Best Practices for Catalog Ads to Boost Your ROI

What are the different things to keep in mind while running ads catalog? Here go through with the best practices for creating and maintaining them.
Zach Reiff

Catalog ads are a great way to get your brand in front of your target audiences, but only when they are done right. In this post, we’ll fill you in on the common mistakes made when using catalog ads, and best practices for creating catalog ads. (Plus we’ll share a hack that can boost your ROAS by as much as 3x.) 

Before we get down to sharing our best practices for catalog ads, let’s cover a couple of the basic things you need to know. 

What are catalog ads?

Catalog ads are a common online advertising method that is used by businesses around the world as a way to showcase their products or services to potential customers in a shoppable format.

Social media is filled with these types of ads, so it is pretty much guaranteed you’ve seen a couple (thousand) of them in your life. 

You know the ones in your feed that typically include a product image on a plain white background? That is the epitome of the basic catalog ad, hard at work. 

The typical catalog ad — a carousel of product images on a white background.

For years, catalog ads have been the plain white tee of online advertising — a staple, but nothing new or exciting about them. 

But that is all about to change. Because once you read this article, you’ll see the future of e-commerce advertising.

How catalog ads drive sales

Here’s the thing about catalog ads — as boring as they are, retailers and advertisers will always have a penchant for them for one simple reason. They work. 

There are a couple of key factors that are behind the effectiveness of catalog ads, but one of the main reasons they work so well is that you are able to target your customers with highly relevant products using dynamic product advertising.

Dynamic product advertising is used on nearly all social media platforms, and essentially it uses technology that helps you target the right users with your ads. 

This is done by looking at various factors such as the user's demographics, location, interests, or even what products they have previously viewed on your website. This type of specific and personalized targeting makes the likelihood of the ad resulting in a purchase significantly higher, as the ad will be highly relevant to the particular needs and interests of the person viewing it. 

Another reason behind the success of catalog ads is the simple fact that they work great for mobile devices; they load quickly, and users don’t need to pinch or zoom to see product details, making it easier for them to browse products or complete purchases from their phones. 

This is crucial when you consider 79% of mobile users have made a purchase from their phone in the last six months, and the total mobile commerce sales in 2021 hit a staggering $359.32 billion. That number is only expected to increase in the years to come.

And because catalog ads are clickable, they create an overall better experience for the user as they are able to purchase items they see directly within the same app. 

This helps reduce the friction during checkout, thereby streamlining the purchasing process for users, as they no longer need to be redirected to another webpage or switch apps in order to buy the product.

Obstacles to catalog ad success

While catalog ads can be a powerful way to drive traffic, there are also some obstacles and challenges that you should be aware of before you get started. Being aware of the frequent mistakes advertisers make will help set you up for success when it comes time to start running your catalog ads. 

Common mistakes to avoid

One of the most common issues that people run into with catalog ads is squandering their advertising budget. This can happen really quickly if you are running ads that are not optimized for the platform, or are not targeted to the right audience, and these mistakes can completely ruin your chances of a successful advertising campaign. 

This is one of the reasons why we suggest you sit down beforehand and spend some time determining the goals of your advertising, and set an adequate budget that is going to help you meet those goals. 

Many of the problems that come up for people when running catalog ads are issues that can be totally avoided if you take the time to make a solid plan before getting started. That way you won’t end up blowing your budget and have no results to show for it.

7 best practices for catalog ads

So now that you know some of the things not to do, here’s some tips so you can do catalog ads the right way.

Run 3 levels of design against your control

Just as you would with other types of online ads, testing out different design elements in your catalog ads can be highly beneficial. Of course no two brands are completely alike so what works for one may not work at all for another so you need to get some kind of baseline for your audience’s preferences.

Maybe you first try adding the price, and in another ad you include the price AND your logo, or to take it one step further, you also use a colored background.  If you need more ideas, find some catalog design inspiration here.

When you try testing a few different “levels” of enriched creative in your ads, it can give some helpful context and insight into where the happy medium is for your targeted audience.

Choose high-quality photographs

Nothing can ruin a solid ad campaign faster than a couple of poor-quality photos that look like they were shot with a Blackberry Storm, while jogging, at nighttime.

Choosing high-quality images is probably the single most important thing to do in order to have high-performing ads. 

You should aim to have a few images for each product that you can use. The image size that works best for most ads will be 500 x 500 pixels — and be sure when you are sizing your images that you don’t lose the image quality, or cause any weird stretched proportions. 

Pro tip: If you are using Adobe Photoshop, the best way to reduce the size of your image is by using the “Resample Image” option, and setting the interpolation method to “Bicubic Sharper”. Also be sure that you maintain the current aspect ratio by selecting ‘Constrain Proportions’. This option automatically updates the width as you change the height, and vice versa.This will allow you to still retain the fine details of the image when downsizing, so the end result is still a high-quality image that will work perfect for use in your catalog ads.

Keep your catalog updated

If your product catalog isn’t up to date, you will not only be wasting your time, you’ll be wasting your money on ads for items that you may not even have in stock anymore. And if your ad catalog does not accurately reflect what is in your inventory, it could cause a number of problems for you. 

For example, if you end up getting a bunch of orders that you can’t actually fill, you would have to then contact the customers and refund their money. This could even lead to negative reviews if the customer was particularly upset about the situation. So bottom line, keep your catalog updated, always. 

Double check your product links

Along the same lines, you want to be sure that your product links are up to date, and working before you run your ads. If they aren’t right, well then you likely aren't going to get many sales, because your customers won’t know where to find or purchase the item. All they’ll get is a broken link and a dead end. 

Give product titles and descriptions

Accurate product titles and descriptions for the items in your catalog is another easy way for you to reduce the number of returns that you receive, and increase your sales. 

This is because a detailed product listing makes your company seem trustworthy in the eyes of the customer and if the information they need is right there when they need it, they will be more likely to purchase. On the other hand, a listing that doesn’t provide enough information will usually cause people to look elsewhere. 

Use one catalog for your ads

One common misstep when you first start running catalog ads is using more than one catalog. It can happen almost inadvertently on platforms such as Facebook, where you may have originally created your catalog through Ads Manager, but then you also created a catalog for your online shop using the Commerce Manager. Try to avoid this because it just makes your life more complicated and also increases your time spent maintaining each catalog and keeping it updated. Plus, there isn’t really any benefit or reason to have separate catalogs for each different application. Just keep it simple with one catalog.

Add product categories

Finally, the product categories that you use are super important in keeping your catalog organized, especially as you start to have a lot of products. Ensuring that the categories are set up correctly and used consistently is key to helping keep your things organized. Without proper product categories, your catalog will quickly become confusing and a total mess to manage. So do yourself a favor and add your product categories at the beginning of the process. 

How Marpipe can help

So here’s the thing — we’ve got another trick up our sleeve, and it starts with a little something called Enriched Catalogs

Enriched Catalogs spice up the basic catalog ad by making it eye-catching and awesome. Because no one really wants to be stuck using the same old white background for the rest of eternity. 

When you use Marpipe, you have the ability to choose how much or how little you want to switch things up with the ad creative. You can add just a little bit of spice. Or you can go full on ghost pepper flaming hot. 

Either way, the result of using enriched creative is that it will make those once-boring catalog ads work even harder for you. 

It's always nice to have options. Here are just some of the different ways you can take your catalog ads to the next level in Marpipe. 

So.. does this actually work? 

Well, customers who have used our enriched catalog creative have seen:

  • 127% increase in DPA performance
  • 2x revenue with the same DPA spend
  • 60% increase in ROAS

Enriched catalog ads are a great way to catch the attention of your customers, drive traffic to your website, and boost your overall sales. If you want to know more about how catalog ads work, or why our customers love using enriched catalogs — we've got you covered

Think you’re ready to start spicing things up? You can check out our pricing or get in touch with us to book a 1:1 product demo to see how it works. 

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