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The art of paid search

  Article , Retail , Success stories

Great Big Canvas boosts business with Bing Ads

There’s a building in Raleigh, North Carolina, as close to a living thing as four walls and a ceiling can get. On the top floor phones ring, products are developed, books are kept. Down below, a massive facility prints, frames and stretches canvases. To wander its halls is to watch more than 200 employees spend each day immortalizing the most beloved images of people all over the world. The building is fueled by something every living thing holds dear — memories. 

“When you’re hand-stretching all these images, attaching them to these custom-made wood frames, it requires staple guns,” Matt Fritz, director of acquisition marketing for Great Big Canvas says of the company’s headquarters. “So when you go on the production floor, all you hear is these pops everywhere — it’s like crickets, but with staple guns.”

Behind every pop is a vacation shot, a landscape, perhaps even a few awkward family photos — as well as our collective memories, from a classic shot of the Beatles to a Van Gogh painting. Since 2006, Great Big Canvas and its sister company, Canvas on Demand, have sold more than 2.5 million custom prints from canvas art and frames to posters and wall peels.

“Every day, you're walking the floor and seeing different images all the time; you’re seeing what kind of imagery resonates with people. You not only get to interact with the people that are making the product by hand, but you also get to almost interact with your customers by seeing what's inspiring them through the art,” Fritz explains. “Walking around the whole building, you can literally see an order go from the shopping cart all the way through production and out the door.” 

In these hallways, the employees have a running joke that sums up their target audience in three words: anyone with walls. “We laugh about that internally, because our bread and butter is direct-to-consumer printing for homes and apartments,” Fritz says. “Great Big Canvas has two sides to it. The majority is licensed wall art, but we also have a business-to-business entity where we cater to some pretty large customers and outfit entire offices or entire franchises.”


The ever-expanding growth of ad extensions is wonderful.

— Matt Fritz, director of acquisition marketing, Great Big Canvas

A history with Bing

Great Big Canvas results with Bing Ads

Great Big Canvas results with Bing Ads

Confident in their means and method, Great Big Canvas has been able to turn their attention to the message — and how to get it out. For Fritz, the identity of that messenger is dictated by a lengthy track record. 

“I've been using the Bing Ads platform since all the way back when it was Microsoft AdCenter,” he laughs. “Back in 2008, it was a very manual process. There weren't many tools at your disposal, and not many reports that you could run.”  

Bing Ads has come a long way — to the point where, for a company like Great Big Canvas, it’s picture perfect. 

“The ever-expanding growth of ad extensions is wonderful,” says Fritz, who cites it — along with device bid adjustments and ad text length manipulation — as his favorite paid search innovations. “It makes a ton of sense for us, considering we're an art company. Giving us additional ad extension opportunities, to cover more real estate and get more information out there while trying to secure that traffic from competitors has been a really welcomed addition to the platform.” 

However, Bing Ads Editor is Fritz’s must-have tool. “That is the tool I use for hours, every day,” he explains. “With the size of our account — hundreds of campaigns and tens of thousands of ad groups with a half million keywords — without Bing Ads Editor, my job would be practically impossible.” 

The results of the company’s Bing Ads efforts paint a picture as pretty as those being shipped to their customers every day. The company’s growth trajectory began in 2012, and since that time, Bing has been the single largest revenue growth contributor percentage-wise, with an amount over 400%. With just a 5% increase in spending, revenue has grown by 17% for Q1 in 2016 compared to Q1 in 2015. Following efforts to improve search relevance and minimize inefficiencies, the return on ad spend (ROAS) in that same period improved by more than 30%. 

At least some of the company’s success with Bing Ads can be attributed to the growing Bing Network audience. In the U.S., the Bing Network represents 161 million unique searchers or 5.5 billion monthly searches. This accounts for 31.5% of the search market, which is nearly one-third of all queries in the U.S. And, those searchers are significant in online purchase activity. Searchers on the Bing Network spend 17% more online than the average internet searcher.  
Lean on historical data and historical strategies, and just try to refine and improve them instead of completely altering them.

— Matt Fritz, director of acquisition marketing, Great Big Canvas

Holiday happenings

Matt Fritz, director of acquisition marketing, Great Big Canvas

Matt Fritz, director of acquisition marketing,
Great Big Canvas

With business soaring and the building humming, there’s only one thing that can make everything at this “Big” company even bigger: the holidays. 

“The fourth quarter represents a significant amount of our overall revenue,” Fritz explains. “The holidays become absolute madness and insanity. We actually start preparing for the holiday season in July.”   

Sometime before Halloween, Great Big Canvas customers begin realizing that treasured family photos would make the perfect gift if it was blown up and put onto a canvas, or that aerial shot of Yankee Stadium would look great in Dad’s office, and the orders begin pouring in. That is when this building really comes to life.  

“Our uptick usually starts in October, within that first or second week,” he says, explaining how the company’s paid search strategy embraces seasonal customers. “We start to get more aggressive with our bidding strategies, more aggressive with our promotion schedules, more aggressive with email strategy, just to get people to start thinking about the holidays earlier.” 

“Think” they do, which results in a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless. “It's great when you get this flood of traffic and this insane amount of orders, particularly on Black Friday and Cyber Monday,” Fritz says. “But it's a really scary idea to rely on and expect that's going to happen.”   

As much of a rush as Black Friday can be, it can also result in some sleepless nights if your strategy isn’t on target. The key, says Fritz, is to use past campaigns as a template. 

“I can tell you a pretty big misstep,” he laughs. “This past holiday, we decided for our Black Friday promotion to not do what we've done in years past. We set up all our paid search campaigns, all the email campaigns, all the social. Everything was focused on a different strategy of promotion for the Black Friday holiday.” 

Though the team felt good about its new strategy, it hadn’t been tested. “There was no proven history that this would or wouldn’t work,” he explains. “We launched it and noticed within three hours — basically from 9 a.m. until about noon — that based on historical years, the money and the sales were not flowing like they should.” 

The Great Big Canvas team was able to quickly deploy a more classic strategy, saving the day with its rapid response. “We all got into a boardroom, reevaluated what we were doing, looked at what we've done in years past, and then everyone dispersed,” he explains. “I was in all of the paid search accounts, frantically making all sorts of changes to ads, went into the Bing Ads ad extensions and reverted our strategy to what we've done in the past. Within the hour, we started to see sales and revenue go back up to the levels that we were expecting.” 

The lesson to be learned here? “You can strategize all you want, but it's really wise to lean on historical data and historical strategies, and just try to refine and improve them,” he says. “Instead of completely altering them.” 

To further improve efficiency and return on ad spend they aggressively evaluated the exact search queries matching their broad match keywords.  Identifying queries that were irrelevant and adding them as negative keywords across the account aided in increasing their rate of return.  While many advertisers steer away from broad match keywords, Great Big Canvas found it to be a valuable asset in not only eliminating irrelevant traffic but also new keyword discovery, allowing them to increase their Bing Ads reach and traffic. 

Another tactic that was deployed was the analysis of performance by hour of day and day of week.  Discovering that particular days performed better than others they were able to adjust their bidding strategy to capitalize on days where search volume and intent was higher and converted at a stronger rate, while lowering the Bing Ads bidding on days where search volume remained high but purchase intent was lower. Evaluating the rate of return on desktop versus mobile, we were able to adjust our bidding strategies by device to increase efficiency.

Great Big Canvas is exactly where it wants to be heading in the fourth quarter of 2016. Confident in its plan, prepared for the holidays, and ready to power its headquarters with a flood of new memories.    

“We recently expanded into another giant room, just to make way for more employees and more equipment and to get more efficient,” Fritz explains. “Our employee numbers swell considerably when we get into the fourth quarter, and this building is about to start running 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” 

See a summary

View or save an infographic recap of how Great Big Canvas uses Bing Ads Editor and other tools to paint a promising picture for continued growth.

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