How to Use Ad Platforms Together to Multiply Your ROI
Are you relying on just one ad platform to acquire most of your ecommerce sales? If yes, you’re not alone. But you are in danger.
We’re always surprised at how many ecommerce brands are reliant on one primary channel for over 80% of their sales. While there is something to be said for focus, this reliance is very risky.
Ad platforms and their algorithms change all the time, and if you’re heavily dependent on one, your business is very vulnerable. What happens if Facebook’s targeting and algorithms change? Or what if your ad account gets shut down?
Goodbye, sales… for however long it takes to get up and running again.
One of the most important aspects of a healthy business is having diversified marketing channels and knowing how to use those channels together to multiply your ROI. In this post, we will provide an overview of a strategy for using a variety of marketing channels, identifying each channel’s purpose, strengths, weaknesses, and ideal strategy, so you can use them in combination to win more sales.
Why Do So Many Brands Rely on Just One Marketing Platform?
If so many brands are making a mistake by relying on one marketing platform (mainly Facebook and Instagram), why do they keep doing it?
One reason could be a lack of knowledge about how all the marketing channels out there (both digital and physical) can and should work together. Most business owners (and even some marketers) see them as independent, each one responsible for capturing conversions.
Speaking of conversions, that brings us to another reason: Business owners and marketers are addicted to immediate ROI. This could come from finances (needing that immediate return), pressure from leadership that wants instant results, or even poor advice from marketing “gurus”.
When you’re hooked on seeing an instant return on your ad dollars, you’ll never invest in learning how to succeed on additional platforms. That means you’ll never get to the point where you’re well-diversified, which is essential for healthy ecommerce growth.
Why Is It Necessary to Use Multiple Marketing Channels?
You need multiple marketing channels in order to be healthily diversified. But you also need multiple channels in order to reach customers effectively— because they spend time in a variety of places, not just their Facebook feed.
However, showing up to multiple channels will only be effective if you have a proper understanding of each channel’s goal.
Many people judge every marketing channel’s performance by the same metric— quantity of sales, or purchases. The problem with that is not every channel’s purpose is to sell.
Consider your process for selling if it were done in person. You would not be asking “ready to buy yet?” at the end of every sentence. Some parts of the conversation are meant to build rapport. Others promote trust or bring clarity or answer common questions. If you judged each piece of the conversation by whether they won the sale, you would think each component was a flop. But they all work together to lead to the sale. Marketing channels work the same way.
The fact is, all of the various platforms (Facebook, Google, Youtube, email, etc.) work together as a team. It’s rare for just one platform to be responsible for a purchase, even if that purchase gets attributed to one platform in your analytics. This certainly makes understanding what’s working more complicated, but it’s just the world we live in.
It’s also important to note that each platform has a completely different reason for why users engage with it. Some are for entertainment. Others are for looking up information, and so on. To be effective, you’ll need to create ads that align with the way people use the platform you’re advertising on.
Marketing Channels to Use to Increase Your ROI
So what channels should ecommerce brands be using in their marketing mix? Below we’ll outline the best marketing channels to use. We’ll also break down the channel’s purpose, strengths, weaknesses, and ideal strategy. By being aware of each of these elements, you’ll be better able to create effective marketing for that channel and watch them play off each other to increase ROI.
Paid Social (Facebook /Instagram)
Facebook and Instagram advertising is usually the center of any paid digital strategy for ecommerce. These are both managed in Facebook’s Ads Manager.
As you probably know from spending time on Facebook and Instagram, these platforms’ primary purpose is for entertainment and connecting with content produced by friends, acquaintances, and trusted brands. Always keep that in mind when creating ads.
Facebook and Instagram have a wide audience reach, sophisticated targeting, and various ad types. Because of that, there is also opportunity to run full marketing funnels, beginning with cold traffic and then retargeting various stages of warm audiences.
The downside to Facebook and Instagram ads is that they have the most noise and competition. Cutting through the noise can be challenging (and expensive). The platform can also be volatile. Whether it’s targeting changes, ads being disapproved, or ad accounts being shut down, working with Ads Manager can be a rollercoaster.
If you’re just starting with paid advertising, this is generally the platform you should get going first. While there is great potential to move someone to purchase, the greatest benefit here is in bringing awareness to cold audiences.
As you’re developing campaigns, keep in mind that your ads will be disrupting people’s entertainment. Make your ads interesting, easy to connect with, and worth the disruption. You’ll also want to be aware that the user’s entertainment mindset makes it harder to convert them, compared to Google where they’re already searching for something.
Paid Search (Google Search, Bing, or other search engines)
Google Search has been a staple in digital ads forever. Even if you’ve never run Google Search Ads for your brand, you have definitely seen them at the top of the search results page when you’re looking for something on your own.
Users on a search engine have come to Google searching for a solution. Whether it’s a product they’re looking for, a brand they remember hearing about, or an answer to a question, they’re searching intentionally. This “intent” component means that you can serve ads that fall directly in line with their search.
As mentioned, with Google Search Ads, you have the ability to serve ads to people at a time when they are looking to solve a problem or answer a question. This means there is a higher potential to see conversions.
Google Search Ads tend to be more expensive per click. There is also less potential traffic, because your audience is based on people who are searching for the keywords that you bid on.
Because the user is on a search for a solution, your ads should be less about entertainment and more about your specific solution, identifying the features and benefits and how you can solve their problem.
When running Google Search Ads, there are two types of campaigns ecommerce brands run:
- The first type is brand-based (usually referred to as “brand” campaigns). For these ads, you will be buying search terms directly related to your brand. This will capture people who are searching for your brand and/or products. These searches were created by your awareness marketing or the general awareness in the market.
- The second type is intent-based (also called “non-brand” campaigns). For these ads, you will be bidding on search terms related to the products or services you sell, but the terms are more general. For example, instead of bidding on your brand name or product titles, you’ll go after general terms like “eye cream” or “women’s multivitamin” or “silicone wedding rings”.
As a baseline, we recommend at least having branded ads running. That way, if you’re running advertising anywhere else, you should be well set up to capture searches created by the interest from the rest of your marketing. Many times people will remember an ad they saw on another channel, and search for it on Google. If your ad is not present at the top of the search results, that potential customer could be pulled toward a competitor who is there.
Once you have that going, do some research on what keywords people search for that are related to what you have to offer and begin separate, non-branded campaigns for those.
After you have Google Search Ads running, you might also consider setting up ads on Bing as a secondary search channel.
Shopping (Google Shopping Ads)
Google Shopping operates similarly to Google Search, but these ads are specifically for ecommerce products. Rather than appearing as an ad in the search results section, your “ad” is a product listing featured in the Shopping section of the search results.
As its name suggests, shopping. Users go to Google Shopping to browse products from many different merchants if they know what they want but are not sure who to buy from.
Google Shopping is relatively easy to set up and manage with the right expertise. Ecommerce brands also tend to see a high conversion rate.
The downside to Google Shopping is that there is limited search volume (again, your audience is based on the keywords you bid on and then “win”). You also have limited control over the way you are ranked and placed among other product listings.
Google Shopping is a no-brainer standard for any ecommerce brand. Similar to Google Search, it’s an area that can capture the spillover effects of other areas of paid marketing.
It requires some technical expertise to set up, and you’ll want to make sure that prices and stock are synced with Google in real-time. Also, when running promotions, make sure that the sale price is shown in your product listings. There are apps for most ecommerce platforms that can assist with this. Finally, keep in mind that Bing can be added as a secondary shopping channel as well.
Video (YouTube Ads)
YouTube is a very powerful marketing channel for ecommerce brands. It’s newer and less crowded than Facebook and gives you the opportunity to be in front of users when they’re already in the mindset to consume video content. Since video is harder to create than a standard ad, the barrier to entry is also higher, which means less competition for you.
Entertainment, and in particular, video consumption. People also use YouTube as a search engine to solve problems, look for product reviews, find tutorials, and more.
As mentioned, YouTube has less noise and competition for advertisers. It also has great targeting and is a cost-effective way to gain a lot of awareness.
Since it is oftentimes more of an awareness play, attribution can be difficult when advertising on YouTube. Also, creating high-quality video ads can be challenging and time-intensive, and you need good videos in order to run effective ads.
Ultimately, YouTube is used to create massive brand and product awareness that is then captured by ads on other channels like Facebook or Google Search.
This has the potential to be a major win for getting new people into your funnel, but it also comes at a cost. You’ll need to be able to invest in high-quality video, that is also entertaining and convincing. Think about brands that do this well, like Dollar Shave Club, Purple Mattress, and Squatty Potty. They’ve mastered the art of video ads that people actually want to watch. Make this your goal with video ads as well.
With that in mind, YouTube advertising typically comes into play with a more mature marketing strategy, once you have the essentials down (Facebook/Instagram, Google Search, and Shopping).
Display (Banner Ads, via Google or Other Networks)
When digital advertising began, banners (ads that are run through various networks and placed on millions of websites) used to be the only option. With so many other ways to advertise, banners are now just an addition to a strategy. Typically we don’t see banner ads convert very well; in fact, there have been multiple studies done on “banner blindness”. But they can serve a role in both awareness and retargeting.
Banner ads are a disruption just like social media ads. The challenge is that they are placed on so many different sites that you have no way of helping them fit in nicely with the users’ experiences. For that reason, people rarely see them as anything other than a nuisance.
As mentioned, banner ads can provide awareness or reminders of your brand/product.
There are a few issues with banner ads. Users don’t typically like them, so they can be expensive per click and usually have a low conversion rate. And again, you can’t control their placement, so the ads might be disruptive, invasive, not a great fit with the website, etc.
We’ve found that banner ads are best used as retargeting for users in the warm and hot stages of your funnel. They can provide a level of brand awareness and help give another reminder to return to your store after visiting, browsing, and abandoning.
Extra Paid Ad Opportunities: Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, Etc.
There are many other ways to advertise including Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, LinkedIn, and even streaming platforms like Hulu. Your brand might consider these platforms if your audience is present on them. Adding extra channels is always a good thing and it’s important to invest in a variety of platforms, even if they don’t convert as well as others. Diversifying your marketing is always better than being a slave to just one or two platforms.
Organic Social Media (Facebook and Instagram)
Not all marketing has to be paid advertising! Think of organic social media (your Facebook and Instagram accounts) as your brand’s mouthpiece.
Social media’s purpose is entertainment and connection through content. With that in mind, your posts must be entertaining or educational, inspire conversation, and help your followers feel personally connected to your brand.
Having a strong organic social presence is great for brand awareness, growing your audience, and building relationships with your customers. Once it’s working, it also makes for less expensive traffic.
The downside to organic social is that it requires investment on your part. It’ll take time and money to grow your following. It’s also not typical to see a high conversion rate or immediate return on these channels.
A great foundation for your organic social content is to focus on your brand’s purpose, your “why”. This will help followers connect with you on a deeper level and see how your products can fit into their life. With that in mind, also add value with what you post. Make the customer the hero, not you. Rather than talking like a salesperson, speak like a helpful friend. To do this, you’ll also need to be consistent and know your audience well.
Organic Search Engine Optimization (Google, Bing)
SEO is a common term in the marketing world that ultimately refers to a content-based strategy for appearing in organic search results that your audience is looking for. To be clear, this refers to the search results below the paid ads at the top of the page.
Search engines and their results are made for problem solving and exploration. This means you will need to write content on your site that fits that mold.
The primary “win” that comes with good SEO is free traffic when you appear for relevant searches high on the list. Because users are usually searching with intent, we typically see a high conversion rate with organic searches.
SEO requires heavy investment in content writing, optimization, and technical skills. It’s typically a long path to return, but is still worthwhile.
In short, you will need to focus on great, relevant content that adds value to the consumer. It’s an art and science of knowing how to write content your users care about and are searching for while also tying in your products in a way that’s helpful and not too sales-oriented. Since knowing how to write for SEO and how to structure pages can get technical, we definitely recommend finding a team of experts to help.
Where to Start Diversifying Your Marketing Channels
With so many options for marketing, how do you know where your brand should start? The first three channels are your fundamentals, so we recommend every brand start there: Facebook/Instagram advertising, Google Search, and Google Shopping. From those essentials, you can begin investing in other ways to get people into your funnel.
Ultimately, diversifying your marketing channels and using them together to boost ROI is all about finding a healthy balance. This takes work, but business always takes work. You’ll need to understand the purpose of each of your channels and how users want to be engaged with each. Once you do, you’ll be able to use each to its fullest potential.