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Written by Sam Yadegar on Sep 15 , 2021

Much like last year, the 2021 holiday season is predicted to be especially lucrative for e-commerce brands.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Predictions for the 2021 holiday season
  • How to make your holiday ads stand out
  • Ways to optimize your website for peak performance
  • Why audience targeting will be especially key

Believe it or not, late summer is the prime time for brands to start making marketing plans for the upcoming holiday season. 

And this season, like 2020’s, promises to be a whole different ball game than years or decades past.

Last year’s holidays highlighted just how much the world changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With a massive shift of retailers moving online, e-commerce companies had to work around more competition than ever before.

Thankfully, the rising demand for remote shopping created new opportunities across many niches. Here are a few eMarketer stats from the 2020 holidays:

  • Total retail spending increased by 6.5% to $1.064 trillion.
  • E-commerce sales increased by 32.5% while brick-and-mortar sales increased by just 2.2%.
  • Cyber Monday 2020 was the biggest online shopping day in history — sales rose by 15.6%.
  • Black Friday sales went up by 22%, while Thanksgiving sales increased by 21.4%.

For 2021, predictions include:

  • E-commerce sales are expected to rise by 11.3% to $206.88 billion.
  • E-commerce sales on Cyber Monday and Black Friday may surpass $10 billion.

While holiday e-commerce sales are likely to be on the rise this year, one lesson learned from 2020 is that retailers have to account for unexpected changes. 

Here’s how brands can do just that.

holiday email from clothing and accessories brand ASOS

A holiday email from clothing and accessories brand ASOS. (Image via Printful)

1. Create a personalized shopping experience

Page journey tracking (or what Google calls flow visualization) can identify a customer’s cursor at every stage of the shopping process through checkout. 

Not only can this help you identify strengths and weaknesses on your site, but you can use these details to reveal different information and products to different customers based on their browsing history and content interaction. 

Add a call to action (CTA), reduce page length, or insert an exit-intent popup to help engage the customer more effectively. 

2. Leverage peak promotions

If it seems like every other company is blowing up ad space and social feeds with holiday catchphrases and Santa Claus memes before the holidays, that’s probably because they are. 

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are two of the busiest days of the year for most online retailers, with the month of December not far behind. 

Google Trends suggests people start their holiday shopping in September and are in full purchasing mode by mid-October. This means it’s wise to form a strategy early so it can be ready to roll before the big buying push, not afterward. 

To make promotions as effective as possible, figure out when peak purchasing times are and design campaigns to be released ahead of time.

Estée Lauder offers live chat and video options on their site.

Cosmetics brand Estée Lauder offers live chat and video options on their site.

3. Prioritize customer service

As the number of shoppers and purchases increase, so do the questions. You don’t want to run the risk of an unhappy customer — or a negative online review

Especially since we know that research shows it’s cheaper (and easier) to retain existing customers than attract new ones. That’s why your e-commerce customer service is especially important around the holidays.

Here are just a few FAQs to be prepared for:

  • How many days does it take to ship a product out?
  • Are there any additional promos or deals going on?
  • Will it be here by the holidays?
  • How can I find or track my purchase?

Live chat and automated chatbot options can often help answer common questions or link customers to a frequently-asked questions (FAQ) page. You can also consider outsourcing after-hours phone calls to a virtual assistant service provider.

Speaking of FAQs, make sure this page is updated with all the necessary information. You don’t want broken links or any info that’s outdated, since this will just frustrate your customer. 

4. Create holiday e-commerce email campaigns

Email is one of the most effective marketing methods you can leverage when it comes to holiday e-commerce strategies. 

Cyber Monday drives billions of dollars in sales each year. Holiday email marketing lets you meet your customers and potential buyers where they already are. But to stand out in an overflowing inbox, you’ve got to get creative. 

When crafting your emails, we recommend you:

  • Keep the message short and include eye-catching, themed visuals
  • Create a “holiday countdown” email that tells recipients how much time they have left to place an order for overnight delivery, free shipping, etc.
  • Always include a clear CTA that leads back to your site
  • Add a limited-time offer (LTO) — customers are more likely to take action when they know the deal won’t be around for long
  • Segment your email lists so you can send the most relevant products to each group
  • Optimize for mobile, as the percentage of people purchasing straight from their phone continues to rise

Is your company participating in any philanthropic initiatives during the holidays? Whether it’s donating to a nonprofit organization or volunteering, highlight this in your email. Consumers tend to favor brands that give back over those that don’t. 

Pro tip: Plan to launch your holiday campaign before Black Friday. Data shows that Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday are actually the fastest-growing days of cyber week for holiday e-commerce sales.

5. Focus on video ads

Video ads on sites like YouTube and platforms like Instagram’s IGTV can produce better results than a text advertisement in some instances.

The current generation of shoppers mostly prefers video ads, and this type of ad tends to be a better way to engage consumers. Live-action features like Instagram Live also make it easy for e-commerce brands to get traction through promotional videos.

In 2020, many social media platforms launched or reconfigured new ad formats. Consider exploring something like Instagram Reels Ads or even TikTok ads for your holiday e-commerce marketing campaign.

6. Use ad extensions and sitelinks

Because pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns encourage targeted traffic, they’re on the top of most e-commerce brands’ wish lists. When your company ad comes up, give customers the option to click on sales products, special holiday gifts, bonus offers, and similar promotions. 

Using ad extensions and sitelinks gives you the chance to add more context to the ads you publish. When a brand is searched for on Google, sitelinks can appear below the ad’s main URL. 

Similarly, Google Ads can include ad extensions that provide more info about whatever your ad is about through copy.

These sitelinks and extensions reduce the amount of work shoppers have to do, which can encourage them to click the link. You can also use review ad extensions to mention price reductions, special holiday shipping information, and more.

Outdoor clothing and gear company REI eco-friendly

Outdoor clothing and gear company REI has stated they’ll certify their headquarters, distribution centers and at least 10 REI stores as TRUE Zero Waste facilities by 2021’s end.

7. Target the eco-consumer

Customers value sustainability more and more — and it can affect a purchase decision. 

Get creative by highlighting any eco-conscious efforts you have at your company (hopefully you have a few). It may be the tipping point that gets someone to choose your product over a competitor’s. 

Consider, and follow through with, some of these ways to comfort shoppers concerned about the environmental impact of their purchases:

  • Reduced packing material
  • Reusable boxes
  • Recycled (or recyclable) packing materials
  • Eco-friendly package transportation
  • Packing a multiple-item order in as few packages as possible

Need more help managing your digital marketing this holiday season and beyond? Let’s talk. 

8. Create a holiday gift guide (or related content)

Who doesn’t love a gift guide? Adding a fun branded gift guide into your email newsletter can be a highly effective way to grab the attention of shoppers and help boost holiday e-commerce sales.

It’s a safe bet that subscribers are already familiar with your brand, so these guides connect with consumers through convenience as well. 

It saves shoppers from having to scroll through page after page or list after list of older or less relevant products and showcases the new merchandise or services alongside (ideally) special promos and ways to save.

If you only have one or a few products or a gift guide just doesn’t mesh with your brand, you can also consider creating holiday-specific content. This could be a gated guide or e-book that provides value to the consumer and incorporates your product.

Clothing brand Madewell allows you to shop via their Instagram posts.

Clothing brand Madewell allows you to shop via their Instagram posts.

9. Leverage social — and mobile

Holiday ordering through social networking platforms continues to grow, according to insights from Salesforce. Not only that, but they found mobile ordering and traffic shares skyrocket during Christmas and Cyber weeks as compared to the rest of the holiday season.

It’s yet another reason why it’s crucial for your site to offer an equally pleasant and easy experience on mobile, tablet, and desktop. Another great way to capture those who mainly search and scroll on their phones is by creating timely organic and paid social media marketing content. 

Platforms like Instagram and Pinterest have made it easy to purchase items directly from you, right from the app. 

10. Focus on review sections

When 91% of 18-34 year olds say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, you know they’re incredibly valuable. Online shoppers tend to pass over products with no reviews or too many negative ones. 

You can beef up your credibility by adding review sections, making them more prominent on your product pages, or asking previous satisfied customers to provide reviews via automated emails.

User-generated content (UGC) is also becoming the driving force behind successful e-commerce marketing campaigns. Coupled with stellar online reviews, UGC can make a great case for your brand during the holiday season.

11. Pay attention to millennials

Nearly half of U.S. millennials say they plan to do more online shopping in the future, even after the pandemic is over, according to Adweek. And that doesn’t just mean big-name brands and stores. 

They also report that more than half of millennials plan to make most or nearly all of their holiday shopping purchases through small local businesses. 

Depending on your products, it could be worth it to come up with creative ways you can target millennials specifically for the holidays. 

Which items seem to resonate most with them? Can you experiment with organic and paid social in new ways to attract this audience? You may be surprised at the positive results you get. 

12. Ensure your site is speedy

Oh, what fun it is to shop on a site with an average load time of under two seconds! (…Right?) Experts note that most people will abandon a site if it doesn’t load within 3 seconds

There are ways to minimize your site’s loading speed, but working with a developer or your existing dev team is your best bet. They can help speed up your website through things like:

13. Explore influencer marketing

If you haven’t done it yet, the 2021 holiday season is a great time to start exploring partnerships with influencers in your industry. If this is your first influencer rodeo, you can look into micro- and nano-influencers first. 

According to Forbes, micro-influencers (those with follower counts in the lower thousands) have a 60% increased engagement rate and a 20% higher conversion rate than their counterparts with more followers.

Micro-influencers are often more affordable, making it easier to market your products to your target audience without breaking the bank. As a bonus, the engagement rate for influencers tends to rise during the holiday season.

The takeaway

The holidays should be a time of cheer — not a time to run yourself and your team ragged trying to keep up. 

Having a solid holiday e-commerce strategy in place that maps out how you plan to handle this busy season can help you and your team push through together — and come out profitable on the other side. 

This article has been updated and was originally published in November 2019.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Caroline Cox on Jun 28 , 2021

Competition is stiff for e-commerce — these SEO strategies can help you rise through the ranks.

Here, you’ll find:

  • The elements of a good e-commerce SEO strategy
  • How to set up your site for SEO success
  • Common e-commerce SEO missteps to avoid
  • The importance of proper tracking and reporting

It comes as no surprise that 2020 was a big year for e-commerce. With people sheltering in place across the globe, they turned to online shopping more than ever before. In fact, more than 2 billion people purchased goods or services online. Not only that, but e-retail sales surpassed 4.2 trillion U.S. dollars worldwide, according to Statista.

And with an influx of businesses moving and expanding their operations to the digital space, competition also became more fierce. Whether you’re selling a hyper-specific luxury boat motor, a plain white t-shirt, or any of the billions of products in between, good SEO is key when it comes to e-commerce.

Ads can get you in front of the right prospective customers at the right time. And having strong SEO will ensure you also have a steady stream of organic traffic coming your way. Not sure what steps to take? Keep reading.

Start with standard SEO practices

It should come as no surprise that the standard SEO rules also play a big role on e-commerce sites.

These practices include making sure your site is well organized with a sitemap. You also want your site to be easy to navigate and interact with across devices, and secure like any other site. (Google has confirmed that there’s a slight rankings boost for sites serving content over HTTPs vs. HTTP, according to Ahrefs — yet another reason to follow suit.)

Implementing these basic SEO practices into your marketing strategy will help you start your e-commerce SEO off on the right foot and ensure you’ve got the proper framework (literally and figuratively) to build on. 

Find the right keywords

Just as with any other business, digital marketers won’t be surprised to know that the right keyword research strategy is table stakes for strong e-commerce SEO. Focusing on long-tail keywords (along with site performance) is likely going to be the best way to see early wins when it comes to your SEO.

SpyFu explains that you can also conduct keyword research through:

  • starting with Google Keyword Planner
  • using Google Search to see what’s currently ranking organically
  • leveraging a tool (like theirs) for competitor research
  • playing around with Amazon Suggest
  • entering target keywords into Wikipedia to find more related words and phrases

Once you conduct your keyword research (with an eye on things like search volume, relevance, and competition), aim to use it just 3-5 times per page. This will give you the juice you need to start building up page credibility without looking like keyword stuffing. 

It’s also wise to have a few different content silos on your site. With product pages, having content such as blog posts that complement your offerings will help you rank for topical information about the products you’re selling.

woman on e-commerce website

About half of online shoppers start their purchase journeys on search engines. (Image via Rawpixel)

Use relevant product titles & descriptions

Leveraging the proper keywords in your product titles and descriptions should also be a standard practice across your site. Instead of just keyword stuffing (which Google frowns upon), tag your items by categories, accurately title your images, and make sure those images are fast-loading. 

About half of online shoppers start their purchase journeys on search engines, according to a recent Marketing Charts survey. This is all the more reason why you should be thoughtful about your titles and descriptions. 

Don’t just say what a product is — describe what it’s made of, what its purpose is, and how it’ll benefit the buyer. And now that Google Shopping allows products to rank organically, it’s more important than ever to write detailed, thorough product descriptions.

Pro tip: Ensure all of your products have a product schema markup that’s thoroughly filled out for maximum discoverability. Schema is a type of structured data that helps search engines better understand what a page is about. 

Create a Merchant Center account

Something we recommend all online sales brands do is to create a Google Merchant Center account with proper data feeds for the search engine to leverage in its shopping tab on the search engine results page (SERP). 

This is a free feature that helps you organize your content in a way Google favors — and it gives great exposure to new customers with images (unlike search results). 

With the Merchant Center, e-commerce brands can:

  • upload accurate product information
  • reach customers through paid and unpaid channels
  • view reports for your programs linked to Merchant Center

This is also a good feature to take advantage of if you create Google Shopping ads or might want to in the future. 

Pro tip: When creating your Merchant Center account, don’t forget to also opt in to the organic free listings as well.

Ensure your site is properly set up & reported

Many online brands carry tons of products. Because of this, implementing all of these various SEO strategies into each of them can be a timely undertaking. 

Plus, product SEO can be a bit trickier than standard website SEO. For example, you may offer one shirt in four different sizes and 10 colors all on the same product detail page, or PDP. 

You have many more possibilities for canonical URLS (also called canonical tags), which help search engines understand that some pages will have very similar information on them and points to which ones should be given the most value or weight. 

Making sure your site architecture and canonical info are set up properly helps ensure that your monitoring and reporting will be accurate. This is also a good way to set yourself apart from the competition and boost your bottom line. 

Pro tip: We recommend relying on search strings in your URLs, such as “/german-chocolate,” to keep your sitemap organized and easy for search engine bots to understand what a page is about when crawling it. Once you’ve optimized your XML sitemap, you can submit it through Google Search Console to show which URLs are the main ones and pages will have a canonical tag. 

Stay consistent to avoid common errors

When adding new products is a frequent task, making sure they align with the same strategy as your others is key. This is because you want to set things up so each product has a fair chance at performing its best online. 

Consider creating a checklist for adding new products to your site so nothing slips through the cracks. This can include everything from the optimal image sizes and product name formats to the tone of descriptions, URL parameters, and more. This will also make it clearer which items are performing better than others.

Other common SEO missteps that e-commerce brands should avoid include:

  • Poorly organized content that makes navigation or filtering products difficult
  • Out-of-stock items showing up in lists without being able to be filtered out 
  • Not having individual images for different variations offered
  • Not properly making use of IMG tags or metadata at a product level
  • Inconsistent image or video sizes
  • Slow-loading sites
  • Non-responsive sites or limited options by device
  • Unclear return policies

Pro tip: Search Engine Land recently reported that Google Merchant Center’s new “Inaccurate availability” policy may suspend sites that show invalid product availability. The policy is slated to go into effect in September 2021. 

HawkSEM: The E-Commerce SEO Strategy Your Website Needs

It’s key to keep CRO in mind and consistently test elements like layouts, filters, and images for products, to see which ones result in better performance. (Image via Rawpixel)

Remember that CRO is part of SEO

Because of the high competition that surrounds many e-commerce brands, your site’s ease of use can really be a make-or-break factor in its success. 

That’s why it’s so key to keep conversation rate optimization (CRO) in mind and consistently test elements like layouts, filters, and images for products, to see which ones result in better performance. 

Ready to take your e-commerce ads to the next level? We can help.

Pop-ups, for example, may not be as effective as banners and may even turn off some users. You can also analyze your site’s performance through the use of heatmap, scrollmap and confetti reports. These reports track your site visitors’ behavior to illustrate where people are gravitating, where they’re bouncing, and more. 

As we’ve discussed before, you can set your site up for maximum CRO by optimizing your checkout process and being mindful of not overwhelming your shoppers with too many options.

The takeaway

It’s becoming increasingly difficult for e-commerce brands to stand out in the saturated online space — that’s why SEO can be such a game-changer. 

The brands that climb the SEO ladder successfully follow best practices like making use of the right keywords, taking note of what audiences do and don’t respond to, and having a consistent listing process. While solid SEO takes time, it’s a worthwhile endeavor for e-commerce businesses that aim to be around (and thriving) for the long haul.

This post has been updated and was originally published in February 2020.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Caroline Cox on May 3 , 2021

As more and more people make purchases on their smartphones, here’s how your brand can get in on the rising m-commerce trend.

Here, you’ll find:

  • What defines mobile or m-commerce
  • The latest data around this trend
  • Best practices for brands leveraging m-commerce
  • Pro tips to keep you competitive

The mobile commerce (or m-commerce) trend continues to rise as searching and shopping via smartphone becomes more common. In fact, Forbes predicts mobile commerce will grow a whopping 68% by 2022.

Let’s dig into what m-commerce is, why it matters, and how to make it work for you.

What is m-commerce?

Mobile commerce aka m-commerce is commerce that is conducted via a mobile device, such as a smartphone. In other words, m-commerce can refer to shopping, payment transactions, and other money management practices.

G2 explains that while e-commerce refers to any buying and selling done over the internet, m-commerce is strictly done on mobile. As smartphones become increasingly sophisticated, it’s no surprise that these devices become evermore entwined in our daily lives. We use them for everything from creating to-do lists and accessing our bank accounts to managing email inboxes and making purchases. 

girl outside on her phone

It’s clear that m-commerce is an effective way to meet your audience where they already spend their time. (Image via Rawpixel)

Why should digital marketers care about m-commerce?

As our collective reliance on smartphones grows, m-commerce is poised to grow as well. M-commerce should pique digital marketers’ interest in particular because of how this commerce type offers direct access to a brand’s potential target audience. 

In a survey HawkSEM conducted in 2020 of more than 500 smartphone users, 68% said they’ve purchased something they discovered through a mobile ad on their smartphone.

What are the benefits of leveraging m-commerce?

It’s clear that e-commerce is an effective way to meet your audience where they already spend their time. And the nature of m-commerce marketing makes it easy, seamless, and less obtrusive to serving relevant ads to your target audience.

Business Insider reports that mobile is predicted to “inch closer to becoming consumers’ preferred channel for online shopping within the next five years.” What’s more, social media platforms in particular continue to roll out new features that make mobile transactions increasingly convenient. These include things like “buy buttons” and in-app purchase options, for instance.

The more convenient the experience, the better chances brands have of turning a window shopper into a buyer. 

Need help with your e-commerce marketing? Let’s talk.

What are the latest m-commerce statistics?

The data is clear: m-commerce isn’t slated to be falling in popularity anytime soon. 

Here are some stats about m-commerce:

  • Currently, mobile buyers account for nearly 61% of the U.S. population. (Statista)
  • M-commerce volume is predicted to hit $488 billion, or 44% of e-commerce, by 2024. (Business Insider)
  • 75% of 2019 e-commerce shopping took place on a mobile device. (Forbes)
  • About 76% of large fashion retailers’ website visits are from mobile devices. (RetailDive)
  • One-third of our decision to purchase is influenced by looking up additional information on a product via our mobile device. (BigCommerce)
  • In 2020, U.S. mobile retail revenues were expected to amount to more than $339 billion, up from more than $207 billion in 2018. (Statista)

Pro tip: If you decide to create an app to enhance your m-commerce experience, keep it simple. The most successful commerce apps are clean, visual-heavy, and don’t require a ton of heavy lifting in terms of maintenance. 

navy paper shopping bag

Leveraging mobile payments that are already connected to someone’s bank account eliminates a huge barrier when it comes to making m-commerce purchases. (Image via Unsplash)

What are the top m-commerce success secrets?

Once you’ve decided to prioritize m-commerce, there are a few key actions you can take to set yourself and your brand up for success.

Have a speedy website

The last thing you want is to catch a consumer’s eye, have them click your m-commerce ad, then ultimately bounce because your mobile page takes too long to load.

As Investopedia explains, “quick-loading webpages are likely to win more sales because consumers can be impatient, and they demand instant gratification.” Plus, making speed a high priority is also a good way to boost your overall SEO.

Keep inventory up to date

Another fact we uncovered from our m-commerce survey: 20% of potential buyers started but failed to complete a mobile purchase because an item was out of stock or not in their size. 

Running e-commerce search ads through Google Merchant Center? If you have a lot of products and are using an e-commerce platform like BigCommerce or Shopify, you can easily integrate them to help ensure you’re submitting the most updated info to GMC on a regular basis. This helps keep your product data fresh. While you can’t exactly control an item being sold out in a certain size or color, you can work to only show products that are actually in stock.

Make payment a breeze

Forget making buyers search for their credit card to close the deal. Leveraging mobile payments that are already connected to someone’s bank account eliminates a huge barrier when it comes to making m-commerce purchases. 

“With new mobile payment solutions emerging, it is now possible to offer customers a truly diverse range of payment options,” reports BigCommerce. These mobile payment options include:

  • Apple Pay
  • Google Pay
  • PayPal One-Touch
  • Samsung Pay
  • Amazon Pay
  • Visa Checkout

Prioritize a mobile UX

If you’re dipping a toe into the m-commerce space, chances are you’ve taken the time to make sure your site looks great on mobile as well as desktop. The same should be said of your m-commerce ads.

Keep your audience top of mind while also thinking about what visuals, product pages, and ads resonate with you when you’re scrolling on your smartphone. Images with white backgrounds may do better than those with busy backdrops. Lastly, bigger images are easier to see without having to try to zoom in. 

The takeaway

Smartphones aren’t the future of shopping — they’re the present. Focusing on m-commerce makes it easy for people to purchase from you. Not only that, but it also keeps you competitive with other brands. 

Once you know the value m-commerce can have on your business, you can implement the action items above to create a mobile shopping experience that is seamless, in line with your business, and leads to increased sales. 

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Mar 8 , 2021

Social media platforms are making it easier for brands to sell products on their apps — here’s why your e-commerce company should hop on board. 

Here you’ll learn:

  • How social media e-commerce has evolved
  • What e-commerce looks like on a variety of social platforms
  • Ways to improve your social selling game
  • The latest stats on social selling

In response to the global pandemic, online shopping experienced an unprecedented boost in 2020. While overall purchase power declined, millions of people opted to shop stores virtually over brick-and-mortar counterparts.

Not only did this breathe new life (and competition) into the e-commerce space, but social media brands took notice. In recent months, many of the most popular social platforms added new features to enable e-commerce brands to sell more easily through their apps, also called social selling. 

social selling on mobile

It’s clear that m-commerce and social media will have a big impact on the future of online shopping. (Image via Unsplash)

The rise of shopping on social media

Instagram recently added more functionality to its shoppable posts, rolled out a dedicated “Shop” section to its home screen, implemented an in-app checkout option, and launched Instagram Live Shopping

In May 2020, Facebook introduced Facebook Shops, “a mobile-first shopping experience where businesses can easily create an online store on Facebook and Instagram” (Facebook owns Instagram). Pinterest introduced shoppable pins, a new Shop tab on its search bar, and an enhanced product tagging tool. And TikTok has recently partnered with brands like Shopify and Walmart.

With all of these updates, it’s clear that m-commerce (or mobile commerce) and social media will have a big impact on the future of online shopping.

Why social media selling deserves more attention

Getting the desired results with your main e-commerce digital marketing strategies already? Here’s why social selling is still worth your consideration.

  • 78% of companies that use social selling outsell the competition that doesn’t. (Forbes)
  • 76% of buyers are ready to talk to the brands selling their products on social media. (LinkedIn)
  • 78% of millennial salespeople use social selling tools. (HootSuite)
  • 89% of top salespeople are using social selling tools. (LinkedIn)
  • Companies that create a high-quality social selling strategy are 40% more likely to reach revenue goals than those that don’t. (Digital Marketing Institute)

Social selling is more than just using these platforms to sell your products. A successful strategy often involves paid promotion, thoughtful organic content, and being mindful of the differences in each platform. The good news: If you’ve got an active business account on these platforms, you’re off to a good start.

Let’s take a closer look at e-commerce social selling tips.

blue sky instagram

Post organically and thoughtfully to stay top of mind with followers. (Image via Blue Sky Planners on Instagram)

1. Use a holistic approach

While these new tools and features are appealing to e-commerce brands looking to sell on social media, don’t forget about nurturing your organic following as well. 

Just like search engine marketing, a well-rounded social selling plan involves both paid ads and non-paid efforts. Leaning too heavily on one or the other likely won’t help you reach revenue goals.

Outside of creating compelling virtual storefronts and shoppable ads, don’t forget to post organically and thoughtfully to stay top of mind with followers. Your content should be high-quality and accurately reflective of your offerings. And, if you have the bandwidth, there are even more ways you can build a relationship with your digital audience, such as:

  • Posting Stories or temporary content along with regular permanent posts
  • Following back those who follow you
  • Liking and responding to comments on your posts
  • Sharing user-generated content (UGC) that include your brand

A well-maintained account helps cement trust. It can also help push prospects further down the sales funnel.

2. Create content with a purpose

Social media has evolved significantly from the early day of Facebook, Friendster, and MySpace. Today, it’s not just about connecting with others — the platforms are also places where we get news, explore topics, find inspiration, and much more.

With that in mind, think about creative ways you can engage your followers through text and images. From quick bites of industry news to “how-to” posts and video tutorials or tours, work on bringing valuable and educational content to your social media accounts.

pinterest outdoor voices

Pinterest has rolled out numerous tools for merchants in both the U.S. and U.K. (Image via Pinterest)

3. Don’t ignore Pinterest

Companies sometimes overlook Pinterest when building their social selling strategies in favor of focusing on the big four (that’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram). But, for e-commerce businesses in particular, this platform can be a beneficial resource for sales and marketing efforts. 

Firstly, consider its reach: Pinterest has 442 million monthly active users worldwide, with 98 million in the U.S. In 2020, the percentage of users who leveraged the platform for shopping reportedly increased by 50%. 

In response to the growing demand, Pinterest rolled out numerous tools for merchants in both the U.S. and U.K.

For brands using Shopify, there’s even a special app that can help streamline your Shopify and Pinterest accounts. This way, you can easily turn your Shopify products into Product Pins on Pinterest.

Need more e-commerce marketing help? Let’s talk.

4. Consider product videos

The power of video marketing continues to increase in popularity. These days, more than 70% of potential buyers make a positive purchase decision after watching a product video. This makes social media platforms the perfect place to post and promote video marketing content.

Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube all allow the use of paid video ads. While different platforms have different ad specs and requirements, once you determine where most of your audience is, you can begin creating, optimizing, and modifying video content that can be leveraged across each with success.

For example, Instagram added a “shop featured products” option to Reels (an Instagram video content type that allows users to post longer videos than in-feed video post time limits permit) in late 2020. This allows for seamless purchasing of items shown in the videos.

tiktok shopify

Though TikTok’s audience often skews younger than that on Instagram or Facebook, the purchasing power of these users still offers high potential for many brands. (Image via Shopify)

5. Keep an eye on TikTok

In October 2020, TikTok made a huge step toward e-commerce by entering a partnership with Shopify. Shopify users can now connect their accounts to TikTok for Business and sell products through in-feed shoppable video ads.

And with the app’s white-hot rise in popularity across regions and demographics, TikTok is likely to launch more e-commerce features in the near future. Though this platform’s audience often skews younger than that on Instagram or Facebook, the purchasing power of these users still offers high potential for many brands.

The takeaway

As more and more consumers shop online and via their smartphones, selling products on social media is bringing serious sales to e-commerce businesses far and wide.

Social media is a great way to connect with your target audience, build a relationship, and target new customers in a way that’s streamlined and direct. To stay on top of your selling game, it’s imperative to monitor social media selling tool updates and take full advantage of them when it makes sense for your brand and audience.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Caroline Cox on Nov 25 , 2020

hawksem m-commerce infographic - the trend of m-commerce marketing

From mobile shopping for the holidays to personalized ads, here’s what hundreds of consumers think about the m-commerce experience.

As smartphones become more and more entwined in our everyday lives, brands are taking note. Savvy marketers are constantly experimenting with how they can reach consumers in new ways, such as through social media ads, better site experiences on mobile, and much more. So it makes sense that mobile or “m-commerce” continues to rise in popularity. 

Business Insider Intelligence predicts m-commerce volume will hit $488 billion, or 44% of e-commerce, by 2024. We wanted to know how today’s smartphone users leverage mobile shopping, what they like and dislike about the experience, and where they see this trend headed in the future. 

Below, hear from hundreds of people about how they shop from their phones, view targeted mobile ads, and their thoughts on m-commerce as a whole. Download the full infographic here.

The survey participants

Of the more than 500 U.S. smartphone users we surveyed:

  • 37% were 18 to 34 years old
  • More than half were between 35 and 54
  • And 12% were 55 or older 
  • 59% of respondents identified as female
  • 41% identified as male

hawksem m-commerce infographic survey results

Mobile Shopping

More than 94% of participants have made a purchase via their smartphone or tablet, while 87% have done so in the past 3 months.

Mobile Ads

More than 80% said they’d been served a product or service ad while using their smartphone in the past 3 months.

m-commerce infographic icons

Increased Reach & Exposure

When asked, “Have you ever purchased something you discovered through a mobile ad on your smartphone?,” 68% said yes.

Purchasing Gone Wrong

Of survey respondents who said they’d started but failed to complete a mobile purchase, some reasons why included:

  • The site had a bad mobile experience (22%)
  • The item was out of stock or not in their size (20%)
  • The site took too long to load (16%)
  • They didn’t have their card information available (13%)

“The convenience of ordering on my phone” is the main reason why 69% of participants opt to shop via mobile

A Personalized Experience

When asked whether they prefer generic ads or ads tailored to past purchases and interests, 44% said they favored tailored ads, 27% prefer generic ads, and nearly 29% weren’t sure.

Shopping for Must-Haves

For the bulk of essentials shopping (things like groceries and medications):

  • 20% of survey participants purchase these items via desktop
  • Nearly half purchase via their phone or tablet
  • 4% said they mostly use a smart home or voice-activated device
  • 27% shop for them in person

(Numbers for non-essentials shopping were similar.)

The Future of M-Commerce

In response to “Do you think you’ll shop from your phone more in the future?,” nearly 73% said yes.

58% said they’re “very likely” to make a holiday-shopping purchase via their phone this year, while nearly 30% said they were “somewhat likely.”

Download the full “The Trend of M-Commerce Marketing” infographic here.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

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Written by Caroline Cox on Oct 13 , 2020

From building your merchant accounts to optimizing your ads, here’s everything you need to know about e-commerce marketing.

Here, you’ll find:

  • What e-commerce marketing is
  • Different types of e-commerce ads
  • How to leverage social media marketing
  • Best practices for creating e-commerce ads

The e-commerce space has boomed in popularity over the last several years. And with the convenience of ordering, speedy delivery, and a wide range of products and services that can be browsed through online, it’s easy to see why.

For marketers, this means more potential customers — and more competition. That’s where a solid e-commerce marketing strategy comes in. 

Below, we break down everything you need to know about the state of e-commerce marketing today, from the latest social media trends to ad options and everything in between.

What is e-commerce marketing?

The aim is e-commerce marketing is to drive awareness, interaction, and sales to a business that sells products or services online. E-commerce marketers can do this through paid digital avenues such as pay-per-click (PPC or paid search), display ads, paid social ads, remarketing, and more. 

Organic, non-paid methods of e-commerce marketing include organic social media posts, content marketing like blogs, an optimized website, and email marketing. A well-rounded e-commerce strategy likely includes a mix of these two kinds of marketing. 

retrieving package: e-commerce marketing

Paid search campaigns are a great way for your e-commerce brand to showcase what you have to offer. (Image via Rawpixel)

Build your e-commerce marketing plan

The steps to building your e-commerce marketing plan don’t deviate much from a standard marketing plan for any business. 

First, you want to define your ideal client persona. (Most companies have a few different target audience personas they’re marketing to.) You want to keep these personas in mind when making decisions about copy, images, and other ways to attract the right people to your offerings.

From there, you want to determine which tools and platforms you want to leverage to manage your program. Tools could be anything from Google Analytics and CRM software to Shopify and BigCommerce. 

As far as social media, which we’ll dive into more below, it’s wise to create accounts on the major platforms. (Plus, many of these boast e-commerce-specific features.) These include:

  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest

You also want to establish your goals and KPIs. You can do this among your internal team, or partner with an experienced digital marketing agency to help with the workload. 

How to start e-commerce paid search

Paid search campaigns are a great way for your e-commerce brand to showcase what you have to offer. Rather than mainly relying on keywords, these campaigns focus on images and product feeds that feature descriptive info paired with accurate inventory availability.

As we’ve highlighted before, the steps to getting started with e-commerce search ads include:

  • Choose a product data input method: There are a few different ways to input your products into the Google Merchant Center; the one you choose will depend on things like how many products you have and which e-commerce platform you’re leveraging
  • Optimize your Merchant Center settings: This involves things like enabling automatic updates and connecting to your Google Ads account so you can be eligible for free listings
  • Set up your e-commerce search ads campaign: Decide which campaign you want to run (we recommend starting with standard Shopping), split products into separate campaigns and ad groups, and separate out searches based on specificity
  • Optimize your campaigns: Once you’ve run your campaigns and gathered some data, you can decrease bids on anything the underperforms and increase bids on what’s producing the highest conversion value 
  • Export successful campaigns to Microsoft Advertising: If you’re seeing positive returns on Google with your paid search ads, consider transferring those campaigns to Microsoft Advertising — they’ve made the process easy 

Boost sales with e-commerce remarketing

Remarketing, also called retargeting, is a type of ad that highlights your product or service to a targeted audience of people who have already visited your site or mobile app. Setting up dynamic remarketing will show users specific products they’ve previously viewed on your site.

This type of marketing can help combat obstacles e-commerce brands often run into, such as cart abandoners. Remarketing can be an effective way to nurture your funnel and turn “window shoppers” into customers. 

Pro tip: Usually, setting up remarketing involves adding code to your site that’s powered by your Google Merchant Center feed. 

online shopping: e-commerce marketing

From paid search to display ads to social media and CRM software, there are a variety of platforms you can leverage for your e-commerce marketing. (Image via Rawpixel)

E-commerce SEO tips

Of course, all businesses should follow the standard SEO practices for best results when it comes to traffic and rankings online. But with e-commerce competition being especially fierce, brands in this industry often have to get creative — and strategic — to truly stand out.

Finding the right keywords is a solid place to start. E-commerce brands can do this in a few ways, including leveraging Google Keyword Planner, manually searching to see what already ranks organically, and leveraging tools like SpyFu and SEMrush. 

Other e-commerce SEO tips include:

  • Use relevant product titles and descriptions
  • Create a Merchant Center account (as mentioned above)
  • Ensure your site is properly reported and set up with canonical info
  • Keep CRO in mind and regularly test layouts, filters, and product images

Lastly, consistency is key to avoiding common SEO errors. This means monitoring things like how your products are organized, keeping inventory up to date, leveraging img tags and metadata at a product level, and making sure image sizes are consistent across your site.

Choose the right e-commerce platform

From paid search to display ads to social media and CRM software, there are a variety of platforms you can leverage for your e-commerce marketing. The ones you opt to use will depend on a few different factors, including your bandwidth, budget, and goals.

Overall, when you’re exploring e-commerce ad platforms, a few things you want to consider are:

  • If your various vendors integrate together cohesively
  • Where your audience is already shopping
  • What types of e-commerce ads are most successful for your brand
  • How you can use seller ratings in your ads

Leverage e-commerce email campaigns

If you’ve ever purchased something online (and the odds you have are very high), you’ve likely also been the recipient of an e-commerce campaign email. Email remains one of the most popular digital marketing strategies around, and that especially goes for e-commerce brands. 

Often, brands will create an opt-in option for customers to sign up for emails when checking out on their websites. And, much like remarketing, email campaigns can be an effective way to combat cart abandonment. It’s also a great way to let your audience know about a special offer, upcoming sale, or other deals they might be interested in.

Pro tip: The most successful e-commerce emails often include eye-catching visuals, concise copy, and an unmissable call to action (CTA). 

Consider content marketing for e-commerce

Creating high-quality e-commerce content can do wonders for your SEO. Once you’ve done the front-end work of defining your audience and determining where your content will live on your site, you can start building your content strategy.

This plan should include:

  • Ways to illustrate what makes your brand different from others in the space
  • Creative methods for educating your audience and helping them problem-solve
  • An emphasis on storytelling
  • Plenty of on-brand, high-quality visuals

How often you create content will depend on your goals and bandwidth. Creating a calendar with planned-out content around things like your keywords, outside-of-the-box initiatives, and new company updates will keep you organized and on track. 

mobile shopping: e-commerce marketing

More than half of all online shopping is expected to happen on mobile devices by 2021. (Image via Unsplash)

E-commerce social media 

There’s plenty of value in e-commerce brands leveraging social media platforms, both paid and organically. That’s because it’s a highly effective way to reach users where they already are in a way that’s unobtrusive and seamless.

Creating organic social media content is a great way to raise brand awareness and attract followers. By regularly posting content, you can show off your company aesthetic, get creative with your marketing, and increase followers without spending a dime. 

If you’re just starting out with the paid side of social media, aka paid social, you can try out boosting organic posts that are seeing decent engagement on platforms like Instagram. You can also reach out to industry influencers who have their own engaged followings and explore an ad partnership with them in exchange for products, services or a fee.

The main social media platforms also offer standard ad options that allow you to do things like create and monitor a campaign, target a specific audience, and showcase products while directing potential buyers to your site. 

Another reason it’s worth being active on these platforms: they’re often adding new tools and features that are beneficial to e-commerce brands. Instagram and Pinterest, for example, recently unveiled shoppable posts that allow you to link items in your images that go straight to the product page on your website for a seamless buying experience. 

Prioritize mobile-friendliness

Optimizing your store for mobile “means more than having a responsive design,” as Shopify explains. It also means you’re designing your e-commerce site “with mobile visitors in mind from start to finish.”

And with Statista data suggesting more than half of all online shopping is expected to happen on mobile devices by 2021, keeping mobile in mind will be more crucial than ever.

Luckily, there are quick fixes you can perform to ensure your site is mobile-friendly. These include:

  • Making call-to-action buttons large and easy to see
  • Keeping links far apart so they’re easier to click 
  • Keep navigation menus organized
  • Anchoring things like “add to cart” buttons so users don’t have to scroll to add items

The takeaway

With so many aspects of business taking place online, it’s wise for e-commerce marketers to use all of the tools and tricks at their disposal to effectively stand out, connect with their customers, and beat out the competition. 

By defining your ideal customers, creating a multi-channel approach that takes advantage of paid search, social media, email and more, and staying on top of the latest industry trends, you can create a strong e-commerce marketing plan that’s both agile and built to last. 

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Aug 3 , 2020

As Google Shopping celebrates its 18th birthday, the founders are giving vendors a nice gift: welcoming unpaid organic listings back to search results.

Here you’ll learn:

  • The 411 on new Google Shopping developments
  • Ways the platform has evolved since it began
  • How Froogle evolved into Google Shopping
  • How these changes can affect your company

The COVID-19 pandemic’s effects have been felt across the globe. As a result, many brick-and-mortar stores have closed, bringing online shopping to an all-time high.

As merchants migrated over to the e-commerce realm, some were met with unexpected obstacles like the need to pay for their product listings onto the Google platform.

In April 2020, Google announced that they were bringing free listings to the Google Shopping tab in the United States. Google’s reps said they’ve been planning to make the Shopping feature free for merchants for some time. The pandemic simply pushed them to implement changes earlier. The new development doesn’t mean that merchants can’t pay for advertising their products anymore. Paid campaigns will simply be augmented with free listings. 

Bill Ready, president of Google’s commerce division, explained that this change means stores can now get free exposure to the millions of users who use Google for their shopping needs every day. (The unpaid listings won’t show up on the search engine results page directly. Rather, they’ll be available under the “Shopping” tab.)

Online shopping package received from the mail

Google Shopping launched under a completely different name: Froogle. It was founded by Craig Nevill-Manning in 2002. (Image via Unsplash)

Google Shopping’s evolution

Google isn’t constantly evolving its shopping feature simply to please merchants and buyers. The service is fighting hard for its place in the online shopping world. In past years, reports say Google Shopping has been losing clients to its biggest competitor: Amazon.

By forcing merchants to pay for listings, Google inadvertently limited the number of products the service offered. With the new development, the service becomes more appealing to sellers, which should eventually bring more buyers to the platform.

How Google Shopping began

Google Shopping first launched under a completely different name: Froogle. Craig Nevill-Manning founded the platform in 2002.

Froogle started out as a service that helped people search for products online and compare their features and prices. Back then, listing products was free of charge. The platform was highly convenient for buyers and monetized through Google Ads (Google AdWords at the time) by sellers.

The platform’s initial goal was to help buyers compare products. The idea quickly gained popularity since it allowed customers to explore different brands without switching to other websites. Even though it was free to list products on Froogle, merchants had to pay to display sponsored links.

From Froogle to Google Products

In 2007, Froogle evolved from a comparison service to a place where customers could also make purchases. That’s when higher ups changed the name to Google Product Searches.

The reasoning was simple: A witty pun that tied Google and “frugal” together was lost on many international users. Eventually, Google Product Searches was shortened to the more concise Google Products.

The same year, the service went through a major change. The site formerly known as Froogle was integrated with Google Search. This meant products could appear on the search engine results page (SERP) right next to other results of the same search query.

Google Products becomes Google Shopping

Another major change came about in 2012, when Google Products stopped being a free service and turned into Google Shopping. Now, merchants had to pay to get their products listed.

Google explained that the move was sparked by the brand’s desire to improve user experience and help connect searchers with the right sellers. At that time, Google also launched a Google Express feature. This allowed shoppers to put products from different merchants into the same cart on the platform and make an instant purchase.

local business e-commerce

The ability to purchase directly from Google simplified the buying process, drove sales, and drove impulse buying. (Image via Unsplash)

Google Shopping grows into a major e-commerce platform

In 2019, the platform took a huge step toward becoming a serious e-commerce platform. The new update rolled out in France, then became available in the United States. 

This update focused on customer personalization and made the checkout process easier with a few new features:

  • Recommendations – Google started offering product recommendations based on the user’s browser history and the products they viewed or purchased — the users also got a personalized homepage
  • Price tracking – users could track the price on their favorite products so Google could notify them whenever prices dropped
  • Local searches – allowed users to search for certain products and retailers in their local area
  • Instant purchase – the ability to purchase products directly from Google Shopping (the Google Express feature was fully integrated into Google Shopping)

With these new features, Google Shopping became a highly convenient selling tool for retailers. The ability to purchase directly from Google simplified the buying process, drove sales, and drove impulse buying.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because it was becoming more and more like Amazon. The new update stirred even more competition between the two platforms.

Pro tip: The ability to list products for free on Google Shopping may require adjustments to your search engine optimization (SEO) campaigns. The quality and optimization of the product feed is crucial to the likelihood of it appearing as a response to the search query.

The takeaway

In 2002, Google Shopping started as a user-friendly product comparison service. Fast-forward to 2020, and it has evolved into a serious e-commerce platform poised to give Amazon a run for its money.

The latest Google Shopping update allows merchants to list their products free of charge. Each new step of this evolution drives marketers to monitor and potentially improve their SEO campaigns, since the latest development emphasizes the importance of title, image, and product description optimization.

This evolution is a great example of a brand working steadfast to please users while remaining competitive and current with ever-changing technology.

Want to learn more about optimizing your Google Shopping product listings for SEO? Let us know.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Caroline Cox on Jun 5 , 2020

From creating your account to optimizing and testing, these expert tips will ensure your e-commerce PPC ads are set up to stand out. 

Here, you’ll find:

  • How to create a proper PPC ad foundation
  • Tips for keeping campaigns organized
  • Ways to optimize your e-commerce PPC ads
  • What to test when it comes to your campaigns

People are buying almost everything online these days. Whether you’ve been doing e-commerce for years or have recently switched to a digital platform amid the pandemic, it’s always good to know what elements make up a successful search engine marketing (SEM) ad.

Let’s break down the must-haves when it comes to creating paid search ads for your e-commerce brand.

hawksem article: e-commerce ppc

How you get your products into Google Merchant Center to create the feed mostly depends on how many products you have. (Image via Rawpixel)

1. Set a good foundation 

It should come as no surprise that proper setup is key to creating successful e-commerce PPC ads. But that doesn’t mean that plenty of companies, whether they realize it or not, don’t have their accounts set up properly — which can lead to improper tracking and unnecessary steps. So, how do you ensure you’re starting off on the right foot?

To begin, you need to create a free Google Merchant Center (GMC) account. It’s best to use the same email you also use for programs like Google Ads and Google Analytics. That way, your accounts will all be linked together. From there, you can link your Google Ads account to GMC. It’s also a good idea to install “Ecommerce tracking” in your Google Analytics account for even more insight into performance metrics.

2. Stay on top of your product feed

How you get your products into GMC to create the feed mostly depends on how many products you have. If you have a large amount, you can integrate your e-commerce platform with the merchant center. If you have fewer products, you can integrate manually via a Google spreadsheet or even add products one by one. 

Making sure your product feed is updated is just as crucial as proper setup. After all, the last thing you want is to have someone click on your ad and see that the item is out of stock or priced higher than advertised.

Once you input products, they’ll remain active for 30 days. After that, those products will expire if you don’t update their info. You can update your products either by reprocessing your feed or setting up automatic processing on a daily or weekly basis, depending on how often your product inventory changes.

3. Get granular

Why is getting granular so important? Because the more specific a product search is, the higher the purchase intent, most likely. Therefore, the more you segment out your products, the more targeted your PPC ads will be. 

If you have a small number of products, each product can be in its own product group. Otherwise, you can split your campaign into ad groups, and then split those into product groups from there. 

You can also divide in other ways, like by devices. Simply put a -100% bid adjustment to separate desktop and mobile. For your desktop campaign, you’d put in a -100% bid adjustment on mobile to show only on desktop, and vice versa. You can also separate out traffic based on how specific the search is. You can do this by setting up campaign priorities and then using negative keywords to separate those searches.

hawksem: e-commerce PPC blog

Including prices in your ads can be a highly effective way to get more clicks than your competition. (Image via Rawpixel)

4. Remember to optimize

Without optimizing, your PPC campaign can only go so far. Optimizing will help you better manage your budget by putting more spend where you’re seeing more success. Many e-commerce companies optimize their bids by starting low, then adjusting accordingly. The more data you gather, the more informed your decisions will be.

Other ways to optimize include:

  • Experiment with different ad types (like product listing ads vs. text ads)
  • Leverage ad extensions to give ads more context
  • Add pricing to ads for a competitive edge
  • Test different campaign structures and categories

5. Consider including prices in ads

Speaking of pricing, including prices in your ads can be a highly effective way to get more clicks than your competition. Not only is this another way to qualify your traffic to ensure you get the right clicks, but it doesn’t take up a ton of valuable ad real estate.

As HubSpot explains, “This saves your ad spend for those qualified leads who saw your prices, know what to expect, might not be scared away by price, and are much more likely to convert into a sale.” 

Even if they don’t end up buying your product or service, you’ll have a higher chance of snagging them through remarketing, since they already know what your pricing looks like.

6. Test your ads — consistently

If you’ve read our past articles, we might sound like a broken record when we talk about the benefits of testing. But it can’t be denied that, if you want high-performing e-commerce PPC ads, testing repeatedly is an important step.

With e-commerce ads, you can A/B test elements like your imagery, verbiage, call to action (CTA), and more. After all, what works on your paid social media campaign might be a flop when it comes to SEM. See how a flat-lay image of an item on a white background performs against an image of a real-life scenario. 

Pro tip: The best testing comes with an open mind. You may think you know what your target audience wants, but the results could end up surprising you.

7. Leverage remarketing

Ah, yes, remarketing — otherwise known as “those ads that follow you around the internet,” as your friends or family may describe them. But the fact remains that remarketing works, particularly for cart abandoners.

While remarketing (also called retargeting) can be effective in various industries, it’s particularly useful for e-commerce. It can help you land more recurring sales, increase your campaign’s clickthrough rate (CTR), boost your ROI, and more. 

As we’ve mentioned before, setting up e-commerce remarketing often requires adding certain code to your site and making sure your GMC account is set up and running properly.

hawksem: e-commerce ppc ads

Amazon operates like a search engine in many ways, with ad types and structures similar to traditional paid search campaigns. (Image via Rawpixel)

8. Think outside of Google

It makes sense that, when you think of e-commerce PPC, you automatically think of Google. And while it’s holding strong in its place as the top global search engine, it’s not the only one worth looking into.

Microsoft’s search engine Bing has a user base that searches nearly 6 billion times a month total. Its own ad platform, Microsoft Ads, encompasses advertising on Bing as well as Yahoo and AOL.

Depending on your e-commerce product, you could see less competition on Bing that you’d see on Google, and a potentially cheaper cost per click (CPC). Not only that, but Microsoft Ads has a simple process for exporting existing Google Ads campaigns into its own platform, making it easy for you to leverage both. 

Pro tip: Think Amazon Advertising isn’t related to PPC? Think again. Amazon operates like a search engine in many ways, with ad types and structures similar to traditional paid search campaigns. 

The takeaway

Whether your e-commerce business has tons of competition or not, you’ve still got to work to make your PPC ads stand out.

Use the tips above when creating, optimizing, and testing your paid search campaigns to keep your digital marketing strategy going strong. 

Looking for more help with your e-commerce ads? You’ve come to the right place.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Neelie Palmer on May 7 , 2020

Because getting your products in front of the right people at the right time is key

Here, you’ll find:

  • How to set up your e-commerce search ads
  • Expert tips for optimizing your ads
  • How to import Google Shopping campaigns to Microsoft
  • Why you should consider dynamic remarketing

Here’s a stat for you: recent data shows that just 17% of brands say they’re ahead of the curve or leading in the e-commerce space in their industry. What that tells us is that there’s a wealth of opportunity for your e-commerce company to rise above the ranks. One of the most effective ways to do just that: paid search (or PPC) campaigns.

Traditional search campaigns are powered by keywords. But with Shopping campaigns, it’s all about the product feed. You want your feed to show your products in the best light, with accurate info and up-to-date inventory. Wondering how to get started with e-commerce search ads? You’ve come to the right place — let’s get into it.

HawkSEM: E-commerce search ads

Google will allow your products to remain active for 30 days without new product info. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Choose a product data input method

When you’re getting into Google Shopping, your first step is to create a free Google Merchant Center (GMC) account under the email you use for other Google programs, like Google Ads and Google Analytics. This way, all of your Google accounts are linked together, making it easy to stay consistent.

Next, it’s time to get your products into the Google Merchant Center. A few things to consider when determining how to get your product data into GMC are:

  • Which e-commerce platform will you be leveraging?
  • How many products will you be uploading?
  • How many product variations with individuals SKUs will you be uploading?
  • Do you have all of the product details organized?

If you have a lot of products and are using a popular e-commerce platform such as Shopify or BigCommerce, you should be able to easily integrate this with GMC. This will help you map your product feed and submit the most updated info to GMC on a regular basis, ensuring your product data is always fresh. 

If you’ve got a smaller number of products, you can input product data simply by uploading a text file Google Sheet. You can also manually add products one by one if you want to test out the platform first. 

Google will allow your products to remain active for 30 days without new product info. After that time, the platform will expire those products, meaning they won’t be eligible to show. Because of this, you want to either reprocess your feed or send your data continuously on a regular basis. Depending on your products and how much they change, daily is generally a good frequency for updates.

2. Optimize your Merchant Center settings

There are a lot of things in GMC settings that I often see get missed. One is enabling automatic updates. Google will actually crawl your page and find your most updated price and availability if you’re opted in to automatic improvements. This is great if, for example, you run out of stock on a product, because it keeps you from running Google Ads to a page where your products aren’t available. 

However, If you have your site structured in a way that keeps Google from understanding your pricing, it’s probably best to turn off the automatic price updates.

Once you have everything in GMC, you’ll connect to your Google Ads account. The good news: Google recently announced that they’ll start running free listings on Google Shopping. This applies to the Shopping tab on Google. This Shopping section is a lot like Amazon in that you can filter by things like price. This means it’s more important than ever to get your GMC created with your products and prices, because you’ll start getting an organic lift from being able to be on the Shopping tab for free.

HawkSEM: Google Merchant Center

A look at how GMC has recently started reporting free clicks (via Google Merchant Center)

Pro tip: Even if your business isn’t in the financial place to give budget to new campaigns, I still recommend going into GMC and setting up a feed, because you’ll be eligible for those free listings. Then, once you’re ready, you can start leveraging all that Google Shopping has to offer.

3. Set up your e-commerce search ads campaign

It’s pretty easy to get started once you have GMC linked. I recommend starting with a standard Shopping campaign. Smart Shopping is usually fueled better by having a solid foundation of account data. If you’re just getting started, I’d recommend doing a manual cost-per-click (CPC) campaign first, then experimenting with Smart Shopping or automated bidding down the road.

The #1 thing you can do to set yourself up for success when it comes to your campaigns is to get granular. You can subdivide everything into product groups. You can split products into separate campaigns and ad groups that can then be split further into product groups. If you have a small, manageable number of products, I suggest breaking everything out by single-product product groups.

An example: Let’s say your core products are sporting goods, but you also sell apparel as 20% of your business. It’s probably a good idea to put all of your apparel into a separate campaign to make sure you’re giving most of your budget to your core products. 

Another one of my favorite strategies is to separate out searches based on how specific they’re getting. The more specific a search, the higher the purchase intent is likely to be. It makes sense: someone searching for a specific brand, style, color, and size of running shoe is probably more motivated to buy than someone just searching “running shoe.”

Pro tip: Google Shopping is unique in that it has a priority system — you can set low, medium, and high priority campaigns. If you have several Shopping campaigns, this system dictates which ones serve an ad first.

HawkSEM: e-commerce search ads

A remarketing email from Uncommon Goods triggered by cart abandonment.

4. Consider dynamic remarketing

If you’re running Google Ads, you’re already paying for people to get to your website. But, as consumers ourselves, we know not everyone buys the first time they visit a site or product page. That’s where dynamic remarketing comes in.

Dynamic remarketing is a great way to nurture your funnel. At its core, this method aims to show users specific products they’ve viewed on your site. If they look at running shoes, you then show them that exact pair of shoes as a Shopping ad while they browse other sites on the web. 

To set up dynamic remarketing, you generally have to add a bit of code to your site. This is powered by your GMC feed, so you have to make sure your account is set up and working if you want it to be successful.

A lot of people put things in their carts while shopping online, then don’t end up following through with the purchase. You can remarket these products to cart abandoners and, if you have the e-commerce settings set up correctly in Google Analytics, you should already have some audiences available.


Here’s a short clip from the webinar I hosted on e-commerce search ads.

5. Optimize your campaigns

There are two KPIs I consider most important when optimizing a Shopping campaign. If you’re on a manual bidding strategy, I’d pay attention to your conversion volume and the result of  conversion value over cost. That will calculate a rough idea of your return on ad spend (ROAS).

After you’ve accrued some data, you can decrease bids on anything under your goal or your average. You can also increase bids on items that are producing the most conversion value when compared to ad spend.

With Shopping, you can’t run a traditional experiment within Google Ads, but you can switch over for a time period and compare after a while. Automatic bidding strategies are powered by data, so the longer you run them, the better they should get. 

If you’re going to try Smart Shopping, it’s a good idea to pick a mix of high and low performers, then exclude those from your regular Shopping campaign. Don’t simply pick all of your low performers from your regular Shopping campaign and put them in Smart Shopping. You want a mix to ensure you’re getting accurate results.

Pro tip: It’s not a good idea to run the same products in your traditional and Smart Shopping campaigns. If you do, Smart Shopping will automatically take precedence.

HawkSEM: E-commerce search ads

No matter the size of your e-commerce brand, search ads can help take your sales to the next level.

6. Carry the success to Microsoft Advertising

If you’re seeing success in Google and topping your impression share, why stop there? You can easily carry your Shopping campaigns over to Bing. As we’ve mentioned before, Bing Ads recently rebranded to Microsoft Advertising. Along with the Bing search engine, this suite includes Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, and other sites. 

If you already have a Microsoft Ads account it’s easy to get a merchant center account set up right from the ad platform. Microsoft will process this data just like Google. Once it reviews the product data, you can create a Shopping campaign within Microsoft or import a Shopping campaign from Google that’s already working well.

Recently, Microsoft Ads made it so that you can import on a recurring basis. If you set up a recurring sync, you can optimize in one place and make sure it’s carried over easily, instead of having to manually optimize within each platform. You can even optimize based on the different platform behaviors if that proves advantageous.

Microsoft usually has cheaper CPC and less competition. If you’re in a saturated market, your Microsoft Ads campaign might perform better than on Google.

The takeaway

No matter the size of your brand, e-commerce search ads can help take your sales to the next level. By making sure your Google Merchant Center account is set up properly, keeping product info fresh, experimenting to see what works well, and considering leveraging both Google and Microsoft, you’ll be set on the path to success — and more sales. 

Want even more tips for achieving success with e-commerce search campaigns? Check out our webinar recording, Getting Started with E-Commerce Search Ads.

Neelie Palmer

Neelie Palmer

    Neelie is a lead strategist at HawkSEM. As a digital marketing professional with more than 6 years of experience specializing in PPC & SEM management, she believes in making data-driven decisions with client business goals at the forefront of digital strategy. Since starting at HawkSEM in 2017, she's expanded her experience and produced results across a broad spectrum of industries and platforms, including social and Amazon Advertising. In her spare time, Neelie enjoys running, yoga, and gardening.

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    Written by Jane Serra on Feb 12 , 2020

    Get ahead of the competition by optimizing your Google Shopping Ads campaign

    Here you’ll find:

    • How Google Shopping Ads works
    • How to target the right keywords
    • The reasons why adding negative keywords is crucial
    • Best practices for optimizing ad images
    • How Showcase Shopping ads can help your brand 

    The Google Shopping Ads feature is one of the best ways to get your products noticed. You upload your featured products to the Google Merchant Center, splash in some keywords, and images of your products will start to pop up on a Google search along with their prices.

    It may sound simple, but there are a handful of key things you need to know to bring in serious sales using this service. If you want to take your marketing game to the next level, consider these six must-know tips to make Google Shopping Ads work for you.

    HawkSEM: 6 Must-Know Tips to Make Google Shopping Ads Work for You

    Optimizing the information you submit to Google is the key to getting the best return on investment. (Image via Rawpixel)

    How does Google Shopping Ads work?

    Before we dive into the tips, Google Shopping Ads – formerly known as AdWords – is a paid search advertising service that is available for e-commerce businesses to use to attract new clients.

    This service lets brands set up campaigns based on their budget. Your ad will appear in the search results page with your product, cost information, and product photo when a relevant keyword is used in a search.

    This will give you a marketing edge because consumers will see your products at the top of the page. It can also benefit you by pushing competitors farther down the search results page. 

    What do I need to know about Google Shopping Ads?

    Optimizing the information you submit to Google is the key to getting the best return on investment. Let’s go over these 6 tips.

    1. Optimize your data feed

    When you log in to your Google Merchant account, you’ll want to ensure that your data feed has the necessary information for your product titles. Descriptions in the product title should include:

    • Brand name
    • Material type
    • Sizes
    • Color
    • Model number

    Do some keyword research to make sure you’re using the best keywords in your title descriptions. You can use Google’s keyword tracking tools such as Google Search Console and AdWords Keyword Planner to help with this.

    2. Target the right keywords

    You’ll want to leverage the same keywords a consumer would type into the Google search bar. For example, if your company sells coconut oil, “coconut oil” as a keyword would be too broad to use. 

    Instead, imagine the searcher is looking for more specific information about “coconut oil.” It’s best to use long-tail keywords like “best all-natural coconut oil” or “coconut oil for cooking.” Implementing long-tail keywords gives your product a better chance to reach the right audience.

    Being specific is important because you don’t want to waste money serving ads to people who aren’t looking for your exact product. Your coconut oil could be used for cooking, for example, while someone is looking for coconut oil body lotion.

    3. Add negative keywords

    Adding negative keywords tells the search engine platform that you don’t want your ad to end up in a specific search. Let’s go back to the coconut oil example. 

    Refined coconut oil goes through a lot of processing and can be used to make soaps, bath oils, or body moisturizers, while unrefined coconut oil is best for cooking. If you’re selling unrefined coconut oil for cooking, excellent negative keywords you’ll want to add would be “refined coconut oil” or “processed coconut oil.” 

    4. Optimize your images

    To grab a consumer’s attention, make sure you’re uploading high-quality images to associate with your products. Keep in mind that, per Google, your images need to be under 1024 kilobytes

    To get the best images possible, consider using a DSLR camera. These are cameras that provide the most detail and are used by professionals.

     Also, make sure your products are clear with no distractions or busy backgrounds. The most popular look is the product with a white background. Use good lighting and make sure the product is the main focus. 

    HawkSEM: 6 Must-Know Tips to Make Google Shopping Ads Work for You

    If your products aren’t converting, you may want to consider moving them to a different ad group and lowering your bids. (Image via Unsplash)

    5. Focus on your top-selling products

    Putting your top-selling products in their own ad group will give you the best chance at finding the right audience. You can track your top-selling products by using Google Analytics. Make your bids are on the higher side for these items for maximum exposure.  

    If your products aren’t converting, you may want to consider moving them to a different ad group and lowering your bids. This can help ensure you’re maximizing your marketing budget and not overspending.

    6. Use Showcase Shopping ads

    The standard option that most businesses use is Product Shopping ads. These are the ads that show up on the top of a search results page. They have a product photo, price, and star reviews all nicely packaged in a small box that consumers can easily click on. 

    Another option is Showcase Shopping ads. Showcase Shopping ads give your audience a preview of what your brand is all about. This option lets you feature more than one product. It’s also ideal for broader keyword searches. For example, if you sell summer dresses, you can feature multiple dresses you sell in one ad for that keyword.

    The takeaway

    The tips we’ve mentioned above are crucial for making your Google Shopping Ads campaign successful. Paid search advertising like Google Shopping Ads help your audience find your products. By following the strategies of keyword targeting, using negative keywords, and image optimization, you’ll be on the right track of making your ads pay off.   

    Want to find out how you can optimize your PPC campaigns even further? Let’s talk!

    Jane Serra

    Jane Serra

    Jane Serra is the VP of Marketing at HawkSEM. She's an accomplished marketing executive with more than 12 years of experience leading digital marketing teams across demand generation, branding, events, content, and communications. When she's not strategizing, networking, and honing her craft, she enjoys traveling and scrolling Yelp for new restaurants to try.

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