When automation for PPC may not be the best option for retailers

Advertising platforms, and indeed most digital platforms, are offering more and more automation tools as time goes on. However, it is important to look at the bigger picture and not always view channels in isolation. There are several key examples when automation may not be the best solution for retailers using paid search. As consumers we increasingly expect more from brands as we navigate the web, and with so many user signals to process, improvements in personalisation, bidding and creative testing can help retailers drive growth and save time. When it comes to bidding and automation the best approach for you will vary depending on your objectives. But we’ve looked at some cases below when automation may not be the best route for you.

When may automation not be your best route?

You may feel you are falling behind industry best practices by not rolling fancy new features out on Google Ads and Google Shopping, but it’s important to remember that no one, including Google, knows your business as well as you. So, there are some cases when doing it the manual way might be best!

For omni-channel retailers

Lots of retailers have multiple physical store locations and for others, factors such as telephone sales are still a key part of business. In these instances, it is important not to view different channels in isolation, but instead to try and understand what impact online may be having on offline and vice versa. For example, it might be the case that in a physical store you have bestsellers which may underperform in terms of ROI. However, ensuring strong online coverage is critical to drive footfall and stay ahead of competitors, which automation would not yet be able to optimise towards. On the other hand, you may get products that begin to sell well through telephone sales for example but have limited coverage on Google, so you can learn from this and adjust bids accordingly. Google looks at individual purchase ROI for products and does not consider the whole picture. Some consumers may only visit a store if a certain collection or brand is available, and so you want to keep coverage on these without risking a drop in bids or impressions due to automation.

When certain stock outperforms others

When working with online retailers, stock and inventory is a key consideration when optimising accounts, more so in some industries than others. Each business has their own nuances when it comes to stock and inventory, and it’s key to understand this in order to set up campaigns correctly. For example, there is not point in automating a whole product if sizes Small and Large sell out the fastest and leave the campaign running with unprofitable bids on remaining sizes that consumers do not want. Instead, for businesses that recognise these stock and inventory fluctuations it might be best to take a more manual approach. When most popular sizes, or colours, sell out or get low in stock then you can reduce the amount you are bidding. Once they are back in stock, you can increase again, ensuring there is no wasted spend.

For best-selling products

For best-selling products, it is sometimes the case that they are not as actively pushed by Google. Instead, it will often find a number of stock keeping units that achieve the targets outlined, and simply allocate the spend here. From a business perspective, you may have a new product or stock that you know is selling really well across the business as a whole that you want to push further. Instead of letting automation limit the coverage of new/best-selling products, it might be worth adjusting bids manually for certain items.

How to decide which bidding method to use

If you are looking to increase automation across your ads account, it is important to introduce this slowly so that you can measure the impact and get a good comparison against manually controlled campaigns. A/B testing through drafts and experiments is a good place to start with automation, and lets you get an idea of how a campaign might perform. Through drafts and experiments you can determine the proportion of traffic that goes through automated or manual bidding, dictate your test timeframe, and compare performance as you go. Keeping testing simple is best, as you can more easily and effectively monitor and measure impact. Make sure you test for a good period of time, to ensure you are getting the best comparison possible. You will then be able to determine which method of bidding works for you and your products/services. The key is to test, test and test again to better understand what works best. Just remember, no one knows your business as well as you do – not even Google! For more information on bidding, setting up campaigns and general PPC help, get in touch with the friendly team at AdPilot today.