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How ACK Optimized a Boatload of Google Shopping Ads

THE SCOOP

ACK runs a highly seasonal business selling kayaks, canoes, and outdoors gear. Like many retailers, it was facing increased competition for impression share and clicks in Google Shopping. ACK wanted to capitalize on search interest faster—and at the right seasonal time frames—while saving time and effort.

So, ACK implemented Sidecar.

PROFILE

Retail Category
Outdoors/Sporting
Website
Headquarters
Austin, TX

The Problem

Managing Complexity

ACK’s early success online was rooted in Google AdWords, and then switched to comparison shopping engines. A couple years ago, though, product listing ads (PLAs), specifically through the Google Shopping channel, became a primary revenue driver for ACK. PLAs comprise 75% of the retailer’s online marketing spend.

But PLAs added a new level of complexity to ACK’s marketing mix. True success in PLAs requires that every product in a retailer’s catalog be assigned the right bid, every day. With thousands of SKUs in an expanding catalog, it was challenging to navigate a successful transition to Google Shopping while ensuring revenue growth. 

 “We were fighting for traffic,” said Peter Messana, CEO of ACK. He was spending too much time optimizing his data feed and determining how to group and bid efficiently on products. Although Messana was able to keep return on ad spend (ROAS) at his goal, at times, he felt he was “throwing a dart” when bidding. And occasionally, “spending would go through the roof” while revenue remained flat.

Seasonality is also a major concern for ACK, which has two busy periods. The first, from March through September, is when the retailer sells a large volume of kayaks and other paddlesports gear. Average order values (AOV) are high and ACK can afford to bid up products in PLA channels. The second busy season is during the winter holidays. Sales go way up, but AOV goes down because gift items are mostly accessories and other less expensive products.

“We can’t overspend on marketing during the holiday season, because we’re just not getting the profitability we need out of the orders,” Messana said.

BY the Numbers

14k
Products
in catalog
25%
Revenue Growth
in 6 Months
15%
Cost Savings
in 6 Months
75%
Marketing Budget
Spent on PLAs

The solution

BRINGING AUTOMATION ON BOARD

As ACK’s self-professed “geek,” Messana understood the complexities of PLAs and quickly realized that the Google Shopping channel required a new approach, where grouping and bidding products could be automated.

“We have somewhere between 8,000 and 14,000 individual products in the feed, and managing any one of those products individually would mean the others are just getting ignored,” said Messana. “A human can’t react to that many data points.”

He searched the market for a technology that could manage ACK’s significant inventory and optimize marketing spend in a highly seasonal business. Sidecar stood out to Messana during his evaluation because of its “ability to do what humans can’t—which is react fast enough to search trends.” 

Messana decided to use Sidecar for his Google Shopping campaigns. After a short implementation process, ACK was up and running with the technology.

“It took off right away,” Messana said. “We were seeing huge drops in cost/sale week-over-week.”

Sidecar’s machine learning technology predictively assigns bids to products based on real-time performance metrics. Since bids are evaluated and adjusted daily, Messana doesn’t have to manually adjust budget to make sure he is spending the right amount to capitalize on seasonal trends.
Sidecar’s technology pulls the levers to maximize our profitability in Google Shopping—allowing me to get out of the weeds and spend more time driving our channel strategy.
Peter Messana
CEO & Co-Owner of ACK

the results

GAINING SPEED WITH INTELLIGENCE

In six months with Sidecar, ACK’s Google Shopping revenue grew by 25% while its spend in the channel dropped by 15%.

“Sidecar has taken away the need for me to worry about what we’re spending and where the spend is going,” Messana said. “Sidecar’s technology pulls the levers to maximize our profitability in the channel—allowing me to get out of the weeds and spend more time driving our channel strategy.”

Sidecar has kept ACK’s Google Shopping campaigns within half a percentage of the retailer’s ROAS goal. “Consistent profitability for our business is a huge win—and something we weren’t able to accomplish prior to Sidecar,” said Messana.

Messana has also found that Sidecar handles ACK’s seasonality well. “Sidecar understands our business,” he said. “They don’t chase volume just to chase volume.”

Messana also said Sidecar helps ACK compete with larger outdoor retailers that promote their product feeds through PLAs as well. 

“I don’t believe our competition is capable of reacting to performance and bid changes nearly as quickly as we can react with Sidecar,” Messana said. “And that means our revenue’s up, but our spend is actually down. If you’re looking for me to describe it in a word, I’m excited. And I don’t get excited often.”

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