Online targeting – More insights from Retail@Google 2017

In the previous edition of The Hardware Journal, our review of the Retail@Google event explained how retailers can reach today’s informed customers who are constantly adapting to new technology. This edition looks at how retailers can be found online.

In the previous article we revealed that 64% of all instore activity is influenced by digital activity, with more consumers conducting product and company research online before making the final purchase. As a result, more businesses are looking at increasing their online activity, to reach out to customers in the early stages of their shopping journey. With the paradigm shift in marketing activity and online research, the heat is on for hardware retailers to reach out to their online audience.

The shift in the research journey.

Getting started

To make a start on getting your business online the first question you need to ask is: what is your objective? Do you want to increase awareness; drive traffic to your site; drive instore traffic; build customer loyalty; or boost sales? Once you have determined what you want to achieve you can plan who you want to target – by location, demographics and/or by interest – and implement your keyword strategy. From there, you can start to build your advertising. Google’s display ads offer a suite of display ad plugins and features to enhance your ad to reach your target audience.

Dynamic display ads

In one of the break-out sessions at Retail@Google, Marc Ó’Fathaigh and David McGinley from Google offered a masterclass in how and why retailers can set up dynamic display ads. Whether a retailer wants to promote a new line of products or generate online business, dynamic display ads can be tailored to meet the specific goals of that business owner. Here are some of the display ad add-ons available, and the average percentage of user clicks for each unit on an ad:

  • Call to action for directions – link to Google Maps direction instructions (very useful for mobile!) – 40%;
  • Map in location – 25%;
  • Call to action for store info – here you can include company opening hours, contact details and other information – 20%;
  • Call to action (buy now) – links to landing page – 5%;
  • Text area – to provide more information – 2%; and,
  • Images – to showcase the brand, products, events, etc. – 2%

Key takeaway: Users want quick and easy information, and they want to be able to find you.

Targeting your chosen audience

So you have your online ad set up, with a clear message and call to action, and you want to promote it to your target audience. How do you reach them? With Google, it’s all about the audience you’re targeting and the intent of the ad, both combined to match your business to search queries.

When it comes to categorising and filtering through audiences by behaviour, location and other demographics, it’s nearly impossible to bid accurately. Google recommends using campaign level lists to easily store, manage and categorise different products or ads. This can be as simple as copying and pasting your audience list into Google AdWords.

From there, ‘IF’ functionality can be used to tailor your ad message to the user, e.g., welcome message or discount offer to first-time visitors, welcome-back messages for returning visitors, reminders for cart abandoners, etc. AdWords Smart Bidding uses audience signals to optimise bids. Smart Bidding is used to automatically adjust the bid to the optimum rate based on a number of variables including audience list membership and individual demographics (age, location, etc.).

Change can be good

Small creative changes to an ad can have a big impact on clickthrough rates (CTR). In a test carried out by Google, by including a note on ‘free shipping’, the CTR was 13%, a call to action (order today) resulted in a CTR of 18%, and including the brand in the headline offered a CTR of 23%. However, the best result, of 35%, was attributed to including the product price in the headline. This drives home how well consumers respond to easily digested information.

Small changes can have a big impact on clickthrough rates.

Ad variations and extensions continue to demonstrate how small changes can have big impacts on campaigns. Ad extensions are a critical factor in ad rank, and allow
advertisers to add more information to product ads to improve and simplify the user’s experience. Features such as product reviews, the product price and sitelinks all enhance the ad and improve the user experience for the customer.

Monitoring and optimising your progress

According to Oli Petas, Search Audience & Automation Lead at Google, “with great power comes great complexity.” As your campaign begins to grow it can be challenging to keep track of progress while managing bidding and structure. Fortunately, there are automation and re-marketing tools available for retailers to optimise how they reach out to online customers:

  • Smart Bidding uses advanced machine learning to automatically optimise bids to reach your audience, depending on their location, behaviour and other variables;
  • Double-Click Inventory Management automatically generates content for your feeds; and,
  • Dynamic Search Ads use your website content to fill any gaps in your keyword-based campaign and optimise targeting.

Google also offers a new feature to online advertisers called the Hygiene Index; a single view of search account/campaign management, scored against Google’s best practices. This allows users to keep track of all campaign performance in one space. From there you can compare performance, and see where you can improve.

Use the hygiene index to monitor multiple campaigns in one place.


In the case of any marketing plan, a specific budget will be dedicated to online marketing activity to fit in with and run concurrently with other business activity. It is recommended by Ryan Fitzgibbon, Product Lead at Google, to define your budget plans ahead of time so you can track your actual spends against target. You can also define goals/success metrics at regular intervals so you can estimate performance and manage spend at a closer range. Goal-setting options:

  • Daily/weekly/monthly allocations;
  • Set multiple goals, such as revenue, clicks, CTR, etc.


Google will soon be releasing budget-based bid strategies to offer better control of campaign spend. To summarise, whether a retailer wants to generate website traffic and sales, or to pull online browsers to an instore sale, online marketing is an effective way of reaching out to audiences, to spark interest and to influence action. With today’s optimisation and creative tools there are more ways for hardware retailers to increase their impact, generate interest, and encourage action. Planning and continuous monitoring and measurement is integral to this. Paul Froggatt, Account Manager at Google, summed it up best when he said, “brilliant strategy is nothing without brilliant execution.”

You can read the first part of our series on Retail@Google here