The ecommerce industry is currently worth $6.3 trillion globally and ecommerce sales are set to increase by 10% in 2023.
If you’re a growing ecommerce brand, I’m sure you want a piece of that pie. 🤑 Advertising campaigns are a great way to boost brand awareness and drive traffic to your website, fast. You can run them alongside your organic marketing channels to help you get in front of relevant audiences and rack up sales on a short-term basis.
But where do you start? In this article, we’ll dive into 9 ad strategies you can use right away.
What’s ecommerce advertising?
Ecommerce advertising involves paying for ad placements on paid media channels. The goal is to promote your products, drive traffic to your website and increase the overall profits of your business. In this post, we’ll be talking about online advertising—though some ecommerce brands may choose to try offline advertising (like buying ad spots in printed magazines and billboards).
💡It’s important to note that ads are ideal if you’re looking to boost online sales quickly. They should be mixed in with your long-term ecommerce marketing strategies like search engine optimisation (SEO) and content marketing.
Why are ecommerce ads good for business?
As we mentioned, you’ll need to invest in ecommerce ads. So, understandably, your boss might need to know what benefits your brand will actually get from all the new campaigns you want to set up. Here are some pointers:
- Get ahead of your competitors: Growing your business organically takes time. And, considering the sheer number of online stores across the web, it’s easy to get lost amongst your competitors. Ads will help you gain visibility across search and social.
- Get in front of the right audience: Most (if not all) ad channels allow you to target specific audiences. And retargeting campaigns mean you can serve ads to people who are already interested in your products.
- Boost brand awareness: Customers need multiple brand touchpoints before they decide to buy. In other words, it’s no good just posting a product pic to Instagram and hoping someone will click on it. You need to give your potential customers time to trust your brand. A good mix of ad campaigns and content can help you do this.
9 ecommerce ad strategies to try today
Ready to get started? Here are some ecommerce advertising strategies you can use to help drive traffic to your website and convert customers.
Create cold ads to warm up your audiences
You may have heard the terms ‘warm audiences’ and ‘cold audiences’. A warm audience is a group of people who already know about your brand. A cold audience is those who’ve never heard of you before. You can use advertising to help ‘warm’ them up.
With that in mind, you’ll need some idea of who you want to target. Most ad platforms like Meta, Google search engine or Pinterest will allow you to create a target audience as you’re setting up your campaigns. So if you’ve got buyer personas that highlight your audience’s pain points—this is the time to use them.
It’s also important to know you can’t necessarily expect a conversion straight away, especially if this is the first time people have heard of you. Instead, try and peak interest and prompt some sort of action—like encourage them to visit your site so they can be added to your remarketing campaigns.
One way to do this is by trying to affect some sort of behavioural change. This is particularly relevant to smaller brands. For products in established categories, customers often have favourites or brands they've been using for years. In order to sell your own products you need to plant a seed that gets prospective customers to consider alternatives and break the habit. Here’s an example from Smol.
In this ad, Smol recognises that consumers want easier ways to be more environmentally friendly. So they encourage them to change their laundry supplier whilst going head-to-head against leading brand, Ariel. And finally, this ad points people to Smol’s website where they’ll get a chance to convert or serve retargeting ads in the future.
Key takeaway: By understanding your target audience and their pain points you can create ads that encourage behavioural change.
Retarget people who’ve visited your website
Once people start visiting your website you can retarget them with ads across different channels. At this point, you know your visitors are at least a little bit curious about your brand or products. Now that your audience knows who you are, retargeting ads aim to provide them with more information and pull them further down the sales funnel. You could also use retargeting to encourage loyal customers to buy from you again or remind people they’ve abandoned their shopping cart.
You can set up display ads on Google through the Google Display Network or push retargeting ads via social channels like Instagram and Pinterest.
Just take a look at this post from County Living as an example. I’ve recently viewed COAT Paints’ website — they’re one of Dash’s customers. As you can see, I now get display ads from them on websites in the GDN enticing me back in with their new, affordable colours. 😍
To set up retargeting ads you’ll need to use tracking pixels that will collect visitor data from your website and send it to your ad platforms. You’ll be able to see new and returning customers and how long they spent on your site. This will then feed back to your ad platforms to decide which ads your audience should be shown.
You can then analyse this data in an analytics platform. Peel, for example, collects all your data in one easy-to-view dashboard. You’ll get a comprehensive analysis of your different channels so you can see which ads are performing the best.
Key takeaways: Set up retargeting ads that will get shown to people who’ve already visited your website. You could show them a new product line or dig deeper into their pain points.
Jump on Pinterest trends
If your brand has products that lend themselves to gorgeous imagery then Pinterest could be the social platform for you. 😍 Pinterest allows you to create top-level campaigns and segmented ad groups. Here you can also target people with particular interests and demographics.
When you’re choosing what type of content to show in your ad creatives, take a look at Pinterest trends to see what people are searching for right now. If we take Planto—a brand we’re working on in Dash—we can see how popular the keyword ‘house plant’ has been on Pinterest over the past few months. We can also see the demographics of people searching for the term, along with related search terms that might be popular at the moment.
Key takeaway: Use Pinterest trends to see what people are searching for. If you have relevant content like product or brand images that relate to trending keywords you could test these out in your ads.
🤓 Take a read of our ecommerce brand’s guide to Pinterest for more tips.
Add user-generated content into your ads
Social proof is a huge driver for buyers. In fact, 79% of people say user-generated content (UGC) impacts their decision to make a purchase. Being able to show real customers using your products will help build trust with potential buyers—it’s basically like virtual word-of-mouth marketing. So if you can mix UGC into your ads, you’ll be on to a winner. 🙌
Take cat food brand, KatKin, as an example. One of their Facebook ads highlights a customer story about a rescue cat who’s experienced loads of health benefits since eating fresh cat food. 🥰
Key takeaway: Inject UGC into your ads to build trust with your audience. Positive customer reviews are sure to win over your audience. You can even use Dash (our digital asset management software) to collect UGC ready to drop into your campaigns. Check out how Forthglade does this with their ‘Dog of the Month’ competition.
🤓 Take a read of our guide to Facebook ads for more inspo.
Hire influences to promote your products
Similar to UGC, influencers are a great way to build trust with your audience. The difference here is you’ll need to pay people to promote your products (rather than UGC which is usually free). Partnering with an influencer means your brand will get exposure to their audience—so it’s worth finding people who’s audience matches your buyer personas.
Food brand, Talenti, partnered with the influencer platform, Grin, to find TikTok creators to help promote their products. They launched a #foodchallenge which encouraged creators to create new recipes using Talent’s ingredients. They were able to reach 19,474 new people on TikTok and saw their follower count increase by 184k! This clearly had a massive impact on brand awareness. 🙌
Key takeaway: Partner with relevant influencers to help reach new audiences and grow your social media presence. You could promote video ads on TikTok to help push your influencer content even further.
🤓 Have a browse of our list of 20 influencer marketing tools to help you get started.
Find your best-performing ever-green content
You won’t always know what ads are going to resonate with your audience. It may take a little experimentation and tweaking before you find the assets and copy combinations that really work. But when you do, you can reuse them over and over again.
George, COAT’s Senior Marketing Manager, told me they continuously run ever-green ads.
“We’ll refresh the assets now and again when they get outdated, but this baseline content means we always have ads running that we know work.”
One way to track how well an asset has performed is by using Dash. You can use a field called ‘performance’ to indicate how well a product shot or lifestyle image has performed. Then, when you’re next building your ad campaigns, you can filter through your best-performing assets. Here’s a look at some of the best-performing assets from Planto (a brand we created for demo purposes 🪴).
Key takeaway: Take a look at what ads are being clicked on the most and which have the highest conversion rates. From there you can track which assets generally do the best.
⚠️ A word of warning: most platforms want to claim ‘last click’. Someone might have first seen your product via a shopping ad on Google but they weren’t quite ready to buy. When they see your ad on Facebook a week later, they might finally be ready and decide to click through to your site. In this case, your metrics will report Facebook as winning over that particular customer. But it’s hard to determine which creative actually made them want to buy. All you can do is keep tweaking and experimenting until you find a mix of ads that work.
Promote products through shopping ads
Shopping ads are ideal for ecommerce businesses. They help customers compare your products against competitors and they’re super visual—ideal for quickly showing off your wares. Channels like Google and Amazon offer shopping ads. They’re often tailored to a person’s shopping history and can appear in search results and in recommendations (think of the ‘recommended’ products section you see on Amazon).
To get started you’ll need to set up a Google Ad account or Amazon Seller account. Once you submit images and product data, each platform will then serve up ads to people based on their search intent. Here’s a Google Shopping result for ‘sunscreen.’
You can see a number of different brands including Beauty Pie and La Roche-Posay alongside market leaders like Nivea. All results include pricing and images, but only a couple have product ratings. Something to bear in mind if you decide to use this channel—that could be the deciding factor for your customers. 👀
Key takeaway: A mix of good visuals, reviews and transparent pricing will help you stand out in Google Shopping results.
Get involved with affiliate marketing
An affiliate program (also known as affiliate marketing) is when another company or publication receives a commission in return for featuring your product on its website. You might want to feature in a newsletter, blog post, or through a big media site like Amazon Associates.
To get started, it’s worth considering where your audience hangs out. Take Needle and Thread, an online fashion brand. They sell beautiful (yet affordable) dresses for special occasions like weddings. So getting featured in bridal publications is a fantastic place to meet their target audience. Charlotte—the brand’s Digital Marketing Manager—says online magazines like Hitched regularly feature them in product recommendation pieces in exchange for a commission.
Key takeaway: Look for places your audience regularly hangs out and see if there’s potential for an affiliate partnership. Tools like Sparktoro will help you find the blogs and publications your audience is reading. You could also partner with an agency or online service like the Shopify Affiliates Program to find participating companies.
Experiment with a variety of assets on Meta
Instagram and Facebook (both owned by Meta) are super-popular with ecommerce brands who want to run social media advertising campaigns. In fact, Facebook ads have the potential to reach 2.8 billion people. All this user data means Meta can easily serve up ads based on a person’s interests and browsing history.
This is something you’ll need to consider if you decide to create ads on Facebook or Instagram. How will you know which of your ad creatives are going to resonate with Meta’s audience?
Charlotte (Needle and Thread’s Digital Marketing Manager) recommends uploading a variety of assets to get around this problem.
“Facebook and Instagram ads work best with a variety of assets added to each campaign. Not only does this allow Meta to select assets based on what the user will interact best with, but its shows users different assets if targeted multiple times by the same brand.”
Here’s a look at one of Needle and Thread’s Facebook campaigns.
In each ad variation, the model is posing differently. These might seem like relatively small tweaks, but it means their audience won’t be constantly shown the exact same image. Plus Needle and Thread can measure which ad creative is resonating the best—perfect for planning future ad campaigns.
Key takeaway: Make sure you’re shooting your products at different angles and providing Meta with a variety of assets. Take a read of our guide to DIY product photography for tips if you’re not ready to hire a photographer.
How to get started with ecommerce ad campaigns
As you can see, there are loads of ways you can get started with ecommerce ad campaigns. You could choose to promote your products across multiple channels or stick to a couple where you know your audience is most likely to convert. But before you start, here are some things to consider.
Understand your goals
Before launching loads of campaigns across multiple platforms, make sure you understand what you want to achieve. This will make it easier to track how well your ads are performing. Perhaps you want to promote a particular product line—in this case you could track the number of sales you get from your ads over a certain period of time. Or maybe you want to raise brand awareness. In this case, you could track how many mentions your brand gets on social or Google searches.
Set a budget
Ecommerce ads will likely come out of your overall marketing budget—so make sure to get input from whoever is controlling the purse strings first.
The good thing about creating ad campaigns is that most of them work on a pay-per-click basis (PPC). That means you can set up an ad for free and you’ll only get charged once people start clicking through to your website. The cost of PPC will vary from channel to channel, but if you set up a maximum budget on each platform you can easily keep an eye on costs. Emil Ougendal Bolstad — Head of Social Strategy at Anicca (our paid media agency)— recommends setting aside a minimum of £1000-£2000 per month for each channel.
Set up your tools
If you’re creating campaigns across multiple channels things can get pretty chaotic. You’ll want to set up tools to help you create, manage and report on your ads. Here are some to get you started:
- Dash - think about all the visual content you’ll need for your ads. Every channel has different image requirements and prefers different types of content. Dash is a place for your to store, organise and share all that content with your team and agencies. You can resize your images for social and sync up with design tools like Canva to help you get your campaigns up and running quickly.
- Canva - If you’re designing ads yourself (and you’re not a designer) Canva is the perfect tool to help you create eye-catching image and video content. Take a read of my post to discover tips on improving your Canva design skills.
- Google Ads - if you want to advertise on Google Shopping or Google Search you’ll need to set up a Google ad account.
- Google Analytics - Discover which channels are performing the best and see how well visitors are converting on your website.
- Pencil AI - Use AI to create effective ads across your campaigns. Pencil AI uses $1bn worth of ad data to predict which creative assets and copy are going to work best for your brand.
- Triple Whale - Deep-dive into your ad data and discover the highest-performing ads across your entire campaign. Triple Whale leans into first-party data to help you get a better grasp of your ROAS and do some conversion rate optimisation.
🤓 You can find more marketing tools in Barney’s post—the 11 best marketing apps for small businesses.
Install ad pixels
To track the effectiveness of your ads it’s worth setting up pixels. These are short bits of code that can be placed on your website to collect ad conversions.
Let’s say someone clicks on your Facebook ad and gets taken to your website. A Meta pixel will send that information back to Facebook to track how people are engaging with your ad. Most social channels, as well as Google, will have pixels that you can code into your website. The more data you can collect, the easier it’ll be to optimise future campaigns.
Get your assets ready
Finally, it’s time to get your creative assets ready to drop into your campaigns. Whether it’s product images for Instagram, UGC videos for TikTok, or lifestyle shots for Pinterest—you’ll need a wide range of assets for different channels. Using a tool like Dash will help you keep everything organised and ready to deploy to your advertising platforms. You’ll be able to:
- Resize images for your different social media platforms
- Search your library of images for design inspiration
- Share content with your agencies and freelancers
- Drop images to Canva from Dash (without going back and forth between apps)
Ready to get started? Try Dash free for 14 days—you won’t even need to enter your credit card details. 👇👇👇