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Tis the Season to Try Shopping – How Charities can utilise Shopping Ads in the Holiday Period

Christmas shopping bags

The holiday period is a crucial time for charities of all sizes. It often comes with a complex marketing plan, utilising many different marketing channels to achieve fundraising aims. However, charities often overlook shopping ads, an ad format that has huge potential, and also sees it’s biggest days of the year during this time.

In this blog, I want to argue the case that, as long as you meet a few minimum criteria, charities should be considering shopping ads as a part of any holiday period advertising they are planning.


What are shopping ads?

We have a blog that goes into more detail about the basics of shopping ads, but to summarise – shopping ads are an ad format specific to selling products. They provide specific information about individual products you sell. Visually they look very different to search ads and can show in both the website and image search results pages. Shopping ads can’t be run inside a Google Ad Grant account, so you will have to create a full paid account and pay for the media spend you put through these ads.


Shopping ads that appear when users search "nike shoes"

An example of the ads that appear when searching “nike shoes”.


Shopping ads criteria

I want to add an important caveat to this blog. Google Shopping is not for everyone, and your online shop will need to fulfil some criteria to have the possibility of good performance using shopping ads.

Firstly, the shop needs to sell products that users cold to your organisation would like to buy. Things like branded cups and tote bags may sell well with your warm audiences, but will almost certainly fail to perform when it comes to shopping ads not utilising retargeting.

Secondly, the set up of shopping ads is somewhat more technical than search ads, requiring a shopping feed to be built of the products you want to sell via Google Shopping. Check that you or your web developers are comfortable with setting this up, or you may find yourself lost before an ad has gone live.


Why will charities benefit from using shopping ads?

So, with that said, why is Shopping going to work for charities in the holiday period? There are three main factors that make the end of the year the ideal time for a shopping test.


1. Increased interest in items charities sell: Christmas cards, decorations, and gifts

One of the advantages of this time of year for charities is that it is the seasonal high for several types of items charities often sell. These products can include Christmas cards, seasonal decorations and little items often given as gifts.

Although Christmas cards are low price, and often low margin, user intent is never going to be higher than during this period. A tip for making this easier to manage is to sell only bundles of 10 or 20 Christmas cards on Google shopping. This way you will be able to bid more per click than you would on an individual card.


search results for "christmas card packs"

Even in Mid-October, ads are already live for Christmas cards.


Christmas decorations such as tree ornaments or wreaths are similarly peaking, and these can often be a higher price than Christmas cards, which may give you more room to bid whilst still keeping the shopping ads profitable.

Finally, many products often sold on charity shops fit into the umbrella of small gifts or stocking fillers. Anything from fountain pens to plush toys can fit into this category. If you are deciding which products to run during this time, ask yourself if you could see someone buying each product for a friend or relative. These are the products that are most likely to succeed.


2. Target big events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Everything in between.

In recent years, the Black Friday phenomenon has expanded to consume almost an entire week. Stores now often extend their sales over the weekend between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and often go on for up to a week.

This is a period of high activity on the google shopping platform. If you can present competitively priced products during this time, you are almost certainly going to see increased search volume and sales.

However, to have a competitive price for many items, you will need to consider running a sale. Users expect a sale during this time, and the increased performance should offset the reduced profit from each sale.

This period (in particular Black Friday itself) should be considered the final destination of any Google shopping campaign. Spend should peak around this time, and most importantly the campaign should start in advance of this date, to allow you to fully optimise the account by the time Black Friday arrives.


graph showing conversions and conversion value for January to Devember, peaking in November around black Friday

A graph of one of our charity clients accounts last year. November was the highest revenue and converting month.


3. A Shopping campaign isn’t just for Christmas

Although Black Friday and the week surrounding it is the end goal of any holiday shopping campaign, we also shouldn’t overlook the power of extending your campaigns into January. Especially for charities with lower budgets, who found the black Friday period too competitive, this can be an excellent idea, as many short-term campaigns from other sellers end and competition drops. Despite this, users are still keen to buy, looking to spend their holiday money.

Seasonal items such as cards and decorations should be avoided, but regular products still sell well, and CPC’s are often lower.


graph showing conversion and conversion rate across November to January, with the first week of January showing the the highest recorded conversion value in that period

Looking at that same account in January of this year, we see that the first week in January performed better than many of the November weeks.


As you can see, there is plenty of advantages to running a holiday shopping campaign. If it is properly managed and optimised, it can bring in provable profit in a very similar fashion to a fundraising campaign, but from an entirely different audience.


Shopping ads aren’t going anywhere

My final reason to test shopping is one of prediction. Over the last few years, we have seen an increased focus in shopping from Google. Along with an increase in where and how shopping ads can be shown to users. Gone are the days of only a bar at the top of search results pages, shopping ads can now be shown in image searches, on partner websites, and even in their own tab on the results screen. You can even achieve free listings, in a similar fashion to organic search results, if you have your shopping feed set up.

These ads are becoming a larger and larger part of the search ecosystem, and they are not slowing down. A test of google shopping during the holidays not only gives you a chance at a successful and profitable campaign, but also allows you to familiarise yourself with an ad format that will only become more important in the future.


Get your shopping campaign ready for Christmas

Are you setting up shopping ads for campaigns this holiday season?  If you are and want some support, get in touch at hello@upriseup.co.uk. We’d love to chat about how we can help you get the most out of you shopping ads.

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