A new spin on Google Shopping promotional offers

Over the past few years, Google has made significant changes in how they serve ads for product and shopping related searches.  With the improved user experience provided by the Shopping Ad format, we now see these ads taking a prominent position for nearly every search containing product or shopping intent.  This space has become extremely competitive and retailers are always seeking ways to gain the upper hand.

One way that Google tries to help advertisers stand out is by providing them with the ability to include promotions in their Shopping Ads.  This allows a retailer to stand out from their competition and potentially capture more sales.  However, this feature from Google sometimes comes with unexpected side effects.  It can definitely drive additional sales, but may do so with the unintended consequence of causing a large volume of additional low value clicks.  This is because the promotional offer included in the ad is compelling not only to those interested in buying the product from your brand, but also to tire-kickers browsing around for bargains with almost no intention to buy.

In order to gain this same lift in sales, while also controlling costs, test serving a promotional offer to users visiting your site from a Google Shopping ad, but only AFTER they have clicked through to your site.  Each ecommerce platform has its own way of doing this, but the best practice would be to present the offer in a banner on the landing page to this specific segment of users.  This tactic will likely result in the same sales lift found by placing the promotion on the ad itself.  It may actually result in a larger lift due to the pleasant surprise experienced by users.  Additionally, because the offer is not being displayed in the ad, you will avoid paying for extra clicks from discount tire-kickers.  Only users that have shown interest in your product, without an incentive, are being exposed to the offer, and the promotion simply helps them continue down the funnel.


Targeting Prospects with Gmail Sponsored Promotions

Google is well known in the digital marketing world for both its paid search and display advertising opportunities.  These are leveraged by companies large and small to execute branding, re-marketing, and prospecting campaigns.  However, another underutilized channel exists within the Google ecosystem hidden as a type of display advertising.

This advertising channel is known as Gmail Sponsored Promotions.  Those with a Gmail account have likely come across these ads before.  They can be found within the promotions tab and sit above your actual email and are marked as “sponsored” emails.  Outside of providing a unique way to get in front of potential customers, Gmail Sponsored Promotions campaigns also have exciting targeting capabilities for advertisers.

Similar to paid search campaigns, Gmail Sponsored promotions offer the opportunity to target ads based on keywords.  However, instead of the keywords being triggered based on search queries entered by users, Gmail campaigns target keywords contained within a user’s inbox.  Marketers can target users receiving emails from competitor domains, or emails containing keywords that indicate interests or affinities related to your company’s offering.  Layer on top of this the ability to re-market to users that have previously visited your website, upload lists of customers from your email file (a feature known as Customer Match), and target based on demographic segments and the possibilities are truly endless.

Marketers seeking a unique way to message both current and potential customers should consider testing Gmail Sponsored Promotions.  With great ad placements, granular targeting abilities, and generally low bid requirements, it is a channel worth further exploration.


Exploring Incremental Return

As brands continually offer more and more ways for consumers to engage with them, the opportunities to develop more complex marketing strategies also increases.  This is exciting for a marketer as the additional touch points bring with them the potential for better response rates, increased brand awareness, and ultimately, higher lifetime value from their customers.  Many case studies tout the impressive overall return on investment of these robust marketing plans.  These metrics look great at face value, but how can one be certain that the incremental investments are driving incremental return?

Let’s explore the concept of incremental return by starting with a baseline marketing investment of $100 that drives revenue of $1,000.  Perhaps this is a simple marketing strategy that only involves one tactic.  As additional marketing tactics are explored, the investments will continue to increase, and hopefully so will the revenue.  For our example, let’s imagine that over time the marketing strategy has grown to include three tactics with a total investment of $300 driving revenue of $2,100.  Our case study would show an increase in revenue of over 2x and a whopping 7 to 1 return on ad spend.  This sounds great, but how do we know if our additional investments are truly paying for themselves?  This is where measuring incremental return becomes critical.

When we only had one marketing tactic, our return on ad spend was 10 to 1.  When we added in marketing tactic two, let’s imagine that ratio was maintained and our ad spend increased to $200 with revenue of $2,000.  Marketing tactic three brought us to the $300 investment and $2,100 revenue mentioned earlier.  With this in mind, marketing tactic two resulted in an incremental investment of $100, incremental revenue of $1,000, and an incremental return of 10 to 1.  This is right in line with marketing tactic one.  However, marketing tactic three resulted in an incremental investment of $100, incremental revenue of $100, and an incremental return of only 1 to 1.  Not nearly as impressive as the 7 to 1 touted in our case study.

As marketers explore more complex marketing plans, you can see how important it is to do so with a focus on the incremental return of those investments.  This is especially important as additional tactics overlap with each other and result in additional messages to the same customers.  A well structured testing plan can help provide visibility into these incremental returns and ensure additional investments are truly adding value to your organization.


Automated Bidding and RLSA Audiences

Google continually churns out new features to help paid search marketers optimize their advertising campaigns in AdWords.  These powerful tools can certainly have a tremendous impact on both the efficiency and scale of your advertising efforts.  However, sometimes the interplay of these features is less known.  Here we’ll take a look at how to leverage automated bidding and audiences together to get the most out of your paid search investments.

For AdWords campaigns that have enough conversion volume, marketers have the ability to enable automated bidding.  This feature allows Google to increase or decrease bids based on campaign performance and your business objectives.  There are a few different options available, including automating your bidding to hit a target return on ad spend (ROAS).

Google Analytics and Google AdWords can also be used together to create remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA).  This feature allows you to create audiences based on actions users have previously taken on your website.  These audiences can then be targeted in paid search campaigns or have bids modified based on their potential value.  For example, with RLSA a marketer could increase bids for users that had added items to their shopping cart but have not yet converted.

Automated bidding and RLSA are powerful tools on their own and can be even more powerful when used together.  Imagine allowing bids to be automated to hit your business objectives, while also providing Google the flexibility to increase or decrease bids based on a user’s previous behavior and likelihood to convert.  This sounds great in theory, but to ensure Google will adjust bids for RLSA audiences, the structure of your audiences is absolutely critical.

The key is to make sure there is no overlap in RLSA audiences.  Put another way, audiences should be structured in a fashion that makes it impossible for a user to be part of more than one audience at a time.  This is because Google automated bidding will forego making audience bid adjustments if a user is part of multiple audiences (which defeats the purpose of RLSA).  To avoid this, approach setting up your audiences with both inclusions and exclusions.  For example, if your first audience includes “previous converters”, consider defining your next audience as including “cart additions” while excluding “previous converters.”  By continuing to layer inclusions and exclusions in this manner you can be certain that any potential audience overlap has been eliminated.

Consider defining your audiences in this fashion for your next paid search campaign.  Doing so will allow you to take full advantage of both automated bidding and RLSA audience bid adjustments.


Affiliate Summit West 2017

A few weeks ago I attended Affiliate Summit West in Las Vegas for the first time.  With my background being primarily in Paid Search and Display advertising, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  I’ve always been skeptical of the Affiliate channel and how much incremental value it truly adds to an organization.  At first glance, the channel has always seemed to be driven by publishers using discounts, coupons, and cash back offers to claim credit for sales that were likely going to occur anyway.  I was hopeful that the Affiliate Summit would show me another side of the channel.

Affiliate Summit West is three full days of educational sessions following numerous marketing related tracks along with plenty of networking opportunities.  I sat in on countless sessions and was taken aback with the quality of both the topics and presenters.  The sessions covered everything from attribution modeling to conversion rate optimization, with almost no mention of coupon publishers.  It was fascinating to learn about the untapped potential the Affiliate channel had to offer.  I came away excited to focus on developing relationships with quality publishers rather than continuing to simply expand our placements on coupon sites.  It was also interesting to hear how some advertisers are encouraging publishers to add more value by implementing customized compensation plans with higher rewards when a publisher sends a new vs a returning customer.

Attending Affiliate Summit West was a great experience and opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities in this under leveraged channel.  I am anxious to see what Affiliate Summit 2018 has in store.