Publishers are increasingly adopting eCommerce/affiliate monetization models to help develop and diversify their revenue streams. Given the strategic importance of such a move, it can be overwhelming picking which social media platforms and advertising platforms are the right fit.
Paid ads are one of the most immediate ways to impact your online sales and brand awareness, both in the short and long term.
But which eCommerce ad platform is right for your marketing strategy?
In this article, we list the top 12 eCommerce advertising platforms and weigh up their pros and cons, so you can work out the right one for your products.
12 Best E-commerce Ad Platforms:
1. Google Ads
3. Bing Ads
4. Facebook Ads
6. YouTube Ads
7. Twitter Ads
12. Amazon Ads
What is eCommerce Advertising?
Publishers traditionally use eCommerce advertising to drive awareness of other companies’ products and services to increase sales. However, publishers themselves can use advertising to achieve their own development goals.
A publisher will pay advertising platforms, such as Facebook, Google Shopping or Instagram, to display their online ads.
Payment is made by advertisers based on pre-arranged metrics and goals, which could include:
- Placement – the advertiser pays a placement fee for hosting the ad on the site
- Impressions – the advertiser pays per number of impressions, or how many times their ad is viewed
- Clicks – the advertiser pays the publisher only when a user clicks the ad, aka pay per click (PPC)
How to Use Paid Social Media Ads in your eCommerce Campaigns
Before you consider which platform is right for your business, decide how you want to use paid social media ads in your marketing strategy.
Here are some options:
- Retarget customers who have already shown an interest in your products but haven't converted.
- Address cart abandonment with custom ads that target visitors who abandoned their shopping cart without buying.
- Increase web traffic for seasonal sales campaigns, e.g. Black Friday.
- Reach audiences in new markets or locations, such as different countries.
- A/B testing to see which offers customers prefer.
12 Best eCommerce Ad Platforms
Think of Google Ads as the king of online advertising platforms—it's one of the best ad networks out there.
With Google Ads (formerly known as Google Adwords), you can display paid search ads on Google search engine results pages (SERPs).
You can also use the Google Display Network (GDN) to advertise on popular websites, making Google a great platform for both search and display ads, whether you want to boost brand awareness or acquire new customers.
- Vast Reach: Google is the biggest search engine out there, processing more than 100 billion searches per month. You can harness the search engine's immense reach to drive results for your eCommerce business.
- High ROAS: The average return on ad spend (ROAS) for Google Ads is estimated to be 2:1 and for the Google Search Network it's 800%—that's huge potential for your online store.
- Affordable for SMBs: Online advertising is more affordable for small and medium publishers with limited resources and lower budgets.
- Easy integration: Combine this tactic with other digital marketing software to create multichannel campaigns.
- Can get costly: Pricing scales up quickly meaning larger enterprises can pay up to $150,000 per year or more—you need to be sure you're getting a worthwhile return on ad spend.
- Low customer service: Customer service is limited so it's important to know what you're doing (or hire an agency that does)
- Takes time and effort to learn: Getting your head around the many nuances of Google advertising can be confusing, meaning you need to work with experts to take advantage of the many tools.
- More competition: While Google may open you up to the largest networks, you’ll be competing with many more advertisers, leading to higher campaign costs.
- Strict standards: Compared to other search advertising platforms, Google tends to be much stricter about the content of your PPC ads
Best type of products for this platform
- Any products should perform well on Google Ads, so long as you use the targeting tools effectively to reach your audience.
Google Shopping is a specific marketing tool that allows publishers to advertise their products to Google searchers in a visually appealing way.
Set up in the Google Merchant Center, Shopping ads are image-based product ads that show a photo of your product, title, price, store name, and reviews. Product listings display at the top of the SERPs.
If the user clicks on your ad, Google will take them directly to the product page in your eCommerce store, where they can make a purchase. Similar to paid search ads, you pay each time someone clicks on your Shopping ad.
- High conversion potential: Google Shopping ads are great for driving traffic that converts, as many people still start their product search on Google.
- Easy to run: Google does a lot of the work for you with algorithms automatically pulling product data from your store, creating ads for your products and matching them with relevant search queries.
- Strong visual appeal: Shopping ads get prime position in SERPs with a visual format to attract clicks.
- Takes time to set up: Google Shopping campaigns require more time to get started, but less effort after everything is set up in Google Merchant Center.
Best type of products for this platform
- Any! Shopping Ads on Google represent a highly lucrative pay-per-click (PPC) digital marketing tactic for publishers.
While Google has a clear lead over other search engines, Bing has developed a substantial presence in recent years.
Bing, according to Microsoft, still accounts for 14.5% of the global market share for PC desktop search engines. There are 14.5 billion monthly PC searches conducted on the Bing Network, with 687 million unique PC searchers.
Here's the kicker: 100% of searchers on the Microsoft Search Network have purchased a product or service online in the last week.
So, Bing Ads should be part of your advertising strategy if you want to reach this shopping audience. You can also use Bing Shopping, which is similar to Google Shopping Ads.
- Less competition: Fewer advertisers on Bing means you’ll get more bang for your buck from your digital marketing campaign. Reports by Search Engine People have shown that the average CPC (cost-per-click) for a Bing Ad is 70% less compared to Google Ads.
- Reach different audiences: Advertising on Bing means you’re also going to be advertising on Yahoo, AOL and other partnering sites, so you will find users you’d be missing if you only run Google Ad campaigns.
- Reduced reach: You can't get past the fact that there's lower audience reach and search volume on Bing than on Google Ads.
- Less advanced features: Bing Ads are usually one step behind Google, which means new features roll out after Google and reporting is less comprehensive.
The number of people who use Facebook per month is over 2.8 billion people, according to 2020 data from Facebook—that's more than a third of the world's population! Being visible to hundreds of millions of people—potential customers—every day is the single most important reason to include Facebook Ads in your digital marketing campaigns.
Facebook offers a wide range of ads for online advertising to help you reach your campaign goals. You can build brand awareness by increasing your reach and getting products in front of target customers. Or use Collection ads to bring the buying process directly to Facebook, so potential customers can move seamlessly from “discovery” to “purchase”.
Want more purchases? Use smart targeting on Facebook to drive both new and repeat purchases from loyal customers.
- Reach billions: Facebook boasts the most users of any social media platform, with billions of active accounts. Advertising on Facebook gives you an almost unlimited potential audience.
- Find your audience: Facebook is popular among a wide variety of demographics, across genders and ages, which means there’s a great chance of reaching your niche audience.
- Exceptional targeting: The possibilities of Facebook ad targeting are almost endless—target by location, occupation, interests, past activity and other data points.
- Easy to control spend: Facebook ads are easy to budget for and you can track your spend easily, cutting it off when you've reached your maximum budget.
- Boost engagement with video ads: Facebook is one of the best video ad networks out there, with publishers able to use original content in their in-stream video ads system.
- Becoming more expensive: It’s becoming increasingly expensive to advertise on Facebook due to heightened competition. That said, advertising on Facebook is still relatively cheap compared to other advertising platforms.
- Takes time to master: Marketing effectively on Facebook is a skill that takes a long time to master—many small eCommerce companies don't have the time or resources to manage it effectively.
Best type of products for Facebook Ads
- Food, tech, fashion, DIY—any products can be advertised effectively on Facebook. The key is to craft engaging copy, images or video to attract users, and to pinpoint your audience using Facebook's in-depth targeting tools.
Instagram is another massively popular advertising platform that publishers should consider, though it is important to understand the platform is all about visual ads.
Instagram is a very brand-focused social platform:
- 81% of Instagram users use the platform to research products and services
- 130 million Instagram users tap on shopping posts each month
Advertisers can create image-based ads, video reels and use Instagram stories to promote their products and connect with their target audience. Instagram ads can be directly linked to your product page or another landing page, giving users a quick and easy way to engage with your products.
- Highly engaged users: Over half of Instagram users access the social media network every single day, meaning Instagram is the ultimate platform to reach your audience and put your brand in their consideration.
- High intent users: 75% of Instagram users take action on ads they see on their feed, and over one-third purchase products. Create effective paid ads as part of a targeted Instagram advertising strategy, and you can drive sales.
- Comprehensive targeting: Because the platform is owned by social media giant Facebook, Instagram advertising gives you access to in-depth targeting.
- Lots of ad formats: Choose between stories, IGTV, videos, shopping ads and more—test them out to find the ad type that gets the most ad clicks and conversions.
- Increase sales on the platform: Customers can buy without having to leave Instagram—such as with Collection ads (on the mobile ad platform only).
- Takes time to master: As with Facebook, marketing effectively takes a long time to master and may require a specialist to help.
- Requires high-quality visual assets: Instagram is a highly visual platform, which means you need to invest in good quality content if you want to stand out.
Best type of products for Instagram Ads
- Products that are visually appealing and easily incorporated into visual media, such as cosmetics, fashion, homewares, food and health products.
With over 2 billion monthly users, YouTube is an excellent platform that provides you with the opportunity to increase brand awareness as part of your conversion funnel and drive traffic to your online store. If you don’t have a YouTube eCommerce marketing plan in place, you’re missing a vital opportunity to reach new leads.
- Part of Google’s Ad system: That means YouTube has great support, strong data and targeting capabilities, including remarketing ads.
- Wide and diverse audience: More than 1 billion hours of video are daily on YouTube on wide-ranging topics.
- Built-in engaged audience: Users aren’t just idly browsing through a feed—they go to YouTube for education and entertainment—and that makes it a powerful place to reach them with your video ads.
- Cost to create videos: YouTube videos need to be high quality to grab viewers—this can be cost prohibitive for smaller publishers.
- Video ads can be interruptive: Depending on the ad format, viewers can exit at any time and may be annoyed by video ads.
Best type of products for YouTube Ads
- Products that require an element of educational or informational content—use product demonstration, product review or explainer videos to help new customers make a purchase decision.
It might not be the first platform you think of for eCommerce campaigns, but Twitter has been one of the most popular social media channels since it launched in 2006. It's a go-to platform for breaking news and engaging with small- and big-name influencers and celebrities.
- High engagement: Engagement rates for Twitter ads can be as high as 1-3%, according to a study by TBG Digital. This was much higher than Facebook’s average CTR of between 0.90%. (What is CTR?)
- Limited competition. While other social media platforms are home to millions of advertisers, Twitter only has around 130,000 business advertisers.
- More expensive: Twitter advertising is typically more expensive than Facebook (but the engagement rates mean it could be worth it).
- Limited analytics: Twitter analytics does not have the breadth and precision of Facebook or Google Analytics.
- Lower audience reach: Twitter is home to 187 million daily users, which is less than Facebook and YouTube. However, they are a highly engaged audience for your digital ads.
Best type of products for Twitter Ads
- Male-skewed products—Twitter has far more male users (70%) than female users (30%) meaning it could be a better platform to reach male customers.
Like Instagram, Pinterest is a highly visual platform and a great way to boost eCommerce sales.
Pinterest advertising enables brands to promote their products to users with promoted ads appearing as Pins in the organic search results.
There are over 444 million monthly users and 90% of weekly Pinners make buying decisions on Pinterest. As of January 2021, Pinterest identified the female audience at 77.1%, the male audience at 14.5% and the remainder as unspecified.
- High conversion potential: 85% of weekly Pinners have made a purchase based on Pins they see from brands on the platform, meaning there's high potential for customer acquisition.
- Pinterest ads blend in: Promoted pins blend into Pinterest boards which means advertising is less likely to interrupt or annoy users as on some social media platforms.
- Multiple ad options: Pinterest offers an array of advertising options for brands to reach consumers based on goals according to the stage of the sales funnel: awareness, consideration, and conversions.
- Less diverse audience - Pinners skew heavily towards 20-40-year-old women, though the audience is gradually becoming more diverse.
- Less user friendly platform layout - The platform is harder to navigate than Amazon Ads and Google.
Best type of products for this ad platform
- Products with a target audience of females aged between 20 and 40. Visually attractive products that will catch people's eye on Pinterest boards. Products with a craft, DIY, home and garden, or foodie focus.
One of the newer ad platforms on the block, TikTok Ads offers a unique opportunity to promote your products to a young, hyper-engaged audience. Users spend 476 minutes per month on the app, second only to Facebook ads. TikTok has over 1 billion users worldwide, with 50 million+ active users in the US alone.
Like Instagram, TikTok offers opportunities for influencer marketing, as you can partner with established TikTok influencers to reach their audience with your product promotion in a more natural way. TikTok has built the Creator Marketplace to help brands find influencers to partner with.
- Highly engaged audience: The beauty of TikTok is the engagement publishers can have with their specific audience.
- Get creative: You can really get creative with your advertising and connect with users for maximum engagement. Some of the best advertising on TikTok uses a Hashtag challenge as part of their campaign. So, when a user taps on a hashtag, it takes them to the brand’s landing page and shows more curated videos with the same hashtag. These challenges have an average engagement rate of 8.5%, according to TikTok.
- Integrate with eCommerce platforms: Add TikTok’s app to your Shopify store so you can implement the pixel and create new posts without leaving your Shopify dashboard.
- Access to new markets: TikTok’s rapidly-growing global reach means new marketing opportunities for international publishers.
- High cost to advertise: TikTok ads pricing is less competitive than the other platforms and begins at $10 per CPM (cost per 1,000 views).
- Lack of ad placements: There are less options for ad placements, with most brands limited to in-feed ads, meaning viewers see interrupting ads as they swipe through their For You page.
- Must be native content: You can't use ad creatives from other platforms—it must be a native TikTok approach if you want to ensure audiences don't swipe away.
- Videos are essential: You cannot post ads in the form of static graphics only—you will always have to produce videos and that can put a strain on the budget.
Best type of products to use this ad platform for
- Products targeting Gen Z and millennials, who account for 75% of TikTok’s user base. Products that provide opportunity for creative content—think fashion and cosmetics.
Snapchat boasts 306 million daily users, and we're not only talking about a younger audience either. There’s a large group of people who are joining the platform who are aged 26 and up.
This platform offers advertisers the capability to create interactive ads where users swipe up or tap for site visits or purchases. You can even use customized branding filters and AR lenses to increase brand awareness.
- Proven success: Snapchat users are 60% more likely to make impulse purchases, and hold a global spending power of $4.4 trillion, according to Snapchat.
- Reach mobile audience: Snapchatters are 20% more likely to use their phone when shopping in 2021 than in 2020, according to Snapchat, so you can put your brand at their fingertips anywhere.
- Make an instant impact: Snapchat ad formats let you show off your products using immersive, full-screen mobile ads to make a real impact.
- Low entry cost: You can launch ads for as low as $5 per day.
- AR drives conversions: Interacting with products that have AR experiences is shown to deliver a 94% higher purchase conversion rate, as individuals feel connected with brands.
- Lower audience numbers make it harder to scale. On the flip side, this means it's a good platform to test out your eCommerce advertising away from Google and Facebook.
Best type of products for Snapchat advertising
- Products with a slightly higher average order value, as it’s easier to get a better return on ad spend.
As the world’s largest professional network, LinkedIn holds a large professional user base which means LinkedIn Advertising is largely geared toward a corporate audience.
This means, unlike most other platforms, which focus on B2C advertising, the nature of LinkedIn makes it better suited to B2B advertising campaigns. So, B2B publishers tend to get better results on LinkedIn than other platforms.
- B2B centric: LinkedIn offers B2B advertisers the possibility to generate high-quality leads by reaching the right decision-makers.
- Less competition: For B2C brands who want to reach a niche audience, it's easier to stand out.
- Less effective for eCommerce: Traditionally best suited to B2B over B2C products, which makes it less popular for eCommerce advertising in general.
- Basic reporting tools: Reporting is basic, and you cannot access the array of metrics or customize reporting views as you can on Google, Facebook, or other platforms.
- Inferior usability: It's harder for marketers to quickly and easily duplicate ads, campaigns, or campaign groups. There is no bulk editor or duplication tool so testing is cumbersome too.
Best type of products for LinkedIn Ads
- B2B products and professional B2C products, such as tech products, work from home products, and business attire.
Amazon advertising helps brands connect with potential buyers on a specific platform designed for shopping. Amazon lets you bid on specific keywords and placements to show higher in search results for your products, which helps get your products in front of a wider audience of people who are specifically searching for what you sell.
- Shoppers are ready to buy: Amazon is a top destination for shoppers who are ready to buy, and has built trust amongst shoppers which brands can leverage.
- Low barrier to entry: Publishers don't even need a website to advertise on Amazon, making the barrier to entry extremely low.
- Takes minutes: The simple ad setup and interface means publishers can quickly choose products to advertise and start showing products to customers in minutes.
- Multiple campaign types: Choose the campaign type that suits your goal, including Sponsored Products, Automatic Targeting Campaigns, Manual Targeting Campaigns and more.
- Higher fees: Amazon is not a free tool—it charges an additional referral fee on top of advertising fees as a percentage of the sale (up to 15%), which varies by product category. This can be prohibitive to some sellers.
- Strict standards: Amazon holds sellers to strict standards, including shipping times, confirmation emails, order cancellation rates, and more.
Best type of products for Amazon Ads
- Products with high profit margins. Brands with established customer service and logistics processes.
In the end, the goal of social ads for publishers is to drive traffic and generate more sales.
As the world of digital and content marketing evolves, it's never been more important to choose the right advertising platform for your products. Spend time weighing up their unique strengths and limitations for your brand to find the platform that will help you reach your audience in the most engaging way.
Then, do what you do for all your marketing campaigns—experiment, test and measure until you get the best results.