On-Site Advertising — What Works?

E-Commerce, Online Advertising

Advertising directly on a retailer site puts your brand as close as possible to the point of purchase. It allows you the opportunity to speak directly to your potential customers when you can guarantee they are in that purchase mindset. So now that you’re given this great opportunity, how do you capitalize on it? What is the best kind of messaging, the best kind of targeting, the best tactics to include, etc.?

Retailer advertising opportunities vary an incredible amount when comparing one retail partner to another. To add to the complexity, these opportunities are changing month to month as the world of E-Commerce and E-Commerce media evolves. That said, the guiding principles below should help you in your decision-making for where, when and how to advertise on-site.

Search or Display

The first question to ask yourself is how much to dedicate to search and display advertising. Generally, search helps you reach customers with higher levels of intent. It works the hardest at pressuring your competitors and achieving incremental sales.

If funds are limited or if you are dealing with a new brand and are unclear who your customer base is, stick to search ads only. If you are working with a brand with a recognizable name or you have extra funds and want to make a new-to-market splash with a less-established brand, this is when display would enter your plan.


The next question is flighting – when to be advertising, for how long, etc. Again, since search puts you closer to that highest-intent moment. The best strategy, when possible, is to have search live year round, assuming the brand is relevant year round.

For display (and for search if always-on is not possible) you should determine the highest intent, highest sales-driving timeframes and focus your efforts there. As a rule of thumb, it is better to properly capitalize on important timeframes and make a clear impact rather than trying to stretch your budget too thin across a longer period, resulting in no positive impact.

Tactics & Targeting

As mentioned for display, available tactics can vary an incredible amount retailer site to retailer site. With what is available to you, try to include highly visible tactics and broad-reaching targeting for awareness-focused initiatives (think a new brand launch). On the opposite end, keep targeting more focused/narrow for evergreen initiatives or for more niche brands meant to focus on driving incremental sales.

For search, focus a majority of your efforts on non-branded search terms. This is where you have opportunity to steal share from your competitors. Also make sure you have a small amount supplementing branded search terms, especially for well-known brands, so your competitors don’t steal share from someone looking for your product.


Last but not least, the messaging on your display ads is incredibly important. This is your chance to tell the customer why to choose your product. In order for that conversion to happen, you must marry your intent with their mindset – is this everyday shopping, are they browsing for an event, are you trying to get them to purchase something new, etc.? The key is to keep your messaging clear and to the point.


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