PPC for retail uses paid ads to drive traffic to ecommerce websites. Learn how our experts use PPC to get more clicks and conversions for retailers.

With smart, cost-efficient PPC ads, you can zero in on your ideal customer with unmatched precision. And deliver the personalized experience that more than half of buyers say is the key to repeat purchases.

In this article, we’ll break down the basics of a great PPC campaign for you, providing benefits, costs, tips, and strategies so you can come out on top in the retail game.

What is PPC for retail?

PPC for retail is a strategy used to drive traffic to your website using pay-per-click ads on platforms like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. It uses keywords your target audience uses to shop for your products, then you only pay if someone clicks on your ad.

The benefits of PPC campaigns for retail

PPC campaigns can benefit various retailers, including department stores, supermarkets, online retailers, and convenience stores.

Here are several ways it can help your retail business:

  • Stand out among the competition. Retail is competitive. Your customers face opportunities to buy all day, every day. Effective online advertising helps you stand out from the crowd – so you can grab buyers’ attention before competitors do.
  • Target the right people. Some retailers rely on outdated methods like magazine ads or even billboards to drive in-store traffic – but those methods can’t target specific buyers. Running a target PPC campaign lets you reach your ideal audience… so you won’t waste your paid media spend on the wrong people.
  • Keep costs down. Buying old-school print ads means paying for extra printed materials headed straight for the recycle bin. PPC ads allow you to only pay for targeted clicks on your ad – so you get higher quality leads and your ad spend is far more efficient.
  • Gather detailed analytics. PPC campaigns yield a wealth of data to optimize your campaigns. At HawkSEM, we use a proprietary software called ConversionIQ to pull richer, deeper analytics that can drive better quality leads and higher conversions.


  • Scale quickly and effectively. The retail market is always changing, so it’s critical to be responsive. With PPC, you can scale your ads up or down, or shut them down entirely to adapt to market changes.

What are the costs of retail PPC?

The costs of PPC for retail vary and depend on how fiercely you’re competing for those top-spot keywords.

Retailers dipping their toes into PPC waters spend anywhere from $1,500 to $10,000 monthly. But for multi-location retailers—the budget can easily exceed the $30,000 mark monthly.

As for the cost per click (CPC) on Google’s search ads, you’re spending about $1 to $2 on average. Yet, in the bustling retail marketplace, don’t be surprised if the CPC climbs higher due to the competitive nature of the keywords you’re targeting.

But here’s a silver lining: the price you pay per click may be less than your max bid. This is thanks to factors like your ad’s quality score and how many other ads are vying for the same keywords.

Focus on crafting top-notch ads and landing pages to keep your costs from ballooning. A higher Quality Score can lead to lower CPCs, making your PPC budget stretch further.

So, set your budget boundaries and keep a keen eye on your campaign’s performance. Regular check-ins ensure your PPC efforts align with your marketing objectives without blowing your budget.

 How to build a PPC strategy for retail

Effective retail PPC campaigns start with a strong strategy. Let’s take a look at five fundamentals of strategic PPC management that delivers results.

  1. Set clear objectives
  2. Research your target audience
  3. Select the right platform
  4. Execute keyword research
  5. Integrate analysis right from the start

1. Set clear objectives

Like any marketing strategy, you need a clear direction. No one ad can do it all. Set a specific goal for what you want your ad to accomplish, like:

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Promote a new product
  • Increase click-through rates
  • Increase conversion rates

Ideally, a great ad will accomplish several of these objectives. But setting a strong direction will guide your decision-making better than an abstract goal of greatness.

Along with objectives, set resource constraints. Decide on a clear timeline and budget, so your marketing team knows what they have to work with.

2. Research your target audience

A good PPC strategy begins with thorough research. Identify your target audience clearly so you can take advantage of the targeting tools platforms like Google Ads offer.

When creating a campaign, you’ll specify your target audience. There are loads of variables you can use to define your target audience, such as age and location. Ensure these are all grounded in thorough customer research.

Research your target audience

Your target audience will impact your ad copy and design. Different audiences respond to different ad types, so work with your advertising team to craft creatives your target buyers will respond to.

3. Select the right platform

After selecting your target audience, decide where to target them. The most common advertising platforms are Google Ads, LinkedIn Ads, Meta Ads (Facebook and Instagram), and Microsoft Ads (Bing).

Each platform has a different process for creating ads and pricing the cost per click. Your choice will depend on where your target buyers hang out – as well as your overall budget.

Once you decide, learn more about the specifics of each platform. Social media platforms like Facebook Ads work differently from search ads that reach potential customers through search engine platforms like Google Ads. Thorough research is the key to success.

4. Execute keyword research

Another important component of an effective PPC strategy is the integration of researched keywords.

Use a tool like Google Keyword Planner, Semrush, or Ahrefs to find keywords to incorporate into your PPC campaign.

Place keywords in the body of your ads, your website, and technical SEO. Proper keyword research can earn a prominent placement in Google’s SERPs.

5. Integrate analysis right from the start

Not bothering to dig into your campaign analytics is a common rookie mistake.

Many beginners want to “set it and forget it,” but data creates great PPC campaigns. As you receive important data about impressions and CTRs, apply it to optimize your campaign.

Becoming an expert in crafting strong PPC campaigns is an art and a science. By approaching your campaign from customer-driven and data-driven lenses, you can create ads that drive results for your retail business.

Our team at HawkSEM specializes in creating personalized PPC ad campaigns for various industries – including retail.

For example, we helped Grayson Living, a retail store increase sales by 279% (roughly 6X their ad spend).

We immersed ourselves in Grayson Living’s website, refining its online strategy on multiple fronts. Our strategic tweaks and tailor-made landing pages led to a near doubling of ROAS, a tripling of ecommerce sales, and an over 100% increase in conversion rates within a single year.

We took the bold step of increasing ad spend, which significantly boosted performance.

Expert tips for avoiding retail PPC pitfalls

Now that you know how to run a great PPC campaign, let’s look at common mistakes to avoid:

  • Use detailed targeting throughout the buyer’s journey. PPC ads offer incredibly specific targeting, so use it at the top, middle, and bottom of the funnel (ad, landing page, and email sequences if you use them). You’re targeting buyers in Google Adwords by creating targeted ad copy and driving buyers to a retail site that speaks directly to them.
  • Optimize for mobile users. Roughly 74% of US online retail purchases were made from smartphones in Q3 2023, so optimize your ads for mobile.
  • Stay on top of advertising trends. Retail businesses have a slew of competitors, so staying relevant is the name of the game. Today’s trends include video ads and bold, creative display ads. But don’t always follow the crowd – take time to understand what’s working with buyers right now.
  • Use your data to answer questions. Your metrics will tell a story. If your CTR is high, but your bounce rate is also high, then buyers are turned off when they arrive at your landing page. If time on page is high but conversions are low, then prospects are interested, but may leave if they aren’t convinced or don’t know what to do next. Look to your data as you look for ways to improve your PPC strategy.
  • Keep your ROAS and ROI at the heart of your decision-making. You want a good return on investment. So use Google’s smart bidding system to optimize your budget using automation. And research your keywords to ensure your ads aren’t wasted on uninterested viewers.

Unique challenges of PPC ads in retail

PPC ads are perfect for the retail sector – but they come with common challenges every retailer should be aware of.

  • Competition: In the retail space, the competition is fierce. Virtually every PPC retailer faces competition from a wide range of players to win consumers – so you’ll want to fully optimize your ad to maximize your odds of driving conversions.
  • Visual communication: Most retail goods, like fashion, housewares, and food, require a strong visual component to communicate value. Great copy and campaign strategy aren’t enough – you’ll need standout ad designs to drive conversions to attract clicks.
  • Seasonality: Whether you’re a toy company with a big boost around Christmas or a swimsuit line with high summertime sales, your marketing must adapt to seasonal needs fast. Plan for seasonal buying cycles to ensure effective PPC ad campaigns all year.

When you master these challenges, PPC marketing can have a massive impact on your bottom line.

Key PPC terms

Let’s break down some of the most common PPC terms.

  • Click-through rate (CTR): CTR is the number of people who clicked your ad, as a percentage of everyone who viewed it. It can tell you how compelling or relevant people find your ad.
  • Conversion rate: Conversion rate is the percentage of people who view your ad who end up taking your desired action. Whether it’s signing up for a newsletter or making a purchase, the conversion rate shows how many people move all the way through your conversion journey.
  • Cost per click (CPC): CPC is what you pay when someone clicks your ad. It drives your ad spend. There are many ways to drive down your CPC, including improving optimization — advertising platforms reward organizations with effective ads.
  • Customer acquisition cost (CAC): CAC is the average amount of ad spend it takes to get one new customer to your online store or physical shop. You can calculate CAC by dividing your total marketing costs over a period of time by the number of new customers you acquired in that timeframe.
  • Quality Score: Quality Score is a diagnostic tool used by Google to reward ads relevant to someone searching for your keyword. The higher the quality score, the more effective the ad. Having a higher Quality Score increases the visibility of your ad in Google Search and drives more traffic to your site or landing page.
  • Ad extensions: Ad extensions (now called assets) are additional pieces of information — like links, contact information, and snippets — that make ads more compelling and drive higher CTR.
  • Keyword bidding: Bidding on targeted SEO keywords is essential to running a PPC campaign. Different keywords have different prices, so choose a bidding strategy to drive the highest CTR and conversion rate while keeping your ad spend within budget.

Checklist for an effective PPC ad campaign for retailers

To help make this process that much easier, we’ve created this handy checklist to guide you through the process of constructing your first retail PPC campaign.

Set clear objectives for your campaign

Research your target audience and identify 5-10 limiting factors that describe the demographic

Research the right platform for your campaign

Define your keyword strategy (generic keywords vs. long-tailed keywords)

Execute keyword research

Turn on or purchase analytics tools for your campaign

Incorporate keywords into the campaign construction

Incorporate keywords into the ad copy

Optimize your landing page with keywords and effective copy

Ensure that your PPC campaign and landing page are easily viewed on mobile

Launch your campaign

Regularly check on your campaign’s metrics and make adjustments as needed

The takeaway

We’ve highlighted the basics of PPC ads and provided expert strategies and tips, hopefully, you feel confident putting together your first PPC campaign.

PPC advertising is simple, but not easy. Here at HawkSEM, we pride ourselves on providing a personalized, performance-driven PPC strategy perfect for your retail business.

Our expert team tackles all parts of the PPC process, including keyword research, ad creation, and campaign implementation.

If you’re considering hiring an expert to lead your company’s PPC strategy, request a free consultation here. We’re excited to help you grow your business.

Chris Collins

Chris Collins

Chris Collins works with growing B2B companies like SwipeGuide, Smart Panda Labs, Meadow, and Canonical to nail their positioning and messaging so they can stand out from the competition and scale faster. He brings a strategist's mindset to copywriting, leveraging customer research and consumer psychology to craft messaging that gets results. An obsessive reader and reluctant runner, Chris is based in Charlottesville, Virginia.