Studio: PPC Management Case Study


increase in the number of new customers


decrease in CPA

Exceeded the campaign CPA target by


The brief

Studio is one of the UK’s best-known multichannel retailers, with a background in catalogue sales, offering low prices and flexible payment terms on homewares, electricals, top branded fashion, and gifts. An increasingly large proportion of sales now come from their ecommerce channel.

Studio has a unique set of objectives for its PPC campaign as some online sales are subject to an offline credit check before being approved.

Campaign aims were to:

  1. To prove the scalability of PPC as a cost-effective channel for acquiring “new starters” (new customers) over the September to December peak season
  2. To drive increased product sales
  3. To maximise the number of new customers who sign up for a credit account

The Solution

Studio’s primary target audience for this campaign is young families who wish to buy using flexible payments and credit.

The strategy involved:

  • Utilising Search Laboratory’s proprietary software to build a scalable, customised model based on Studio’s specific needs
  • Analysing data from catalogue sales, shopping campaigns and historical PPC campaigns, to focus on promoting products with better conversions rates
  • Offering compelling pricing structures to entice first time buyers
  • Building granular campaigns based on individual products, as opposed to keyword groups, which then made it possible to:
    • Map offline sales conversion data back into AdWords
    • Optimise campaigns based on actual sales numbers
    • Direct spend towards the best performing products

These changes had to be implemented in time for the pre-Christmas season ramp up in September.

The key to the strategy is the innovative integration of Studio’s offline data with Search Laboratory’s proprietary PPC software.

FeedLab™ is a software tool developed by Search Laboratory that automates the deployment and management of large-scale PPC campaigns, often where thousands of products need to be managed and fed into campaigns automatically. It has several features that are key to the success of the campaign.

Bulk campaign builder

  • 25 campaigns a week were built in September. The campaign ad builder allowed for ads to be created faster and in bulk. It also checked tracking to ensure no errors were made. There were 200+ campaigns live at the start of November.

Product Listing Ad (or Shopping Ad) checks

  • With so many products it was impossible to manually split down to product level, so an automated option was necessary. This meant a poor performing product could easily be hidden in an average product group. This tool was created to check CPA performance at product level and send an alert with any changes. Single products could then be singled out and bid down where necessary.

Search CPA check

  • This tool checks all campaigns with the CPA label and makes bid changes if the CPA is too high and increases them if the CPA is particularly good. This acts as a safety net to catch any campaigns that are inefficient to reduce waste in spend. An alert is then received and further changes can be made.

AlertLab™ is Search Laboratory’s PPC campaign monitoring software. It allows for rapid automated monitoring of large-scale campaigns that would be impossible to do manually. For Studio, AlertLab is used to:

  • Generate broken URL alerts, preventing budget wastage
  • Produce daily projections of spend split by brand, non-brand and shopping, enabling agile management of budgets. This identified multiple opportunities where budget increases generated significant additional sales within target costs per acquisition (CPAs).
  • Monitor thousands of campaigns and generate alerts of bid adjustments made
  • Rapidly scale up the campaign month on month whilst maintaining maximum CPA targets
  • Ensure campaigns are aligned with conversion data from offline sources.
  • Search Laboratory combined Studio’s offline credit check data with Google Customer Match to create a PPC blacklist, to prevent wasting budget by showing Studio ads to individuals that had failed a credit check.

The Results

Once the tools were set up and customised for this campaign, targets were consistently met and exceeded month on month.

The norm for PPC campaigns is for CPA costs to increase once spend increases.

In comparison to the same period in 2015, this campaign generated the following KPIs:

  • A 91% increase in the number of new customers
  • Exceeding the campaign CPA target by 35%
  • Even with a 45% increase in spend, generating CPAs that were 24% lower than in 2015.

This is particularly impressive taking into consideration the complexity of the campaign build and the lag in offline data

Studio Target vs. Achieved

The yellow box shows when these tools were implemented.

This was an extremely innovative approach to a complex, large scale PPC campaign. Search Laboratory’s unique PPC software suite enabled Studio’s campaign to be optimised to very specific requirements.

Without these tools:

  • Conversions metrics would not have accurately reflected revenues
  • The return on advertising spend (ROAS) would have been artificially inflated, and
  • It would have been impossible to deploy and manage such a large number of campaigns in an acceptable timescale.

Once the tools were implemented, targets were consistently hit and exceeded. The campaign results meant that the client viewed the Search Laboratory team as their trusted advisors who could be relied upon to increase budgets when a positive ROI could be forecast.

The benefits to Studio included:

  • Rapid campaign build and reduced deployment timescales
  • More accurate spend projections and increased confidence in budget management
  • Proof that an innovative and well managed PPC campaign can scale to meet ambitious customer acquisition targets whilst maintaining an attractive ROAS

This campaign has helped to cement ecommerce as a scalable channel for customer acquisition for Studio.