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Written by Caroline Cox on Jan 14 , 2022

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

Here, you’ll find:

  • How to create a proper e-commerce PPC marketing foundation
  • Ways to optimize, organize, and test your PPC campaigns
  • How to grow your success beyond Google Shopping campaigns
  • SEM tricks to create successful ads that convert

E-commerce spending broke holiday records in 2021, with U.S. consumers spending a record $204.5 billion online.

But surprisingly, 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 (also called pay-per-click or PPC) campaigns.

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. 

Traditional search campaigns are powered by keywords. But with e-commerce ads, it’s all about the product feed.

Wondering how to get started with e-commerce campaigns? You’ve come to the right place. Let’s break down what steps to take when creating paid search ads for your e-commerce brand.

hawksem article: e-commerce ppc

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

1. Set up your Google Merchant Center account properly

It should come as no surprise that the right setup is key to creating successful e-commerce ads. But plenty of companies, whether they realize it or not, don’t have their accounts set up properly. 

This can lead to improper tracking and unnecessary steps. So, how do you ensure you’re starting off on the right foot?

Link your account via a shared email address

To begin, you need to create a free Google Merchant Center (GMC) account. It’s best to use the same email you 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.

Choose a product data input method

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 individual SKUs will you be uploading?
  • Do you have all the product details organized?

How you get your products into GMC to create the feed mostly depends on how many products you have. 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 simply integrate manually via a Google spreadsheet. You can also manually add products one by one if you want to test out the platform first. 

Pro tip: If your product list is especially large, Google’s new file processor Centimani might be a great solution for you.

Optimize your Merchant Center settings

There are a lot of things in GMC settings that often get overlooked. One is enabling automatic updates. 

Google will crawl your page and find your most updated price and availability if you opt in to get 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. In April 2020, Google announced that they’d run free listings on Google Shopping. 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 on the Shopping tab for free. This can be especially helpful for local SEO.

Pro tip: Even if your business doesn’t have the budget for new campaigns, we still recommend going into GMC and setting up a feed, because you’ll be eligible for free listings in the U.S. 

2. Stay on top of your product feed

Once your GMC account is set up, don’t fall into a set-it-and-forget-it mindset. 

Making sure your product feed is updated is just as crucial as proper setup. (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, right?)

Once you input products, they’ll remain active for 30 days. After that, those products will expire if you don’t update their info, meaning they won’t be eligible to show potential customers. 

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.

It’s also important to keep your prices updated. A 2021 GMC update increased the scrutiny on prices. Prices listed in your product data, on your landing pages, and at checkout must match. They’ll give you 28 days to resolve the mismatch before suspending your account.

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)

3. Set up your e-commerce ads campaign

It’s pretty easy to get started once you have GMC linked. It’s usually a good idea to start with a standard Shopping campaign. 

Smart Shopping is usually best fueled by having a solid foundation of account data. If you’re just getting started, you may want to run a manual cost-per-click (CPC) campaign first, then experiment with Smart Shopping or automated bidding down the road.

Get granular

The #1 way to set yourself up for campaign success is to get granular. That’s because the more specific a product search is, the higher the purchase intent is likely to be.

The more you segment out your products, the more targeted your PPC ads will 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 with the term “running shoe.”

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, you can break 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 may be wise to put all of your apparel into a separate campaign to make sure you’re giving most of your budget to your core products. 

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 separate out traffic based on how specific the search is by setting up campaign priorities and then using negative keywords to separate those searches. Google’s 2021 GMC updates include additional sizing attributes which may be helpful as well.

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.

Include prices in your ads

Your GMC account isn’t the only place you want to make sure your prices are visible. Including prices in your ads can be a highly effective way to get more clicks than your competition. Not only can this help 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.

Google recently added a “Deals” feed to the SERP page. When you’re running a promotion, sale, or have products with a recent price drop, consumers searching for deal- or sales-related listings will see your products. 

A look at how GMC has recently started reporting free clicks

A look at how GMC reports free clicks (via Google Merchant Center)

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. 

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

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. 

After you’ve accrued some data, you can decrease bids on anything under your goal or 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 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.

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

Pro tip: We don’t recommend running the same products in your traditional and Smart Shopping campaigns. If you do, Smart Shopping will automatically take precedence.

A remarketing email from Uncommon Goods triggered by cart abandonment.

A remarketing email from Uncommon Goods triggered by cart abandonment.

Leverage dynamic 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.

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.

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

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.

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

two woman looking at e-commerce site on laptop

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

4. Test your ads consistently

If you want high-performing e-commerce ads, testing repeatedly is an important step.

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. 

You may think you know what your target audience wants, but the results could end up surprising you.

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

5. Think beyond Google

It makes sense that, when you think of paid search e-commerce ads, 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. 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, now rebranded to Microsoft Advertising. Along with the Bing search engine, this suite includes Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, and other sites. 

Bing has a user base that searches nearly 6 billion times a month in total. Depending on your e-commerce product, you could see less competition on Bing than on Google, and a potentially cheaper cost per click (CPC).

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.

In Microsoft Ads, you can even 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.

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

The takeaway

No matter the size of your brand or number of competitors, you’ve still got to work to make your PPC ads stand out. E-commerce 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 more sales and a strong digital marketing strategy that can help your company continue to thrive.

This article has been updated and was originally published in June 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 Oct 4 , 2021

Having quality content on your website is one of the most effective ways to improve your e-commerce SEO rankings.

Here, you’ll find:

  • How content benefits e-commerce brands
  • How to determine your content topics
  • Why visuals are key to quality content
  • How to define your brand’s content voice

Quality content and SEO go hand in hand — and that includes e-commerce sites. If you don’t think your website needs content, you may be opening your brand up to being lapped by the competition. 

Whether you write it yourself, leverage a team member, or outsource to an agency, these are the elements you need for e-commerce content that’ll make your brand an industry thought leader.

e-commerce businesswoman writing content

The most effective content speaks to your audience in their language and with terms they know well. (Image via Pexels)

Define your brand voice

Hopefully, you already know exactly who your target audience is — from where they shop and what they like to do to how they search. 

Your brand voice should reflect your audience while being true to your company’s mission and values.

The most effective content speaks to the audience in their language and with terms they know well. If your target audience is millennials or Gen Z, for example, you’ll likely have different messaging than you would if your target audience was affluent couples over 50.

Once you define your voice, consider codifying it via a brand-specific content and style guide so that everyone on your team is on the same page. This can also be referenced by the person writing social media posts, since brand voice should be consistent across those platforms as well.

Pinpoint where your content lives

Content can be many things: from videos, blog posts, and your “About Us” section to landing pages, social media, product descriptions, and more.

Not all these content types will make sense for all e-commerce companies. But if you think a content strategy has no place in your business plan, think again!

Look at all the content your brand produces and ask yourself things like:

  • Is your tone consistent?
  • Is the audience you’re speaking to consistent across your various content spaces? (This excludes landing pages that may target different audience subsets)
  • Does the verbiage across these content spaces accurately reflect your brand?

Leveraging these content areas can be super beneficial. Not only can they help your brand stand out, but they can also show your target audience you’ve taken the time to craft clever, eye-catching copy that speaks to them on their level.

E-commerce brands in particular can leverage content in a number of ways. If a photo you post on one of your social media accounts does well, you can consider adding that photo to a blog or other page of your site.

The same goes for professional product photoshoots you do for products — consider using those images on social media in collages, carousels, or even Shopping ads if they resonate well.

Pro tip: To determine what social media platform to use, see which platform’s demographics and presentation style most match up to your own.  

Highlight what makes your e-commerce brand unique

It’s a simple fact that no two brands are exactly alike. Because of this, content is a great way to showcase what makes yours unique. Write about your company’s mission, journey, and origin story.

Do you source your materials sustainably? Did your grandmother ignite your love of fashion design? Are your products cruelty-free?

These days, an increasing number of consumers want to buy from brands that are trustworthy and sustainability-minded — content can remind them that there are people behind your business.

man taping up a cardboard e-commerce package box

No matter the type, the most effective content has great storytelling at its core. (Image via Unsplash)

Use e-commerce content to educate and problem-solve

Content marketing shouldn’t be about trying to game the search engine system. Rather, the primary role of your e-commerce content should be to educate your consumers and help them solve problems.

This can have many different interpretations, depending on your industry. If you sell camping equipment, you could highlight how certain products could be best used in warm and cold climates.

If you offer career coaching, you could post a blog article highlighting all the different professional stages where talking to a career coach could be beneficial (and how).

Other kinds of e-commerce content that tend to work well include comparison guides to help customers choose between options, how to determine if you need the product (i.e., “how to know if you need a new water heater”), and articles explaining all the ways a product is useful.

Curious how we help e-commerce brands improve their SEO, SEM, and more? Let’s chat.

Focus on storytelling

How-tos” are widely understood as one of the most effective types of content you can publish. But while this may be true in the B2B space, B2C can be a bit more tricky. 

No matter the type, the most effective content has great storytelling at its core.

Storytelling allows you to effectively connect with potential buyers. Not only that, but it can also aid in generating site traffic and social engagement.

Think about the marketing campaigns or pieces that stick with you. Most likely, there’s an emotional element to the story the brand is telling, which helps make it more memorable to the reader.

Great storytelling comes from great writers. If your team doesn’t have the expertise (or the time), you can consider partnering with an agency or hiring freelance writers via sites like Upwork.

As far as topics go, think about the stories you want your brand to tell. It could be anything from an inspiring customer journey to the way your business gives back.

using a phone to make a store purchase

User-generated content (UGC) can be an effective way to add a visual element to your content while highlighting your customers. (Image via Unsplash)

Add visuals to keep content interesting

Visuals can take your content from good to great in a flash. Not only do images help us retain information better, but content with images often results in more engagement and shares as well.

It’s also a good idea to make sure the graphics on your site are accessible to visually impaired people through descriptive text or captions.

Like your brand voice, the images on your website should be in line with your mission and audience. Add visual elements to your e-commerce content through things like:

  • Licensed or free stock photos
  • Well-designed graphics
  • Videos
  • User-generated content (UGC)

Speaking of user-generated images, this can be an effective way to add a visual element to your content while highlighting your customers. See if someone’s tagged your business on social media. If the image is high-quality (and in line with your brand’s aesthetic), use it!

Just be sure to ask their permission before sharing. If you let the person know when the content is published, they can re-share with their networks for an extra boost of exposure.

Pro tip: When uploading any images to your site, it’s important to title the images beforehand to serve as alt text, which helps improve your SEO.

The takeaway

For e-comm brands looking to boost visibility and sales (and what brand isn’t?), implementing a solid content marketing strategy is the way to go.

By publishing e-commerce content that’s authentic, in line with your company ethos, and speaking directly to your target audience, you can continue to see your SEO rankings improve.

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

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 Charlotte Soto on Oct 1 , 2021

Gen Z has arrived — here’s how to get their attention.

Here, you’ll find:

  • How Generation Z feels about ads
  • Why social is so key for this demographic
  • Stats around this generation
  • Best practices for creating Gen Z-focused campaigns

As ultra-tech-savvy digital natives, members of Generation Z are leaving their parents’ homes, graduating college, and entering the workforce.

With over 67 million people born between 1997 and 2012, Gen Z is rapidly becoming the largest U.S. consumer group. Their 40% of the market wields an incredible $143 billion in spending power.

Reaching Gen Z has never been more critical for a brand’s success. Here are some effective social media marketing strategies to help brands connect with a Gen Z audience.

Group shot of best friends, summer in Venice Beach, Los Angeles

Although Gen Z is aware of paid social, they aren’t afraid to be influenced. (Image via Rawpixel)

Understand what Gen Z wants and needs

A McKinsey & Company study found most Gen Zers have an “undefined” identity, meaning they don’t see themselves through the lens of one or two stereotypes. 

Instead, they experiment with different ways of expression and allow their identities to develop over time. This makes unisex messaging and products very appealing to them. 

The same study found that Gen Z is more racially diverse and inclusive than any other generation before them. 

Tap into where Gen Z gets their information

There’s no better place to reach Gen Z than social media. According to a recent study, most feel driven to socialize and stay informed via social media platforms.

They spend an average of three hours every day on their favorite social apps, making them the largest group of mobile commerce (or m-commerce) consumers. Generally, the most popular platforms for Gen Z are Instagram, TikTok, Youtube, and Pinterest. 

Although Gen Z is aware of paid social, they aren’t afraid to be influenced. For example, the super-trendy #tiktokmademebuyit videos have a staggering 5.2 billion views. 

Produce creative, eye-catching visual content

If brands want to stand out on social media feeds, they need to customize content to Gen Z’s tastes. 

Studies have shown they prefer bite-sized, jam-packed multimedia messages and videos over static images. Posting short-form videos stuffed with stylish visuals is a guaranteed way to catch Gen Z’s attention.

Leverage gamification and interactive experiences

Gen Zers are serious gamers. A staggering 94% of this generation play games on various devices. They enjoy engaging with social media content by thinking, swiping, and tapping.

Including gamification elements into posts is an excellent way for brands to provide users with fun escapism while boosting their brand’s image. 

These elements include trivia quizzes, polls, rewards for user engagement, and social media scavenger hunts. Gamifying content is a surefire way to attract new customers and stay connected with existing ones. 

Understand the importance of influencers

A short video posted by a famous Instagram influencer can trigger hundreds of thousands of followers to buy everything from the sweater they wore to the chair they sat on. 

Gen Z considers social media influencers as more reliable than traditional celebrities. Not only are they dependent on these influencers for fashion and lifestyle inspiration, but they also trust their opinions. 

Purchasing a product vouched for by an influencer has never been easier. Personalized Amazon pages and Instagram closet accounts can be stocked with influencer favorites. 

Followers can now easily emulate their style with just a couple of taps. Partnering with influencers is a great way for businesses to reach a targeted section of this demographic.

lavender cake with Gen Z on top

Gen Z trusts word-of-mouth marketing more than previous generations. (Image via Pexels)

Showcase your brand’s beliefs and values

No other generation before Gen Z has shown such strong interest in consumer culture. Generation Zers are twice as likely as different generations to care about equality issues and three times as likely to believe a brand should serve their community and society. 

How eco-conscious and sustainable a company is truly matters to Gen Z and plays a big role in whether or not they will purchase from them. 

Around 50% of Gen Z have reported that helping the environment is important, while 61% are willing to pay more for ethically produced products. Brands shouldn’t be afraid to show off their sustainability efforts and any positive work they’ve done within their communities. 

Want to reach more Gen Z consumers? Let’s build an effective social media marketing campaign today.

Repurpose customer testimonials

Gen Z trusts word-of-mouth marketing more than previous generations. Because WOM is a significant factor in their decision-making, it can be super helpful for brands to promote positive customer testimonials. 

Not only will this build their brand’s rep, but it also provides social proof that strengthens their credibility with Gen Z.

Gen Zers want to feel heard. Always responding to positive and negative feedback is an excellent way for businesses to show their willingness to accept and listen to criticism. 

Develop a strong brand personality

To be unique is to be remembered. Gen Zers appreciate humanized brands they can talk to, joke around with, and build an emotional bond over time. 

Brands should aim to create a 3-D personality that fully aligns with this generation’s beliefs and values. 

Posting funny memes and sending out witty responses is a great way to catch Gen Z’s attention. However, staying on top of trends is crucial, as recycling outdated memes or posting out-of-touch content can seriously turn them off.

Make the shopping experience a breeze

As the first truly digital generation, Gen Z has high expectations for seamless m-commerce transactions. Being redirected out of an app or having to input financial information is disruptive to them. 

Businesses should invest in ways to make moving through the funnel as easy and distraction-free as possible. 

Offering third-party payment options, such as PayPal and pay-it-later services, allow shoppers to side-step entering their financial info, increasing the chance they’ll complete a purchase.

The takeaway

Now that Gen Z makes up a massive portion of the market, it’s never been more critical for businesses to reach them.

Connecting with Gen Z consumers comes down to understanding who they are, what they want, and how to grab their attention on social media. 

It may seem like a daunting task, but they’re far more open to trying new brands on social media than the generations before them. By leveraging the right social media marketing strategies, it’s easy to tap into this generation and its mighty e-commerce spending power.

Charlotte Soto

Charlotte Soto

    Charlotte is a lead digital strategist at HawkSEM. Through SEO, email, content, and managing website redesigns, she has helped drive digital strategy for several brands including Fortune 500 companies. In her free time, she enjoys binge-watching Netflix, spending time with family, and traveling.

    Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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