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Thriftbooks boosts revenue with Microsoft Audience Ads

July 2019

  • Article
  • Retail
  • Success stories

Turning the page

Searching for a secondhand page-turner? ThriftBooks probably has what you’re looking for.

The Tukwila, Washington-based online bookseller has been selling new and used books since the summer of 2003. That was when the company created a software that allowed them to more easily sort, organise, grade, list and price thousands of book titles per day. But the success of the software went beyond just business. Every year, the company saves millions of books from being destroyed by acquiring discarded and donated books from charities and libraries. This not only gives new life to used books, it allows ThriftBooks to help fund reading programs around the country and bring fresh content to their readership. Since its founding, the company has become one of the world’s leading online used bookstores with multiple processing and fulfillment centers throughout the U.S., allowing them to deliver books around the globe, fast.

The capabilities of the Microsoft Audience Network and Audience Ads have given us a new way to extend our reach for high-intent customers outside of traditional search.

— Seth Meisel, Senior digital marketing manager, Thriftbooks

Finding success with Microsoft Audience Ads

Search engine marketing (SEM) has been the cornerstone of the ThriftBooks marketing strategy since 2012.

“I’d heard about the Microsoft Audience Network at the Search Marketing Expo [SMX],” says Seth Meisel, senior digital marketing manager for ThriftBooks. “Product feed-based Audience Ads were a standout among the new offerings. It was exciting to return from a conference and apply new tactics that contribute to annual growth.”

Audience Ads help get the right message to the right customers at the right time in their decision-making process by blending naturally into consumers’ experiences on premium sites like MSN, and Microsoft Edge, as well as other partner sites outside of search. These types of ads, often called native ads, are served across the Microsoft Audience Network, which is powered by the Microsoft Graph and artificial intelligence (AI).

Powering up its PPC strategy

For ThriftBooks, Audience Ads turned out to be a great way to add more oomph to its existing PPC game plan. “It’s only a few clicks away to opt into Audience Ads for preexisting campaigns, making it easy to adopt at scale,” says Meisel. “We were able to extend our existing audience strategy to the Microsoft Audience Network, which gave us access to high-quality native placements and great exposure right out of the gate. Plus, the product allows for network-level bidding modifiers, so over time, as differences in performance crop up between the search and audience networks, we’re able to adjust how we value traffic.”

According to their digital marketing agency, the hands-on help and campaign setup guides provided by the Microsoft Advertising account team saved “hours of trial and error.”

“The Microsoft Advertising team was instrumental in making this campaign a reality,” says Meisel. “They’ve been with us every step of the way, from being proactive with ideation and feature availability on through a flawless execution of the campaign.”

In addition to Audience Ads, the company uses other Microsoft Advertising audience solutions including Remarketing, Custom Audiences and Shopping Campaigns to target and convert customers with great success. “With Remarketing, the e-commerce funnel segments users, such as past site visitors and past customers, while Custom Audiences are used to segment based on characteristics like purchase behaviors and more,” says Meisel. “We use these features to complement search keywords and the product feed for our Shopping Campaigns.”

More revenue, more impressions

Since deploying Audience Ads in September 2018, ThriftBooks has boosted the reach of its Shopping Campaigns by 18% in terms of impressions.Click traffic is up by 3% on an ongoing basis and campaign revenue has increased by 2%. Then, in early 2019, a new Shopping Campaign ran on the Microsoft Audience Network ended up giving the company some surprising results. According to Meisel, just over a third of the click traffic was from previous ThriftBooks users. “This is between two to three times higher than our benchmark Shopping Campaigns on the Microsoft Search Network,” says Meisel.

Overall, ThriftBooks is very impressed with Microsoft Advertising and the performance of Microsoft Audience Ads. “The capabilities of the Microsoft Audience Network and Audience Ads have given us a new way to extend our reach for high-intent customers outside of traditional search,” says Meisel. “As a business, we’re constantly seeking new ways to grow qualified traffic and increase the revenue of existing campaign types, and the Microsoft Audience Network fit the bill for both criteria as it provided a previously untapped and high-quality user base.”

Download the infographic to take Thriftbooks’ success story with you.