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Digital Transformation Tech Brand Strategy

Social commerce: 3 crucial steps to succeed with shopping ads

By Sarah Hiraki, head of creative


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September 6, 2023 | 8 min read

Social media platforms offer major opportunities for brands to engage with shoppers, says Sarah Hiraki (head of creative, For true success in social commerce, marketers must create meaningful shopping experiences through eye-catching shopping ads that provide a seamless path to purchase, personalized targeting, and easy tracking. Here are three key elements brands need to know to get it right.

Two women shop on social media on their phones while holding shopping bags

With younger audiences up to 3x more likely to make purchases using emerging media, social platforms have become the new high street. They are now hubs for communication, community building, and entertainment – driving major opportunities for brands to engage and help shoppers buy.

Today, consumers are shopping on an average of seven platforms a day, creating endless for brand engagement. To thrive in today’s competitive landscape is to offer amazing and meaningful experiences that help savvy social shoppers find what they’re looking for, while delighting and inspiring them to look for more.

What are social media shopping ads and how do they lead to social commerce success?

Social media shopping ads are designed to provide a seamless path to purchase by promoting and selling products directly to users. These ads typically incorporate eye-catching visuals, engaging descriptions, and call-to-action buttons to encourage users to make a purchase. The best social media shopping ads are simultaneously storefronts, showrooms, personal shoppers, review sites, and coupon pages. These aren’t ephemeral billboards, pestering for a purchase – they’re an extension of your brand and they should serve a meaningful purpose.

That’s a lot to ask of a single image, video or interactive unit; and shoppers aren’t just asking, they’re demanding. In fact, 73% of shoppers now expect brands to understand their unique needs and expectations. Social media shopping ads must contain multitudes to streamline the shopping experience, eliminating the need for customers to visit multiple websites or applications, saving time and effort, and reducing drop off on the path to purchase.

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Additionally, shopping ads provide brands with an effective and targeted way to reach their desired audience, as 56% of us now expect offers to be personalized. By leveraging the user insights available on social media platforms, businesses can deliver personalized ads to individuals who are more likely to be interested in their products or services, leading to higher conversion rates and increased sales.

Shopping ads create a direct connection between the setup of a campaign and a purchase. Advertisers can easily track how well shopping ads are performing, offering a clearer understanding on return on investment. This data-driven approach empowers businesses to fine-tune their campaigns and allocate their advertising budget more effectively.

3 steps to social commerce success

Now that we know why showing up for social shoppers is critical, let’s dig into three important steps to achieving success with shopping ads.

Step 1: Define your target audience

To create and run successful shopping ads, you need a solid strategy that considers the personas, preferences, and behaviors of your potential customers at each stage of their buying journey: awareness, consideration, and purchase. Having these initial hypotheses about how different audiences will engage with your various products and services will also guide what you’ll need to include in your creative assets. You’ve got their attention – now what are you going to say?

Step 2: Prepare your creative assets and templates

When it comes to your creative, first impressions matter. Consider the mindset of your audience while they’re scrolling – and make the decision to stand out, or to blend in with their experience seamlessly.

Whether you’re approaching audiences on Pinterest, TikTok, Meta, Snap, or YouTube – visuals matter. Don’t skimp on visually captivating and attention-grabbing creative assets. Make sure your images and videos effectively showcase your products, features, and benefits.

When you set out to build creative, make it easy on yourself. Create templates that can be easily populated with your product information, ensuring consistency and efficiency in your ad creation process. Look for durable, reusable structures that can tick all the boxes: brand governance, bold design, and easy automation. However, keep in mind that one size doesn’t always fit all. Be sure to adhere to the best practices for each channel and format, so your messaging doesn’t feel forced or out of place.

If you want to learn more about the power of creative, click here.

Step 3: Optimize and test your ads

You’re not data-driven if you don’t actually let the data drive. To run successful shopping ad campaigns, it’s crucial to continuously test and optimize. Experiment with different ad variations, visuals, copy, CTAs, and targeting options to find the most effective combinations that resonate for your different target audiences. Challenge your own hypotheses – did deal hunters respond to markdowns? Has your gifting audience been reassured by your returns policy? Did free shipping move the needle? You should be constantly refining and improving your campaigns for the best results.

While innovation in formats and channels continues to move at the speed of a swipe, the importance of placing the right message in front of the right person at the right time isn’t going anywhere. Social media platforms are powerful channels enabling businesses to reach, engage, and build trusted relationships with their audiences. Each platform has its own unique benefits and opportunities that enable brands to drive awareness, engagement and sales.

‍By understanding their audiences, creative capabilities and data, brands can create effective strategies to maximize the spend and impact of their shopping ad campaigns across each stage of the buyer’s journey.

The winning brands of the future don’t just serve ads to customers wherever they’re scrolling, they create exciting, helpful, entertaining storefronts across the internet. Building long-lasting customer relationships relies on engaging content and seamless digital experiences that make shopping easy and enjoyable.

Learn more about how to craft successful strategies in the digital age here.

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