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The Goals

  • Grow sales at a target return on ad spend (ROAS)
  • Stay ahead of the curve in mobile

The Approach

  • Move to ROAS-based portfolio bidding with DoubleClick Search
  • Inform bid strategies with a time decay attribution model
  • Leverage cross-device conversion tracking to automate mobile bid adjustments
  • Automate bid adjustments for remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA)

The Results

  • Drove 38% more revenue at a higher ROAS ratio
  • Increased mobile traffic and sales by 150% year over year
  • Achieved 98% sales growth in Google Shopping campaigns and 16% sales growth in traditional keyword text ads


Published July 2016

eBags is an online retailer of handbags, luggage, backpacks, laptop bags, and accessories that serves travellers globally. It helps travellers outfit all of life's journeys, big or small, whether they are travelling to Europe or commuting to work or school. The company has been the #1 online bag retailer in the U.S. since 1999 and recently expanded internationally. As a player in two growing industries, online retail and travel, eBags is poised for growth. Larry Sweeney, Search Engine Marketing Manager at eBags says, "There's a huge market out there right now. The travel industry is growing. Online retail is growing. We want to make sure that eBags is also growing."

Improving an already successful channel

eBags has always been successful with search marketing. The company became the #1 online bag retailer, in part through the use of an in-house bidding tool. On a daily basis, the tool imported data from AdWords, predicted a value per click by keyword or group of keywords, and then placed bids accordingly. The tool worked, but Sweeney saw an opportunity to get even better performance with DoubleClick Search Smart Bidding. 

The in-house tool wasn't a bad way to go, but we felt like there was some machine learning that was beyond us, which is why we chose Smart Bidding.

Larry Sweeney, Search Engine Marketing Manager at eBags

An easy switch to ROAS-based portfolio bidding with DoubleClick Search

It was easy for eBags and its digital marketing agency, Agency Within, to switch from setting bids based on suggestions from the in-house tool to portfolio bidding with DoubleClick Search. Smart Bidding provides automated, goal-driven bid strategies that optimize bids across multiple campaigns, ad groups and keywords. It works by automatically optimizing bids for all keywords within a portfolio and across devices, including all Shopping ads, and Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSAs). For eBags, Smart Bidding enabled the company to target a specific ROAS to help them achieve their growth and profitability goals.

The first step in the switch involved testing Smart Bidding against the in-house tool. Sweeney says, "We did a test where we divided our account into similarly performing groups. On one group, we did Smart Bidding. On the other group, we stayed with our legacy system. Then, we measured the performance. We planned to do a four-week test but after three weeks we decided to call it because we were seeing really positive results from Smart Bidding in DoubleClick Search."

The switch also involved automating bid adjustments for remarketing lists. With RLSA, Smart Bidding was setup to make bid adjustments across five different audience segments and thousands of ad groups. eBags used the AdWords remarketing tag to manage three of the audience segments -- recent site visitors, abandoned shopping carts, and customers -- and Customer Match email lists to manage two additional audience segments. Across all five of these audience segments, the switch to Smart Bidding allowed eBags to automatically adjust bids and produce better results than manual bidding. It helped eBags convert returning audiences at a rate 35% higher than unsegmented audiences and increased revenue from returning audiences by 62%. 

Having a system that can granularly look at multiple different segments and scale out the bids has absolutely contributed to growing sales for us. The way that we were able to automate bidding for all of these different audience segments within our existing campaigns was something we couldn't achieve with other bidding tools.

Larry Sweeney, Search Engine Marketing Manager at eBags

Staying ahead of the curve in mobile

In addition to growing sales at a target ROAS, eBags has ambitions to be a leader in mobile. Sweeney says, "We know that mobile is obviously growing more and more important every year. So, we definitely want to stay ahead of the curve in how we market and how we optimize our marketing spend toward mobile."

eBags faced two challenges in particular with mobile. The first was its place in the funnel. Many conversions involved multiple ad clicks, and mobile devices tended to play the helper role more than desktop and tablet devices. Any strategy to automate bidding on mobile would have to understand mobile's helper role, or it would penalize eBags' mobile bids and shrink the size of its funnel. Secondly, in many cases the conversion path would span devices. Someone would start on mobile, and go on to complete a purchase on another device. Google AdWords internal data suggests that eBags is not alone with these challenges. Marketers in the US retail industry measure 16% more search ads conversions when including cross-device data.

To address these challenges, eBags automated all mobile bid (mBid) adjustments with Smart Bidding while acting on cross-device conversion metrics using a DoubleClick-enhanced version of Google's cross-device solution. It allows eBags to learn and automatically act on cross-device conversions, which begin on one device and end on another. Sweeney says, "We're using mobile bid automation because a lot of our customers are starting their experience with us on mobile and then completing a purchase on another device. We like that the cross-device effect is accounted for in how DoubleClick optimizes."

eBags also uses different attribution models in DoubleClick Search to analyze its funnel in different ways. For example, the company uses a last click model for internal reporting and a time decay model to understand assists along the conversion path. Sweeney says, "We use attribution data to guide how we drive efficiency."

Growing the business with 38% more revenue and a bigger mobile footprint

eBags' use of Smart Bidding helped the company grow revenue by 38% at a higher ROAS versus a comparable time period. Success metrics contributing to this included a 98% sales growth in Google Shopping and a 16% sales growth in traditional keyword text ads. On mobile, eBags increased mobile traffic and mobile sales from paid search by 150% compared to the previous year. Sweeney says, "DoubleClick Search Smart Bidding is one of the big things contributing to eBags' growth."

eBags plans to continue leveraging the full power of DoubleClick Search this year and beyond. It may split its one big portfolio into two or three smaller portfolios since it has different lines of business with different profit margins. This would take advantage of Smart Bidding’s ability to optimize ROAS for products with different profit margins. eBags may also test adaptive Shopping campaigns and inventory keyword campaigns.

We're going to be dramatically increasing the brands and products we have on our site. So, the features in DoubleClick Search that can help scale that will be really important for us.

Larry Sweeney, Search Engine Marketing Manager at eBags


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