YouTube Remarketing for Ecommerce

At OMG Commerce, we believe in a simple marketing philosophy that has generated millions in revenue for our company and our clients, and that is the marketing funnel. When bottom-of-funnel marketing campaigns are strong, you can be more aggressive with top-of-funnel efforts, including YouTube remarketing, also known as YouTube retargeting.  

If you’re proactive and persuasive in turning visitors into customers (especially those who don’t purchase on the first visit), then you can spend more money on top-of-funnel advertising efforts.  

Bottom-of-funnel strength opens doors for more top-of-funnel opportunities. This goes back to an old marketing quote “The company who can afford to spend the most to acquire a customer (usually) wins.” You can only spend more to acquire a customer if your conversion rates, customer lifetime value, backend offers and video remarketing campaigns are better than your competitors. If you can spend more at the top-of-the-funnel campaigns you have a serious competitive advantage.  

For Boom by Cindy Joseph led by my friend Ezra Firestone, YouTube Trueview ads are an integral part of our remarketing efforts. Using YouTube Trueview ads enables us to recover thousands of abandoned carts on a consistent basis. We also leverage YouTube campaigns to boost client LTV (loan-to-value). We consistently drive conversions at 50% below our CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) target, and sometimes even lower.    

So what are YouTube TrueView ads? These are the pre-roll or “before” video ads that play right before the video you choose to watch on YouTube plays. Viewers can skip these ads after the first five seconds. The best part for you as an advertiser is that you don’t pay unless someone watches your video for at least :30 (or the whole video if it’s less than :30), or, they have to click through to your site. So, if a user doesn't watch or engage with your ad, you don’t pay.  


Right now we’re paying in the $.03 to $.19 per completed view for remarketing campaigns. 

Before we discuss how to build powerful YouTube remarketing campaigns, I want to make a very important point. 

A great YouTube retargeting campaign requires a great video ad. At a minimum, you need a good ad. While your video ad doesn’t need to be the next viral hit, it does need to be engaging and compelling. The campaign structure and lists you use are all critical for your video remarketing strategy, and we’ll outline those details below.

Step 1: Build a List of Cart Abandoners 

The quickest way to firm up your bottom-of-funnel efforts - and instantly close more sales - is to recover more of your abandoned carts. People abandon your cart for a variety of reasons. Maybe the baby starts crying in another room before your shopper can get her credit card out. Maybe your prospect is shopping on a mobile device at a red light and the light turns green before they hit submit. Maybe your prospect added something to the cart to save it for later, never intending to purchase in the moment.  The point is, not everyone who abandons your cart is lost. Utilizing YouTube retargeting is a great way to reactivate these shoppers and get them back to your site to complete checkout. 

Your best-converting video remarketing list will almost certainly be your cart abandoners lists.  Even if you are already running abandon cart email sequences (and you should be), you’re likely leaving money on the table if you’re not running YouTube remarketing ads. 

In order to run ads targeting cart abandoners, you first need to build a remarketing list.  There are a few ways to do this, but my preferred method is usually to create these lists in Google Analytics.      

I recommend you build cart abandoner list segments in the 3-day, 7-day, 15-day and 30-day windows. Or something close to that. This will allow you to create a remarketing campaign sequence and potentially share a different message with our 3-day cart abandon audience than we share with our 30-day cart abandon audience.

To do that, login to Google Analytics, then under the admin tab, click > Audience Definitions >  then Audiences.


Then click + New Audiences button

Then you're going to create a condition where the users session contains a visit to a /cart (or /checkout) page, but does NOT end with a visit to your order confirmation page.  

Then, set the duration to 3 days.

Then, repeat for 7-day, 15-day and 30-day windows.

Once you’ve built your lists, it’s time to start building your campaign sequence. 


Step 2: Create a 3-Step Video Remarketing Campaign Sequence

Sometimes a simple reminder is all someone needs to get them back to your cart to complete checkout. Other times, you need to be more persistent. For those that take a little extra persuasion, it’s best not to beat them over the head with the same video over and over again. Also, you may not want to offer a big discount or incentive to come back and purchase when a simple reminder would have done the trick. How can you help deliver the right video remarketing message to your cart abandoners in order to recover as many as possible? Create a campaign sequence.  While you don’t have to be this specific, this is what we recommend.  

Build up to 4 campaigns. A 3-day, 7-Day, 14-Day Campaign and 30-Day Campaign.  Each campaign will target the remarketing list you created for that time window and exclude any and all of the shorter duration lists. So, the 14-day campaign will target the 14-day list and exclude anyone one the 3-day and 7-day lists.  

If you choose to do so, you can also look at making a stronger offer with each subsequent campaign. Maybe the 3-day campaign is a simple reminder message.  Then, starting with the 7-day or 14-day campaign, you could extend a free shipping or other discount offer to make it harder for someone to resist.

Step 3: Utilize the Power of YouTube and Google Shopping With a TrueView for Shopping Campaign

I remember when I first heard about the TrueView for Shopping ad format. The marketing nerd in me felt like it was Christmas. Why was I so excited? TrueView for shopping combines the super effective Product Listing Ad (PLA), aka Google Shopping ad, with YouTube pre-roll video ads. I’ve been a Google shopping superfan and practitioner for the last 6+ years. I even wrote the Ultimate Guide to Google Shopping that Shopify published. 

What makes this ad format so effective? It combines the selling power of video with PLAs that display price, product image and product title.  When you’re targeting a group of people who nearly bought something from your site recently, this ad format is hard NOT to click on.  

To run this ad format, select the Video campaign subtype of Shopping. Then you can either choose the specific products you want to be featured in the PLA area, or you can let Google decide.  In most cases, I recommend you pick the products. This can get a bit tricky if you offer thousands of SKUs. If someone was looking at sneakers on your site, then you retarget them with a video that has only shirts in the PLAs, the prospect will be less likely to click the ad. In that case, you might select a campaign subtype of  Trueview for Action so that you are creating a companion banner rather than displaying PLAs. See the Grammarly ad below as an example of this ad format.  

The results for Boom have been stellar. While the Boom team targets a CPA of $15 or less for remarketing efforts, YouTube consistently operates in the $5 to $9 CPA range.  


Step 4: Build a List of Converters

Who’s the most likely group of people to buy your products? Your current customers. Selling more to your existing customers is always easier and cheaper than trying to sell to new customers. Now that you are recovering more cart abandoners, it’s time to look into targeting existing customers.  

We’re going to build this list of converters in Analytics like we did the cart abandoner list.  Again, we’re going to login to Google Analytics, then under the admin tab, click > Audience Definitions >  then Audiences, then + New Audience.  

 Then, choose an Audience definition of “User who completed a transaction.” 

Consider your repurchase cycles when you build these lists. If you sell a consumable, think about how soon someone will most likely need to repurchase. Is that 30 days, 90 days, 180 days? You should also consider what time a customer might like to buy a complementary product.

Step 5: Boost LTV by Building Bought X, Not Y Campaigns

This is a campaign innovation I learned directly from Ezra Firestone. This is where you target a list of buyers who’ve purchased a product, but haven’t purchased a complimentary product. So maybe someone has purchased an air purifier, but not the filters. Or, in Boom’s case, maybe someone has purchased Boom Sticks (makeup replacement products) but haven’t purchased Boom Silk (skin moisturizer). The key here is building the list. Again, we’ll head over to Google Analytics to build this list. We’re going to create a condition where:

  • Someone has purchased
  • They’ve purchased a particular SKU
  • They haven’t purchased a complimentary SKU

It will look like this:



Then, you set up a campaign running a video that sells the complementary product and you target your list. How compelling is it to say, “Hey, you have Boomstick, now layer on the benefits of Boomsilk.” Then you can run PLAs of the different Boomstick options along with the video.  It will take some serious willpower for your prospects to say no to this type of appeal.  

Step 6: Close the Loop by Adding YouTube Remarketing Lists to Search and Shopping Campaigns

For users who see your Trueview remarketing ads, but still don’t purchase, not all hope is lost. Some clients will come back later via other channels. Some people will see your YouTube ads, not click, and then later go to Google to search for your products.  

In this scenario, it’s nice to make sure your search and shopping ads show up for those users when they hunt for you on Google. It’s also nice to see how many of them convert. You can accomplish both by building lists of people who view your videos as ads and then layering them into your Google Search and Google Shopping campaigns.  

In your search and shopping campaigns in the Google Ads interface, click the audience tab, then select YouTube Users list and choose options for “Viewed Video as an Ad.”  Make sure you chose the “Observation” rather than “Targeting” option. Targeting means you will ONLY target people on that list. Observation means who can observe how that list performs and even bid more for people on that list if you chose to, but you will also reach people who aren’t on that list.  

Key Next Steps for YouTube Retargeting

Now you're ready to unleash the power of YouTube retargeting and client retention/repurchase. Check out the 4 recommendations below to get started.

  1. Turn on your remarketing lists now.  Once you build your remarketing lists, they start populating. Depending on how much traffic you have, you probably can’t create a list today and then start running campaigns to that list tomorrow. Your remarketing lists take a little time to populate. Turn your lists on even while you work on your video creative so you’ll be ready to launch once you have your videos created.
  1. Focus more on the message rather than production quality of your videos.  You don’t have to spend a lot on video production. I’ve seen some ads do phenomenally well that cost less than a few thousand dollars. The key is to get the message right. Make your benefits come to life in the video. This usually doesn’t require special effects, explosions, etc.
  1. Test different videos.  Don’t launch with just one video when testing your video retargeting. If you do, you might come to the conclusion that that video doesn’t work, when, in reality, you just didn’t have a great video. Test different appeals, different openings and different offers.
  1. Watch other key metrics.  While conversions and sales are king, there are other metrics that you need to watch as you evaluate the effectiveness of your ads. In addition to CPA, also consider View Through Rates (VTR). Your View Through Rate is the percentage of people who see your ad who watch it through to the billable point. So a VTR of 30% means that 30% of the people who are served your ad actually watch it to the :30 point. Here’s a quick guide for what’s good and what’s not:
  • Not so good -  A VTR of Less than 20% is fairly weak.  If you get into the single digits you can be confident that something is wrong with your video.
  • Good - Anything in the 20-35% VTR is strong to really strong.
  • Great -  If you are in the 35-50% VTR, then your video is amazing.  

Now that you’ve learned all about video retargeting, we hope this guide serves as motivation for you to get started with your own YouTube remarketing campaign. If you want to learn more about advertising with YouTube, check out our YouTube ads guide. So what are you waiting for? Start testing YouTube ads for remarketing to transform your business now.


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