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Automated Bid Strategies and Diverse Ad Formats Drive In-Store Visits


A large retail clothing brand sought to drive in-store traffic for a specific line of business (LOB), as consumers were unable to make purchases on their web site. Historically, the investment for this LOB had been smaller than others, as the retailer struggled to scale paid search investment at a competitive cost per store visit (CpSV) rate compared to other channels or industry benchmarks.

In running legacy non-branded keyword-based text ads, consumers for this retailer didn’t search for products in a diverse manner. -Most keywords match to select high-level-terms with a long-tailed query set for localized results, like “x in Orlando Florida.”

Although this retailer has a national US store footprint, the client couldn’t afford to support every store with advertising. Thus, it only ran ads around select important stores.


Merkle was engaged to help the client with its challenges due to non-shoppable ad-formats, as there wasn't a checkout process onsite.  Much of the industry-wide growth for SEM retail clients is on image-based, shoppable ad-formats. To address this problem, we used automation and tested into a wide diversification of ad formats to improve the CpSV and increase investment across the program.

We used a two-pronged approach to improve performance: (1) incorporating more automation into management, and (2) increasing diversification of ad formats used.

First, we switched from using a third-party bidding system to an automated bid strategy within the Google UI on the legacy text ads that were running. This switch quickly brought down CPCs on the non-brand keywords. On the same budget we saw clicks increase, store visits increase, and we could finally afford to run ads nationally around all store locations.

Second, with these positive results, our client was willing to start allocating more spend in this LOB. We proposed testing a multitude of new ad formats with the additional funding, including dynamic search ads (DSAs), local ads, discovery ads, and Gmail ads. Each new ad format we tested continued to outperform regular keyword-based text ads across the LOB KPIs (store visits, CpSV), and we continually shifted more of the budget into these other ad formats. Third, over the course of launching these new ad formats, we tested various bid strategies across ad formats, and in the end found that for our client’s goals, a bespoke approach works the best. Across this LOB and its ad formats, we used a variety of bid strategies, including maximize clicks, maximize in-store revenue, low manual bids, and target CPA.



lower CPCs, YoY


increased store visits


decreased CpSV

Keys to success

  • Using maximized clicks strategy on DSAs to match cheaper, less-relevant, and less-likely-to-convert auctions
  • Maximizing clicks to lower CPCs and helped improve clicks, store visits, and CpSV rates
  • The discipline to continue optimizing the program using innovative, out-of-the-box testing theories

Discover how we did it. Contact us today.

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