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Sainsbury's Ads

How to appear top of Sainsbury's search results with Citrus Ad

As one of the largest supermarket retailers in the UK, the power of being stocked in Sainsbury’s is immense. With more and more customers doing their online shop for home delivery, Sainsbury’s Ads provides the perfect shop window for brands.


Sainsbury's online shoppers will have noticed the sponsored products that tend sit at the top of search results and category pages. These are placements that brands have paid for, whereby they are bidding to have their product show up at the top of the results, much like advertisers do on Google search results.


You can see below how Shandy Shack and Tiny Rebel’s Sponsored ads appear in the beer category:


How does Sainsury's choose which product to show first?

At the heart of the Citrus Ad platform is what is called the relevancy score. This gets assigned to every ad that enters the Sainsbury's Ads auction, and is made through a combination of factors:


  1. How likely the platform deems a customer to click and buy a product. It’s likely that Sainsbury's also factors in historical data - consider the purchase data that Sainsbury's has on its users from past shops. This therefore enables the platform to “predict” how likely a customer is to buy a product.

  2. How much an advertiser has bid to appear in the results, and also past performance. The higher you bid, the more likely you are to appear (as long as the ad has a good relevancy score).


In addition, the Relevancy and Quality score is calculated through compiling together Click Through Rate (CTR), Conversion rate (CVR) and Cost Per Click (CPC).


Advertisers are charged on a cost per click (CPC) basis. This means that you are only charged when a customer clicks on your ad, or adds it to their basket. The minimum that an advertiser can bid on Sainsbury's ads is £0.45, however, it’s rare to get impressions at that level. So bid fairly aggressively.


It’s important to stress the importance of relevancy. It’s not as simple as just bidding the highest, and you’ll appear top of the results. Naturally this wouldn’t be a fair system for brands with smaller budgets than the big boys. So always keep relevancy in mind - the more relevant your ad is to a customer, the less you’ll have to bid to win the auction. 


Often, two advertisers will have similar relevancy. In this instance, you will want to ensure your maximum bid is higher than your competitors. Of course, this is easier said than done, so requires an element of tweaking your bids until you get a higher impression ratio (i.e. your ad shows more frequently for the number of impressions it was eligible to appear).


The Auction

The Sainsbury's Ads auction is based on a 2nd price auction model. This means that the winning bid will only ever be £0.01 over the next highest bid. This is great for advertisers - technically you could bid £10.00, but still only pay £3.01 were the second place advertiser only bidding £3.00. 


There may be times where you see your CPC is lower than your cost per acquisition (CPA). What this tells you is that customers are buying multiple of your products, from a single click. This is great to see, as it means your average basket size is higher.

The attribution window

It is important to allow your ads time to perform. Just because a user clicked your ad on a given day, it doesn’t necessarily mean they would have purchased there and then. They might come back tomorrow, next week, in a fortnight to make the purchase.


Sainsbury's Citrus Ads are able attribute a sale up to 21 days. This means if someone clicked an ad today, and purchase in three weeks time, the sale would get attributed to your ad. If they purchased in three weeks and one days time, it wouldn’t be captured.


The lesson here is to not judge your results to quickly. We always seek to give campaigns time to bed in, for this very reason. 

Sainsbury's Ad Placements

Sainsbury's Citrus Ads presently offer several campaign types. It’s possible there will be more added in the future. Below is a brief overview.

Checkout Before You Go

These ad placements serve as a last chance to get the sale, just before the customer checkouts. It’s a great opportunity to get your product added to basket just before the customer clicks to place their full order.


Below are Sainsbury’s Ads “Checkout Before You Go” benchmarks (these are just for guidance, and not a guarantee of performance). It should be noted that despite yielding lower ROAS, it is a highly effective placement in terms of conversion rate:

CPC: £4.51

CPA: £6.73

Conv: 67%

ROAS: 0.69


These ad types provide an opportunity to place your product on product detail pages (PDP) for complementary products. Think food and drink pairings - what goes well with your product. If you sell bread, you’d target butter products and vice versa.


When choosing your complementary products, it has to make complete sense why your product is appearing there. The customer shouldn’t have to investigate further to make sense of it. E.g. bread goes with butter, would if you placed bread alongside toilet bleach, it would get rejected. 


You’re also unable to place your product alongside direct competitors. E.g. Walkers and Golden Wonder. When targeting another brand, keep in mind whether or not they have a competing product with you. If they do, you can’t target them. If they don’t, and it makes sense for your products to be paired, then you can target them.


When creating a Cross-sell campaign, we always look to split campaigns by product type, so that we get a sense of what product type is driving the sales, rather than bundling everything in one campaign. At present, Sainsbury’s Ads doesn’t give you the insights at a product level as to which item delivered a cross-sell sale.


Below are Sainsbury’s Ads benchmarks (these are just for guidance, and not a guarantee of performance):

CPC: £0.61

CPA: £1.16

Conv: 62%

ROAS: 2.79


Ads are displayed when a customer visits a category page related to your product(s).


The Offers placement is for products that are reduced. Waitrose Ads do give you the option of always having this campaign type running, whereby anytime your products are on offer, they’ll automatically start running.


Search/Search App/Search Below Grid

Ads are displayed when a customer enters search term(s) you define as part of your campaign.


Shelf - In grid

Ads are displayed when a customer visits a shelf page related to your product(s).


This campaign type places your ads in the relevant category for your product. Therefore, there are no search terms required for this ad type. There tends to be less relevance with category pages, given they encompass multiple sub-categories. With this in mind, category campaigns tend to have higher CPA’s.



Looking for help with your retail strategy, specifically Sainsbury's Ads?


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