Creating a high-converting banner ad for your Shopify app
Paying for advertising is like a vicious cycle when you’re getting your app off the ground. You need to advertise your app to get installs so you can start building revenue. But most forms of advertising need revenue themselves.
Standard paid banner advertising can cost app developers between $8-$12 per install. That’s money you’re going to need to make back before you can start to pay off your development costs, let alone think about turning a profit.
Ending the cycle
Thankfully, there are some options to help get the word out there about your great new Shopify app without having to spend big.
The first thing you should do is optimize everything within Shopify’s network:
- improve your app listing,
- make sure you are optimized for search in the Shopify App store,
- be active in community forums.
Here are some more suggestions on how to do internal marketing on Shopify.
But many of your potential customers will not be active in community forums. Some may not even be aware that there are solutions like yours on the market. And to connect with merchants like this, you need advertising. So we’re back to vicious cycle of paid advertising. Or maybe not ...
A smart alternative to paid ads
There’s now a smart alternative - banner exchanges. These are networks that swap banner ads among members. Once you’re a member, other members can publish banners on your site or app. In return, you get to put your banner ad in theirs. It’s all beautifully simple.
Creating banners that convert
Using a banner exchange enables you to reach new audiences. And once you’ve reached them, you’re going to need some compelling banner ads that Shopify merchants will want to click on. And that’s what this blog is all about.
I want to take you through 2 key areas of your banner ad - copy and visuals – and share tips and suggestions on how to make sure you present the best possible banner to your potential customers.
Creating copy for your banner ad
You can say a lot in 10 words if you follow the right strategies. So let’s take a look a strategy for creating great banner ad copy, broken down into 2 stages:
Stage 1: Defining your message (what you want to say)
Stage 2: Crafting your text (how you want to say it)
Stage 1: Defining your message (what you want to say)
Before you write a single word, you need to have figured out what it is you want merchants to know or understand.
Your message should be at the intersection of two elements:
1. the pain points your customers are facing;
2. the solutions you offer that no one else does.
1. Identifying merchant pain points
Think about what problem it is that your app is designed to solve for merchants. If you can, speak to merchants directly and ask what problems your product has helped them solve – you may be surprised at what you hear.
Some problems may be general, related to their overall ecommerce business. Some may be specific, related to a specialised field of their operations. Both general and specific problems can work well as the topic for banner ad copy. Let’s explore how.
Imagine you’ve built an influencer marketing platform.
There are a range of general problems merchants face the your app addresses, such as:
- Other forms of marketing like paid ads offer low ROI;
- Other forms of marketing have low conversion rates;
- Merchants find it hard to improve customer retention and build loyal customers.
There are also problems specifically related to influencer marketing that you app helps merchants solve:
- Influencer campaigns are high touch and time consuming;
- Influencer campaigns are hard to scale;
- It’s difficult to check that influencers are genuine and are not simply buying impressions.
All 6 of these problems could work as the topic for your banner ad. I suggest creating a mix of general and specific banners, then A/B test to see which ones perform best.
The scale of the Shopify merchants you’re targeting might influence whether general or specific message work best. That’s because in larger stores, the person making decisions on which services to procure will probably be a specialisst - a in-house marketer or an agency, for example. They may be looking for solutions to a particular issue they are facing. But with smaller stores, the decision-maker will probably not be a specialist, so you should focus on more general problems that will resonate with their experience.
The influencer platform MuseFind uses a combination of general and specific messaging in its communication. This probably reflects the broad customer base it has.
Here’s an example of their copy which is focused on very general problems ecommerce stores face:
Contact Influencers. Grow your business
The focus isn’t even on marketing, let alone influencer marketing, it’s on growing your ecommerce business. So here they have zoomed out to a really big pain point (struggling to grow your business), and used that as the starting point for presenting their solution.
But on the banner of one of their landing pages they address a much more specific problem. The text simply reads:
Someone who just started with their ecommerce store is going to struggle to get the meaning here. But experienced marketing professionals will understand the problem instantly. There are tons of tools out there that offer reach – just pay the money and lots of people will see your ads. But the problem with these tools is they’re not very good at offering audiences that are specifically relevant to your product. They want to present influencer marketing as a solution to this specific problem.
So we’ve thought about our customer’s problems. But what about our solution?
2. Identifying your USP
You need to clearly identify what your unique selling point (USP) is. There are really 2 possible scenarios for this:
1. You have developed something radically new that is unlike anything else on the market.
2. You have developed something that is similar to other apps available, but better in some specific ways.
If you’re a category 1 company, your USP should be pretty clear – and you can use language like “The first” or “The only” to show you are offering something no one else is.
Most apps fall into category 2. If this is the case, define clearly in what way(s) your app is an improvement on what’s already out there. This could be:
- Ease of use / UX
- Community / network
- Customer support
The list goes on ...
Knowing this is really going to help you create banner ads that grab attention and encourage Shopify merchants to find out more.
Stage 2: Crafting your banner ad text (how you’re going to say it)
Once you have defined what you want to say, you’re going to have to think about how to say in a way that will be engaging. To do this, let’s divide our banner ad text into 2 sections:
Section 1 – The heading: this is going to be 2 or 3 words, shown in a much larger font than the others. The aim is to grab attention and get viewers to read the rest of the banner.
Section 2 – The subheading: this is a follow up of 6-10 words giving additional explanation or detail.
Let’s take a look at this banner by the Shopify app SixAds as an example.
Section 1 – The Heading
This is a direct and eye-catching statement focused on both a user problem (getting traffic) and a specific benefit (the traffic is free).
Section 2 – The Subheading
Get quality traffic from partner stores
Here SixAds give an explanation of where the traffic comes from, and address a potential doubt a merchant might have – will it be quality traffic?
Now we’ve had a look at an example, try writing your own using these templates.
Templates for writing your banner headings
Here are some templates for headings focused on merchant pain points.
You can try question forms:
Struggling with …?
Or a before and after structure:
No more …
Goodbye to …
And here are some templates for headings focused on your USP.
More … , Less …
…. without the …
… made easy
Marketers tip: Rhetorical devices
Rhetorical devices are stylised forms of writing that help to make your text more engaging and memorable. Here are some you could try.
1. Starting words with the same letter (alliteration)
Remember MuseFind’s “Relevance over Reach”? Using 2 words beginning with R helps to make it memorable and catchy. This is a technique used by the biggest agencies in the world to make copy more memorable and interesting. How about this from Adidas:
Source: Duy Dao
“Fifty” goes with “Forever”, “Years” goes with “Young” to create a phrase that sticks in your head.
2. Repeated structures
Here you use the same structure while changing the individual words. For some weird reason, human beings prefer structures that repeat 3 times rather than 2 or 4, hence what creatives call the “Rule of 3”. The fancy name for this is a tricolon. You can repeat single words like comparative adjectives: Smarter, Faster, Simpler. Or adjective, like in this banner by Apple.
How about repeating a “more” structure, something like “More Clicks, More Conversions, More Customers”. Or here’s Apple again (those guys love a tricolon!)
3. Opposing structures
Here, instead of repeating a structure we use its opposite.
Opposites you can try include:
More …, Less …
Higher …, Lower …
Small …, Big …
Templates for writing your banner subheadings
Here we are looking to provide a bit more substance and detail, just enough to get customers clicking.
Templates you can try for this section of your banner ad include:
Get ____ for your ____
Improve your ____ with ______
Learn how to _____ with ____
A great _____ for ______
Getting creative with your texts
These templates for your heading and subheading should be enough to get you started. But of course, you can always play around with the format more. You could try a banner with just 3 words on it. Or try adding more text.
One element I like to add is an additional sticker, like the blue one that says “Free” in SixAds’ banner below.
Stickers give visual interest to your banners, and also provide an opportunity for mentioning an additional point. So pick an additional user benefit you want to emphasise.
Here are some you could try:
24/7 Customer support
1 month free trial
Phew. We’ve already covered a lot and we haven’t even got onto visuals yet! But don’t worry. The first section on defining your message really applies to all stages of producing your banner ad.
For this section, I want to start with some practicalities. Then I’ll share some tips on color, design and that all important CTA.
One quick caveat – the advice below only applies to static banners (ie. a still add that’s not animated). That’s because free banner exchanges will typically only support static banners. Designing the visuals for animated banners is a whole other ball game, for which you’ll probably need a professional designer.
Practical points regarding your visuals
Who creates your banner?
If you have the budget, I highly recommend finding a designer to create your banners. This will cut time and you should end up with a higher quality result. Don’t forget, you want your banner to make the right first impression. If you don’t have the budget, here are some free banner design tools you can use. Or if you already have a program like photoshop, you can use that.
How big is your banner?
You need to check with the sizes available on the banner exchange platform you’re using. For banner exchanges using apps, the banners will be small – probably 300x110px.
What file format should I use?
Again, you’ll need to check with the banner exchange you’re using as to what file types it supports. .jpeg or .png are both good options in terms of image quality.
Color in your banner ad
The colors in your banner ad need to do two things:
1. Establish your brand
2. Attract attention
How do you balance out these two needs?
First, remember that presenting a consistent brand is critical for establishing trust, so don’t go changing your fonts or color scheme. The Shopify developer Agile’s branding is sophisticated, unique and well developed - great inspiration for others.
Agile’s logo sets the tone:
The logo’s cold colors, classic font and minimalist design all ooze professionalism and quality.
But what about attracting attention? A sleek, minimalist look like Agile’s is great for brand building, but it doesn’t make for very eye catching banners.
Agile’s solution has been to adapt its brand different formats to help it stand out more, without departing from their fundamental brand values. Like this piece of design:
Do you see the bright, contrasting colors – yellow and blue, orange on green? These are important for your second goal - attracting attention. Contrasting colors naturally stand out and draw attention.
Look how Mozzila use contrast between blue and orange in their banners:
So, when designing your banners, keep to your brand values but add in some elements of contrasting color – this color wheel is an easy tool for figuring out complementary colors.
Tip – Try using labels to introduce a contrasting color, as SixAds do in this banner ad.
Design and composition
Here are a few rules to follow to make sure you get the composition right.
Rule 1: Keep it simple
If your banner is cluttered with too many visual elements customer could be distracted and miss the main message. So limit yourself to 2 visual elements in your banner.
Take a look at these banners by Shopify - they’re super simple, with no distractions:
Rule 2: Make the visuals relate to the text
If it’s possible, look for visual ways to reinforce the message of the copy. The effect will be to make the message of your banner effortless to understand.
Ebay do this effectively in these banners, with the products showcased directly referencing what’s mentioned in the text:
Rule 3: Include your brand name
So called “native ads” that only subtly show who is advertising are good in some contexts, but not this one. Your banner is going to link to the Shopify App Store, so it should be clear that it is an ad by you for your app. Otherwise it’s just going to be misleading.
Evernote put their brand name and logo front and centre of these banners:
Getting your visuals right
Let’s take a look at a banner that gets the visual elements right. It’s a banner Agile have used for their conversion maximiser app.
What makes the visuals on this banner work? There are a number of reasons:
- The brand is clearly established – the font is consistent with the Agile brand.
- It features contrasting colors – the yellow contrasts with both the green of the scooter and the dark blue of the text.
- It only features 2 visual elements – it is not too cluttered or busy.
- The visuals relate (somewhat) to the text – the cheery tone of the “say hello” message is complemented by the smiling scooter rider and the rabbit.
- The brand name is clear and present – The brand name features in the bottom left corner, and is also shown on the scooter itself. A nice touch.
Along with including your own logo, you should consider adding the Shopify ad badge to your banners. This will quickly communicate that you are an app for Shopify, and create a feeling of authority and quality.
Here’s the guidance on how to use Shopify’s brand assets.
Your CTA (Call to Action)
The final element we need to add to your banner ad is a CTA. This is a button for users to click. You basically have 2 elements you can play with in terms of your CTA button: the wording (up to 3 words) and the color.
The wording of your CTA
To create the wording, you need to decide how direct you want to be with your language. Strong action verbs like shop, buy or get will encourage an impulsive sale. But in our case, Shopify merchants are going to want to evaluate your app first before buying. So I suggest using either verbs for exploration or creation. Here are some examples:
Verbs for exploration – Try, Learn, Explore, Check out, Meet
Verbs for creation – Choose, Create, Start, Make
You could also experiment with CTAs relating to membership like:
I’m in, Sign me up, I’m onboard
And try out adding urgency to your CTAs with words like:
The color of your CTA
The first point here is again to think about color contrasts. If your banner ad is predominantly blue, go for a yellow or orange CTA.
Or you can experiment based on the specifically qualities colors are known to have:
Red – Great for encouraging action, this color is known to increase heart rate. Though beware, some people associate it with debt or danger.
Yellow – The first color our eyes perceive, it can be great for attracting attention.
Orange – Another highly visible color, this is also less aggressive than red.
White – A white CTA button can stand out if other strong colors are used in the banner.
MuseFind use a red CTA to good effect in this banner.
Create, test and optimize
Great, you’re all set to create your first banner ad. And once you’ve created a few, you should A/B test them to drive more and more conversions.
Here’s a quick guide to running A/B tests for your banner ads.
1. Create 2 or 3 banners with different focuses and messages and test all 3.
2. Take the winning banner. Write 2 or 3 versions of the text for this banner and test these (remember to keep all the other elements the same).
3. Take the text from best performing banner in stage 2, and now alter the visuals. Again, try 2 or 3 different versions and test.
4. Take the best performing banner from stage 3 and now alter the text and color of the CTA.
And the best performing banner from stage 4 is your winner.
So, you’re now fully equipped to run free banner ads for your Shopify App. Time to get started.