Automotive Shopping Campaigns for eCommerce

By Joe Williams, Magento Solution Specialist

Automotive shopping campaigns and Product Listing Ads (PLA) are an excellent tool for automotive eCommerce merchants to promote specific products or as a component of an overall ongoing PPC strategy. PLAs are also called Shopping Ads because they display product photos, title, price, shop name, and more inside Google’s Shopping results. In contrast to paid search ads that are driven by a list of targeted keywords, shopping campaigns use product attributes from a data feed to match results to relevant searches. There can be several ways to format a product feed for shopping campaigns, depending on the structure of your catalog and use of product attributes.

PLAs are particularly popular with automotive accessories retailers because of the specificity demanded by vehicle fitment and part number searches. Vehicle fitment can provide a unique challenge depending on the structure and user experience of a website. For example, if a merchant is utilizing simple category navigation, they need to be sure to send customers to the right product for their specific vehicle. If a new customer doesn’t immediately land on the website page they were looking for when they clicked the ad, then they will most likely bounce instead of navigating to find the right product. If a merchant has Year/Make/Model lookup, they will need to either send customers to a page for them to select their vehicle or a pre-selected vehicle page with the ability to add to cart immediately with little effort.

Regardless of the type of site navigation, here are three tips for eCommerce automotive merchants to optimize Product Listing Ads for better ROI.

Test Ads With and Without Vehicle Info

Experience has shown that more specific product listings are traditionally more successful. However, they tend to have lower impressions with higher click-through rates and conversions. Although, for merchants that haven’t tested this theory before – test it out! Different customer experiences are successful for various reasons. Some merchants have more success with traditional ads with no vehicle information in them because of excellent site usability. Other merchants may profit more from specific ads with vehicle information in the data feed product title.

We recommend setting up different campaigns or product groups utilizing different titles and landing pages for testing. Being organized will help distinguish metrics between different campaigns in Analytics, and which product feed structure is more successful for the site’s user experience. In testing, merchants may also find a different type of solution is more successful for desktop and mobile, instead of utilizing the same for both.


For merchants that have vehicle-specific images to go along with vehicle-specific ads, use them! According to Salsify, 66% of customers say they want to see at least three pictures for a product while shopping online. Statistics (and experience) show that customers use images more so than text (even pricing) when making a purchase. Therefore, application or SKU-specific product images will be more attractive to shoppers than traditional catch-all photos. Be sure that the photos are of good quality. Research shows that when merchants use poor quality images, the number used doesn’t matter. A study from the Nielsen Norman Group found that customers were more attracted to and felt better informed when shopping after viewing clear, high-quality images.

Traditional best practices for images also apply. Always use the same image in the PLA  that customers will see on the landing page to help with a consistent experience from ad to page.

Segregate products and brands

One mistake merchants and agencies can make in automotive shopping campaigns is poor campaign and product group organization. Our basic suggestions for an adequately organized campaign is to first, create a different campaign for each category or brand. Then create separate ad groups for each product line including configurable products or groups of SKUs.

Organized shopping ads and campaigns will help later when making any adjustments. When campaigns are well planned, the ability for granular scalability is essential due to varying profit margins and Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) fluctuations per brand or product line – which leads us to tip #4.

MAP Pricing and Bid Strategy

Cheating MAP pricing is a big problem in the automotive eCommerce industry, particularly the aftermarket arena. To make matters more complicated, we’ve seen that Amazon rarely obeys MAP pricing on nearly everything they sell directly. Sadly, some merchants pay a very high price in PPC to learn that visitors are only window shopping. Or, merchants have seen customers chose a competitor who may be only advertising below MAP price. Tools such as Pricing Assistant are available to help monitor competitor shopping ads and pricing to address pricing issues. Notably, some of these tools can automatically make bid adjustments to avoid errant clicks or wasted ad spend.

Get started with Automotive Shopping Campaigns

Experience has taught us of the many intricacies of the automotive aftermarket in eCommerce. From unique website customization requirements to digital marketing needs and shopping ads, automotive requires specialized knowledge. Contact us to learn more about structuring product feeds or to see how we can help with your current marketing efforts.