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Case study

Shutterstock increases conversions with Microsoft Advertising in Japan

February 08, 2023

Casting wide nets to scale reach

Shutterstock logo.

For Shutterstock’s Senior search engine marketing (SEM) Manager in Asia Pacific, Crystal Sun, planning a regional search marketing strategy is like planning a fishing voyage. It’s a voyage with a lot of territory to cover and a lot riding on the skills of its captain.

“The main responsibility of our SEM is acquisition,” she says. “We need to acquire customers at a decent cost, making every dollar count. There are two principles that I apply. The first is reach, spreading the net wide, and ensuring you have coverage in all the markets where you offer your services. Then you focus on efficiency. You start to find out which parts of the ocean have the most fish—and can drive the best return on investment (ROI) or the lowest cost per acquisition (CPA).”

Covering everywhere and then focusing more attention on the locations that deliver the best results is Shutterstock’s savvy way of stretching finite budgets. It involves crafting individualized strategies for countries based on their market size to deliver the scale that drives efficiencies. “We have quite a compact team working within a set amount of budget and available resource,” explains Crystal.

We’re seeing conversions that we may not have had if Microsoft hadn’t expanded into Japan. This shows us the size of the opportunities that are out there and why it matters to pursue them.

— Crystal Sun, Senior SEM Manager Asia Pacific, Shutterstock

Blue water opportunities in new markets

Knowing where your targets are is one thing. Having the right equipment to catch them is what really makes the difference. Crystal knew that Japan was one of Shutterstock’s high-potential markets in the region. When she first heard the news that Microsoft Advertising was launching in the country, she recognized the opportunity to reach a high-quality audience with locally relevant campaigns—and drive more of the results that matter.

“When we heard about the launch, we got pretty excited because we saw the opportunity to increase our reach and efficiency in Japan,” she says. “The most important thing for me is getting customers and conversions at the most efficient return on advertising spend (ROAS). I don’t really care which search engine is driving them. As long as I get more conversions, I’m happy.”

Steering a course towards more conversions from Japan was made easier by Microsoft Advertising’s Google Import functionality, which cut the time and effort involved in getting campaigns up and running—and seeing results. “We’d used Google Import before and it made the process of launching on Microsoft Advertising in Japan really easy,” says Crystal. “We saw the traffic increasing steadily after Microsoft first launched in the market, and then the performance and conversions really started to fly. We had really sweet results, and ever since, our CPA has been significantly lower than before.”

The impact of adding Japan campaigns to the Shutterstock roster transformed performance in Asia. Between April and December 2022 Japan went from nothing to representing 40% of total impressions and 36% of the total clicks in the APAC region for Shutterstock, increasing ROAS by 15%.

Translating relevance for game-changing performance

As Crystal explains, the real game-changer with Microsoft’s launch in Japan was the ability to target local audiences with Japanese keywords rather than relying on English ones. “We’d had English keyword campaigns running for a long time—but they don’t deliver volume,” she says. “The real difference came when we imported Japanese keywords. Those are now driving more than 95% of our clicks. We’ve been able to set our bidding to target ROAS and let it do its best work.”

More clicks at a lower cost per click (CPC) delivered exactly what Crystal was looking for. Then, when she analyzed her search query reports (SQRs), she found evidence of even greater value. “I could see that the Japanese keyword targeting on Microsoft Advertising was much more relevant,” she says. “The keywords are being triggered by the right queries—and that makes me feel even better about the results.”

Crystal is already using image extensions to showcase the images that Shutterstock has to offer in search results. She now plans to build on this by leveraging more of Microsoft Advertising's capabilities in Japan. "As a global creative platform for transformative brands and media companies, Shutterstock offers a comprehensive collection of high-quality licensed photographs, vectors, illustrations, 3D models, videos, music and a variety of creative tools and services. After the performance and efficiency we're seeing, the next step is to try importing campaigns for other business units."

That performance confirms to Crystal the value of looking over the horizon for the next opportunity. My target is impact, and as long as I have the opportunity to drive conversions and customers, I will go for it,” she says.

"We're seeing conversions that we may not have had if Microsoft hadn't expanded into Japan, which underscores the size of the opportunities that are out there and why it mattes to pursue them."

The real difference came when we imported Japanese keywords. Those are now driving more than 95% of our clicks. We’ve been able to set our bidding to target ROAS and let it do its best work.

— Crystal Sun, Senior SEM Manager Asia Pacific, Shutterstock

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