bol.com boost CPA 38% with automated bidding on Display & Video 360

bol.com improves campaign performance and saves valuable time with automated bidding in Display & Video 360.

Founded as an online bookstore in 1999, bol.com has since expanded to more than twenty product categories including entertainment, toys, lifestyle and electronics. Operating in the Netherlands and Belgium, one of bol.com’s biggest challenges is finding ways to manage and optimise messaging against such a huge range of products.

Connecting Across the Customer Journey

At the heart of the brand’s approach to this problem is a laser focus on the customer journey. “We want to help our customers through their entire journey,” explains Daan van Senten, Online Advertising Specialist at bol.com. “Not everyone knows what they can buy from us, so we need to be there at every stage in the journey, as soon as the customer is in-market, putting the right message in front of the right person, at the right time.”

Online advertising plays a crucial role in making these connections. “We want to get people on bol.com, so we can help them in the best way possible,” says Daan, emphasising that whether it’s display, search or video, the key is providing consumers with the information they need to make the right decision. In particular, with the growth of mobile, the brand are increasingly aware of the need to ensure that their operations fit with changing patterns in consumer behaviour. “We’re constantly optimising to be mobile-first,” he observes, “as we know that’s where we need to be.”

Automating Optimisation

In a marketplace characterised by vigorous competition, improving marketing effectiveness and performance is a perennial challenge. However, with campaigns covering millions of products, the potential for manual optimisation is limited. bol.com felt that to significantly improve, they would need to embrace automation, so they turned to the automated bidding features in Display & Video 360 - a tool available as part of Google Marketing Platform (formerly DoubleClick).

To examine the potential of automated bidding, bol.com ran an A/B test comparing the cost-per-acquisition (CPA) algorithm’s performance against a manually optimised campaign. Over the test period, the automated bid traffic outperformed manually optimised traffic in several key metrics, with a 25% improvement in cost-per-click, a 99% improvement in click-through rate and a 38% improvement in CPA. On bol.com’s website, the team also registered lower bounce rates and longer session durations, suggesting a higher quality of traffic. Overall, Daan estimates that automating campaign optimisation saved as much as ten hours per team member, per month.

Since the successful A/B test, bol.com have run similar experiments with the rest of their inventory, looking at how automation impacts performance in the lower, middle and upper stages of the customer funnel. As a result, around 80% of bol.com’s online retail advertising is now run using automated bidding, and the team are excited to figure out how automation can help with other challenges, such as customer segmentation and recommendations.

“Automation is a hot topic right now,” says Daan van Senten, “and we’re relying on partners like Google to help us adapt it to our organisation. What’s exciting to me is that we don’t know what the future will look like, so we have to always be ready, and always be improving. Using technologies like machine learning and AI, we can know our customers even better, and help them even more.”

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