YouTube Advertising: How to Drive eCommerce Sales with Video Ads

Ron Dodby Ron Dod

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Social media marketing is one of the most essential strategies for retailers to leverage for increasing brand awareness, traffic and sales. However, with so much emphasis constantly placed on Instagram and Facebook eCommerce targeting features, powerful tactics like YouTube advertising go largely overlooked.

According to Alexa’s top 500 sites on the web, YouTube is the second most-visited site in the world, right behind its parent site, Google. Additionally, when it comes to holding a viewer’s attention, research from Ipsos and Google shows that YouTube advertising via mobile is “84 percent more likely to receive attention than TV advertising.”

What this all means is that eCommerce retailers who are not utilizing YouTube advertising to build their brand and revenue are missing out on a massive opportunity for growth.

The fact is that YouTube advertising is a powerful means of reaching a target audience through an engaging format.

youtube 2nd most visited site graphic

While many tend to forgo advertising on YouTube because the system can seem intimidating, the truth is that it is not nearly as complicated as it may seem at first glance.

That said, today, we will be helping merchants cut their teeth with YouTube advertising by going over the different ad types available, how to create video ads that drive sales and establishing an ad campaign on the platform.

YouTube Advertising Options

Much like other social media platforms, YouTube offers various video advertising formats.

The ad types that YouTube provides to users include:

Skippable In-Stream Ads

Formerly known as TrueView ads, this is the original type of video advert that most of YouTube’s users are familiar with as they have been around the longest and are one of the most widely used formats.

This YouTube advertising format presents users with a skippable video that typically plays before a video and features a related banner on the right-hand side of the video player. That said, the ad can play prior to, during or after a piece of content.

skip ad option on youtube highlighted

Through this ad type, by default, sellers will pay after 30 seconds of the video has been watched. That said, given that viewers can skip the video at any time, retailers using this format must create a video that grabs a user’s attention immediately and then proceeds to inform folks about the brand or the product being promoted.

The maximum runtime for this ad type is three minutes and the recommended minimum is twelve seconds, but retailers will likely want to create an ad that is longer than the recommended minimum.

Non-Skippable In-Stream Ads

Formerly known as pre-roll ads, these non-skippable adverts can be 15 to 20 seconds long (depending on regional standards) and can play before, during or after a piece of content.

video will play after ad highlight

This YouTube advertising format is an excellent mobile ad option due to its length. While some users can (justifiably) find these ads to be intrusive and annoying, if retailers create a compelling enough of a clip, they can reap significant results from this type of campaign, particularly in increasing levels of brand awareness.

Bumper Ads

Another short, non-skippable YouTube ad type is bumper ads.

Bumper ads can be up to six seconds long and can be played before, during or after YouTube videos. Additionally, this ad format can also be featured on Google’s partner sites or applications.

video will play after ad video highlight

This YouTube advertising option is usually used in conjunction with other types of video adverts to help elevate awareness and increase reach. In fact, as a Google study on bumper ads reveals:

“We tested over 300 bumper campaigns this year and found that 9 out of 10 drove a significant lift in ad recall. Bumper ads can work well on their own or when paired with a TrueView or Google Preferred campaign, delivering incremental reach and frequency.”

Discovery Ads

Formerly known as Display Ads or In-Display Ads, discovery ads are shown on related YouTube videos, search page results and the platform’s homepage.

youtube ad video highlight

Discovery ads consist of a thumbnail and text (much like a recommended video) that entices viewers to watch the video by clicking-through.

These ads can be up to 12 seconds long and are ideal for improving a brand’s reach and driving paid traffic.

Outstream Ads

Outstream YouTube ads are a type of mobile-only video advert that surfaces in partner applications and websites off of YouTube. Implemented back in 2018, Google launched outstream ads to boost video reach beyond YouTube, thereby marking a fundamental shift in the video advertising landscape.

These ads are placed in partner websites and apps as banners, interstitials and other formats, with the video being muted. If viewers wish, they can click to unmute the ad.

As is their purpose, outstream ads are perfect for increasing brand awareness and reach. Moreover, retailers will only pay for views where more than 50 percent of the screen space is shown for two seconds or more.

With these ad formats outlined, let’s go ahead and explore some strategies for creating video marketing campaigns that drive results.

Creating a YouTube Advertising Campaign

To generate a YouTube ad campaign, retailers will have to link their YouTube channel and Google Ads account. Moreover, merchants will have to upload the video that they wish to run as an ad to their YouTube channel, so ensure this is done before attempting to set up the campaign.

Once the accounts are connected, navigate to “All campaigns” in Google Ads and click the “+” icon. 

google ads campaign dashboard

Google will prompt sellers to select a campaign goal. The options available are:

  • Sales
  • Leads
  • Website traffic
  • Product and brand consideration
  • Brand awareness and reach
  • App promotion

google ads campaign dashboard

However, if merchants would like, they can also opt to “Create a campaign without a goal’s guidance.”

Next, retailers will be prompted to choose the campaign type they wish to run. In this case, sellers will select “Video.”

select campaign type

After clicking “Video” (depending on the objective that was previously selected), advertisers will be asked to choose a campaign subtype. The campaign subtype will dictate the type of YouTube advertising format the push utilizes. 

skippable in streams youtube ad option

Here, merchants can choose from:

  • Skippable In-stream
  • Bumper
  • Non-skippable In-stream
  • Outstream
  • Ad sequence

Through the ad sequence option, advertisers can show “ads in a particular sequence to individual viewers with skippable in-stream ads, non-skippable in-stream ads, bumper ads, or a mix” to help tell a story to audiences.

After choosing the desired YouTube advertising campaign subtype, it is time to configure the parameters of the effort. Sellers will start by entering the campaign name and then move on to setting the budget.

With the budget, retailers can set a daily budget or a campaign total. The daily amount entered will be the amount that Google/YouTube spends each day, whereas the campaign total is what will be paid over the entire course of the campaign.

Next, merchants enter the start and end dates for the push, as well as the bidding strategy. As far as the bidding strategy is concerned, sellers have two options to choose from:

  • Maximize conversions: This setting tells Google to help the campaign achieve the most conversions possible, based on the budget.
  • Target CPA: Target cost-per-acquisition sets the average amount that sellers are willing to pay for each conversion.

Next, retailers can select the languages and locations that they wish to target with their YouTube advertising campaign. In choosing locations, sellers can also opt to exclude audience locations, thereby not allowing the ad to show to people who live in the selected places.

locations to target option

From there, advertisers will be asked to select their inventory type. This is the type of videos against which the ad will run. Google recommends the “Standard inventory” option, as these are videos that are appropriate for most brands.

select inventory type

Alternatively, merchants can opt for the “Expanded inventory” option (which includes some sensitive content) or the “Limited inventory” option (which only consists of the safest, most brand-friendly content on the platform). Retailers can also opt to exclude specific kinds of content by expanding that section below the inventory segment.

Next, sellers can set the types of devices they wish to target, implement a frequency cap and establish an advertising schedule (dayparting).

Afterward, advertisers can set the name for the ad group and establish targeting options related to:

  • Demographics (Gender, Age, Parental status, Household income)
  • Custom audiences
  • Keywords
  • Video topics
  • Placements (YouTube channels, YouTube videos, websites, apps)

Finally, enter the YouTube URL for the video to be used in the ad campaign and click “Save and Continue.”

creating your ad in youtube

Once Google Ads approves the campaign, it will go live.

YouTube Advertising Best Practices for Increased Sales

While part of the success of video advertising is reliant on YouTube targeting strategies that help merchants get in front of the right users, the other part has to do with the content of the advert itself.

The way that retailers transmit their message to audiences is critical to building awareness and generating sales. Therefore, some of the tactics that eCommerce businesses will want to implement when creating YouTube ads are:

Show, Don’t Tell

The entire point of using video advertising is to relay a message through images. Therefore, sellers should aim to make their video as visually stimulating and communicative as possible.

While creating a visually-stunning video is undoubtedly the right route for video advertising, there is also a more significant reason for this principle. Way back in 2016, Digiday reported that 85 percent of Facebook videos are watched without sound.

view videos with sound off graphic

Moreover, this phenomenon has not at all subsided. More recently, a Verizon Media study on video viewing, sound and captions highlighted that 69 percent of consumers view videos in public with the sound off, while 25 percent do so even in private.

Therefore, by becoming adept at transmitting a message less through words and more through visual storytelling is a key component to YouTube advertising success.

Stimulate Through Surprise

The element of surprise has always been a powerful tool. When it comes to creating video adverts, this concept holds true.

For instance, in Volvo’s viral 2013 video “The Epic Split” featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme, audiences were left stunned as they watched the actor demonstrate one of the most powerful displays of stability and flexibility ever recorded.

While most brands likely don’t have the budget for such a stunt, the idea of surprising audiences is perfectly embodied in this advert.

Showcase Benefits Early

No matter which YouTube advertising format retailers opt to leverage, those first few seconds are critical as viewers will decide here if they want to skip the ad or not.

Therefore, it is unwise for retailers to launch into a drawn-out introduction into the brand. Instead, establish creative ways to instantly highlight the benefit of a product in those first seconds of the ad.

The quicker a brand can communicate its ultimate message, the more effective the ad campaign will be in serving its goal.

Wait to Reveal the Company Logo

Sure, some merchants might be afraid that viewers will skip their videos without ever knowing about their brand.

While this is understandable, a Google study on creating ads that break through to audiences reveals that: 

“When ads on YouTube include the brand early on—through a logo or an audible brand mention—there’s an inverse relationship between recall and engagement. While ads with the brand in the first five seconds have higher ad recall and brand awareness lift, people are also more likely to skip them.”

However, for some retailers, the urge to instantly highlight the brand will be irresistible. In that case, the aforementioned Google study provides some guidelines:

“No matter your brand goal, our research suggests that if you are going to show your logo in the first five seconds, you should make sure it’s tied to your product, not appearing elsewhere on the screen. Our study showed that viewers are less likely to watch and remember brands and ads when they feature floating brand logos that aren’t actually on products. So, whether your goal is viewership, brand awareness, ad recall, or all of the above, try to show your logo on a product.”

Have a Sense of Humor

Another immensely powerful advertising tool is the ability to produce a laugh. The reason for the effectiveness of humor in advertising is that it evokes an emotional reaction from viewers, thereby getting them to remember the company.

This principle has been showcased countless times with incredibly viral YouTube advertising campaigns by eCommerce subscription service provider Dollar Shave Club, fragrance manufacturer Poo-Pourri, bathroom stool builder Squatty Potty and tons of other hilarious, mega memorable video adverts.

Match the Voice to the Audience

Many of today’s social media adverts leverage the combination of voice-overs and captions, given how many folks watch videos with the sound off.

While this is an acceptable (and often preferable) practice, retailers who choose to use this strategy must remain conscious of the voice used in the video ad.

Generally, audiences respond to informal, conversational voices that make them feel as if they are talking to a friend or family member. However, when integrating YouTube advertising into B2B eCommerce marketing strategies, it might be best to take a more professional tone.

audiences respond to conversational voices graphic

The point is that retailers should remain cognizant of their audience and match the video’s voice to these people.

Test Out Different Music

The music that retailers leverage in their ads might seem as if it is not that important. However, when analyzing how music makes advertising more memorable, Econsultancy reports:

“A study by Neurosight, which analyzed over 150 ads to identify which ones are most strongly correlated with long-term memory encoding (LTME), backs up the fact that music in TV ads becomes more memorable when it drives the action of the ad. For example, when the lyrics or the tempo matches what is happening on screen.”

Therefore, to help drive brand awareness and future sales, music is a critical component. To ensure that retailers select a track that captures a consumer’s attention quickly and creates a memorable experience, it is necessary to A/B test social media ads to find the most effective combination of visuals and sound.

Final Thoughts

YouTube advertising can be an incredibly powerful tool for generating eCommerce sales. Given the platform’s prominence and audience size, in addition to the popularity and effectiveness of video content, there is no reason that sellers shouldn’t be utilizing YouTube ads in their social media marketing strategy.

That said, creating a fully optimized YouTube advertising campaign that features the right creative, reaches the right audience and drives substantial results can be rather challenging for those who have never used the platform for promotional purposes.

If your brand wants to leverage the power of YouTube advertising to increase sales, reach out to Visiture’s paid advertising experts and we can help ensure that your campaign produces a profound impact.

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