ads
  6. Facebook Ads
  7. Pinterest Ads

Remember the ‘90s shopping mall fad? We do, too. But they’ve become a nostalgic thing of the past. And that’s because 79% of shoppers shop online at least once a month, which is good news for your ecommerce business.

But how do you connect your online audience to your products? Ecommerce ad platforms, of course.

We chatted with Hilary Sperley, paid media expert and performance marketing manager at HawkSEM about the best ecommerce ad platforms, how they differ, and how to pick the best ones for your ecommerce business.

hawksem: e-commerce ad platforms

Before you go all in on one ad platform, you need a solid understanding of where your audience regularly shops. (Image: Unsplash)

7 best ecommerce advertising platforms

Your potential customers are eager to explore your products, browse reviews, and scroll through the engaging visuals. But first, you need to grab their attention with an ecommerce ad.
So, which are the leading ecommerce advertising platforms? Let’s dive in to explore.

1. Google Ads

Google Ads is the holy grail of pay-per-click (PPC) marketing and search advertising.

With nearly 6 million Google searches each minute, your target audience is almost definitely using the search engine. But the biggest motivator for Google Ads has to be the incredible 2:1 average return on ad spend (ROAS), which puts every marketing dollar to work.

Google also offers a wide variety of ad types, some of which are more effective for ecommerce marketing, like:

  • Video ads: You can create demos and videos to help your audience visualize your products in action. These will appear in video search results and on YouTube.
  • Google Display Network ads: These are image ads that appear across your audience’s entire journey of web browsing, meaning they’ll show up on multiple websites (not just Google).
  • Shopping ads: This ad type uses your product data (instead of keywords) to showcase your inventory with product ads, more on these below.

2. Google Shopping Ads

Google Shopping Ads offers convenient, retail-centric campaign management, including product groups for item bids.

Sperley says these are serious pros for using Google Ads in ecommerce marketing:

“Google Ads is a must for both search, shopping, and testing out PMax [Performance Max],” she says. “This is where you’ll find users with the highest intent to purchase.”
The caveat? Pricing:

“Depending on your vertical, it can be competitive and you can have a higher CPC,” she explains.
Still, the wide audience reach, diverse features, seasonality adjustments, dynamic remarketing, visually appealing ad types, and purchase intent make it a worthy investment.

3. Instagram Ads

Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could transform your existing posts into social media ads with just a few clicks?

With Instagram Ads, you can do exactly that.

The platform offers you serious ease in creating ecommerce ads, which is why it’s such a hit for ecommerce marketers.

Hootsuite shares that 44% of Instagram users make a purchase on Instagram weekly. How can you rise above the noise and entice them to purchase?

“Users are not necessarily in the mindset to buy, so you need to convince them with engaging creative and content,” says Sperley.

But she does offer a word of caution:

Instagram Ads would not be a good platform to test on if you have a small following or lack of access to a designer or copywriter for creating engaging ads,” says Sperley.

But with interactive ad content, easy set-up for marketing campaigns, automation, engaging video Reels, and visually appealing sponsored products? Instagram Ads is one of the most creative ad networks out there.

4. Bing Ads

Bing Ads (now Microsoft Ads) shows PPC ads on the Bing search engine.

While Google is a search engine titan, Bing holds its own weight.

About 35% of people who use Bing are in the country’s top 25% income bracket (a great incentive to use Bing Ads if you sell luxury or more expensive ecommerce products).

Bottom line? People have money and they’re using it on Bing.

So what’s the drawback? It must be pricey like Google Ads, right? On the contrary. Sperley says it’s a cost-effective option.

“Microsoft will always have the lower CPC, as the audience is smaller,” she says.

Still, she says brands shouldn’t rely exclusively on Bing for ecommerce. But you can absolutely leverage it for testing out your budget.

“It’s helpful to use Microsoft as an advertising platform for fuller coverage,” says Sperley. “Although the audience is about 10% or less of Google’s audience, it’s helpful to have supplemental coverage for shopping.”

5. Amazon Ads

With a whopping 310 million active global active users, you’d think Amazon buyers were each in their own lane. Turns out, they have a lot in common: They’re all in the buying mindset.

This means they’re closer to making a conversion than someone who’s just scrolling content on Facebook or TikTok.

Think about the last time you flocked to Amazon. You were likely comparing specs for different products or adding one to your cart with Prime-free shipping. Sound familiar?

So it’s a no-brainer that Amazon Ads naturally lends itself to ecommerce businesses.

Now imagine your audience browsing through competitor listings, and your ad appears on the bottom of another product page as an alternative.

That might prompt them to click through to your page and compare.

However, strategic ad placements close the distance between you and your potential customers. Your products can appear on banners, email recommendations, or in the Amazon search engine results.

With all those diverse ad formats and placements, your products just got a whole lot easier to find.

Getting back to those casual scrollers on social media, are they really interested in buying or are they just window shopping?

6. Facebook Ads

Facebook Ads boasts an impressive ad reach of nearly 2 billion people.

But what if your Facebook audience isn’t as close to conversion as your Google Ads audience?
You can absolutely still leverage the platform. Facebook Ads is a fantastic supplement to uplift your Google Ads efforts and reach social media browsers.

How can you double down on conversions?

Take advantage of detailed targeting options on Facebook Ads. Sperley says ecommerce brands can target buyers by their behaviors:

“To target the right audience, you can make the most of first-party data to drive the highest quality traffic,” she says. “Then, you can pair these with different interests to refine your audience further.”

Still, it might be hard to rise through the noise of the Feed. The solution?
“What matters most here is having strong creative, cohesive messaging with your brand, and engaging video and image assets,” says Sperley.

Up next? One of the most underrated platforms happens to be one of the most visually striking.

7. Pinterest Ads

Sperley emphasized the importance of visually stunning creative assets for both Instagram Ads and Facebook Ads. But with Pinterest? Visuals will make or break your campaigns because the platform is all images and video content.

So it only makes sense that you’ll need highly targeted, visually striking product ads to convert browsers.

One benefit of Pinterest Ads is that it’s ideal for newer ecommerce businesses compared to other social media platforms. That’s because established brand awareness isn’t as relevant on the platform.

It’s most important to focus on the ad’s quality and the audience’s perception of the ad.
Pinterest shares that 96% of searches on the platform aren’t branded. That’s great news for fresh brands looking for quick gains.

It’s also a more cost-effective platform that tends to have lower CPCs than Google Ads and Facebook Ads.

People flock to Pinterest for lifestyle inspo – from interior decorating and style ideas to fitness and more. For ecommerce businesses in the fashion, retail, arts, and home niches? It could be a treasure trove.

How to choose the right ecommerce platform: 7 tips

Ok, so we’ve laid out the best ecommerce ad platforms, but which one is right for your business goals? Here are some tips to help you get started.

  1. Integrate web hosts and CRMs with ad platforms
  2. Understand paid search vs. display ads for ecommerce
  3. Determine where your audience already shops
  4. Perform tests to keep ads optimized
  5. Know what makes an ecommerce ad successful
  6. Don’t forget about seller ratings
  7. Plan for seasonality

1. Integrate web hosts and CRMs with ad platforms

You might use ecommerce hosts like Shopify or WooCommerce for your online store — both solid options for integrating with ecommerce advertising platforms.

These integrations will foster a smooth connection between your customer data and purchase history. And you can leverage that intel to sharpen your advertising efforts.

If your ecommerce business doesn’t use a customer relationship management (CRM) tool like HubSpot (or if you have a custom site), you may have to take a few extra steps to sync your ads and reporting.

It’s also important to find a web hosting solution that makes mobile-first optimizations simple. It’s likely that a good chunk of your traffic will come from mobile, so mobile-first conversion rate optimization is key.

Ensure simple site navigation, and integrate with search engines and social platforms where you’d potentially want to show your ads.

2. Understand paid search vs. display ads for ecommerce

So, which ad type should you choose? Ecommerce brands can certainly find success with paid search or PPC, particularly through dynamic search ads.

These ads use content and keywords from your site to target your ads for the right people (all the more reason to have a strong ecommerce SEO marketing strategy).

Simply add a thought-out description, and let the search engine take care of the rest.

paid search herbal dynamics beauty

An example of paid search ecommerce ads from Herbal Dynamics Beauty on the SERP.

Prefer display ads? Ecommerce brands can use dynamic remarketing (also called retargeting).

These ads show up for people who have already visited one of your product pages (versus those who have clicked an ad). Luckily, there’s plenty of opportunity to reach new potential audiences with display ads.

These ads are a good budget-friendly option since you don’t have to have any other forms of advertising for them to work.

You can run these on platforms like Google, Facebook, Instagram, and Amazon. Display ads don’t offer as much control over bidding as more traditional ad campaigns do, but they can be effective when paired with proper bidding strategies. Just make sure you’re using daily budgets.
Shopping ads can be a highly effective (and lucrative) channel for your ecommerce advertising strategy with proper feed management.

Pro tip: Google recently started serving Shopping ads in organic search results, so if you’re already optimizing your ads and have a product feed set up through Google Merchant Center, you get additional opportunities to garner not only PPC traffic but even free traffic, too.

3. Determine where your audience already shops

Before you go all in on ecommerce ad platforms, have a solid understanding of where your audience regularly shops. The easier you make it for them to purchase your product or service, the higher ROI you’re likely to see.

Google Ads will always be a pretty universal ecommerce platform and a great place to start. But to learn where else your audience shops, you can explore website analytics, keyword research, and social media monitoring.

Knowing your audiences can guide you toward the right platforms:

  • Bing could be more successful than Google with an older user base of 50+
  • Instagram is probably better for Millennial audiences in their 30s-early 40s
  • If they’re middle-aged, Facebook is likely better than Instagram
  • If your audience is mostly male, Reddit Ads may be worth exploring
  • TikTok and YouTube Ads will better reach Gen-Z thanks to its visual appeal
  • Pinterest will likely land best with female audiences

Also, be sure to study each platform’s performance to see if you have a viable audience there.
Google Ads usually needs to see at least 50 conversions before offering realistic audience data. Additionally, the Facebook algorithm works best the more time it has to optimize your ads with its audience pool. It typically needs about 50 conversions to understand who to serve the ads to.

Say you found out that most of your audience is on Instagram. Sperley’s advice?

“Dedicate your budget to platforms you already know your audience uses, while keeping a test budget (about ¼ of your total budget), to test out a new platform,” she says.

Need help testing to see what’s working and where to pivot? We’ve got you covered! When you partner with HawkSEM, you get a dedicated ads manager and access to our data-tracking tech system, ConversionIQ.

Speaking of testing…

4. Perform tests to keep ads optimized

A/B testing is one of the most effective ways to understand two important things:

  1. How ads perform on different platforms
  2. How individual ad elements perform

Eliminate variables and change one thing at a time to properly measure. Does your audience prefer free two-day shipping or a coupon code? Do they click more on white backgrounds or real-life images? Consistent testing and measuring will help you answer these questions.

Here’s what Sperley has to say about leaving room in your budget for testing:

“It’s always important to test to further grow your digital marketing footprint,” she says. “But make sure that you don’t pull from what you know is working well for you.”

hawksem: e-commerce ad platforms

With so much shopping taking place online these days, having ads for your ecommerce brand just makes sense. (Image: Unsplash)

Pro tip: Before you begin, determine your goals. Especially if you work with an agency, it’s crucial that everyone is aligned on budget, KPIs, metrics, and what success looks like. Being on the same page ensures successful partnerships. Even if you’re just starting out, look at your spend and product costs to determine what numbers would mean a campaign was successful.

5. Know what makes an ecommerce ad successful

When it comes to which ecommerce ads resonate best, feel free to be your own test subject! Search for a common item like “blue t-shirt” on Google or Amazon, then check out the results. Which images and ad copy blurbs stand out most to you?

The elements of a successful ecommerce ad will vary by product, industry, and audience. But there are few good rules of thumb that are likely to benefit brands across categories.

Clear, high-quality images without cluttered backgrounds are a good place to start. From there, be sure your products are easy to view on smartphones as mobile commerce or m-commerce continues to rise in popularity.

Also consider launching a dynamic landing page with flawless user experience, compelling copy, and engaging visuals that drive people to purchase.

An example of a promoted tweet for monthly wine club Bright Cellars on Twitter.

An example of a promoted tweet for monthly wine club Bright Cellars on Twitter.

Social ads are a particularly great option when you’re working with a limited budget but want a decent-sized reach. For these ecommerce ad platforms, think about how you can make your ad seamlessly fit in with organic posts.

Depending on which site your ad will appear on, consider elements like emojis, GIFs or videos, hashtags, and platform-relevant verbiage like “Pins” on Pinterest. And, of course, don’t forget about including a strong call to action (CTA).

Pro tip: Got a brick-and-mortar location? Make sure your Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) page is set up correctly with tags in place and the most up-to-date info.

6. Don’t forget about seller ratings

Seller ratings on your ads can be a game-changer for your CTR, especially if you’re in a competitive market. Peer recommendations, research, and product reviews are some of the most influential factors that affect purchasing decisions.

Ever opted for a product with 5 out of 5 stars over one with 3 out of 5? You know what we mean. For high ratings, follow these tips:

  • Ensure product functionality before you ship, always
  • Incentivize customers to write reviews with a discount
  • Respond to all reviews and rectify poor customer experiences

7. Plan for seasonality

Of course, shopping seasons ebb and flow depending on holidays and the time of year. That’s why it’s important to plan budgets and ad spend according to the way your brand historically drives sales throughout the year.

For example, an ecommerce brand probably shouldn’t spend the same amount of money on ads in June that they might spend over Black Friday or Cyber Monday unless there’s a reason they drive huge sales during that time.

Or, perhaps you sell winter boots or swimsuits. In that case, allocate greater portions of your budget to drive sales during those impactful times of the year. During the slow months, pull back a bit to support your annual ROAS and overall profitability.

The takeaway

Online advertising is a must for every ecommerce business, and it’s a promising path to revenue and sales. Consider the pros and cons of each platform and monitor performance to ensure you properly allocate your ad spend.

What if you’re unfamiliar with an ad platform or don’t know how to use its many features?

That’s where we step in. HawkSEM’s PPC experts know the ins and outs of Instagram Ads, Facebook Ads, Google Ads, and all other platforms. Plus, we work with a wide roster of ecommerce clients like Swimsuits Direct and Grayson Living.

Let us handle your ecommerce ad strategy, and get ready to watch in real-time as your customers feverishly add to cart.

Ready to experience an average of 4.5 ROI on your ad spend? Let’s talk.

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Christina Lyon

Christina Lyon

Christina Lyon is an entrepreneur and writer from sunny SoCal. She leads Lyon Content, a tight-knit team of bold creatives, and crafts engaging written content that helps brands sparkle and scale.