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What are YouTube Shorts Ads and how are they used in E-commerce?

How your brand can benefit from using YouTube Shorts Ads to increase sales online

If you are a brand or retailer selling online, you probably sell primarily on your own website and Google Shopping. In this guide, we explain why brands and retailers can also benefit from YouTube Shorts Ads to increase their online sales.

Why advertise on YouTube?

The most popular social media platform in the world is Facebook. The world and their grandma all have an account even if they rarely use it. In second place is, perhaps surprisingly, YouTube. It has 2.2 billion monthly active users. It is also the third most popular site for social commerce in both the UK and US.

Although some might question whether it’s a social media platform, it fits all the criteria. It has influencers. It has channels you can follow and ways to react to user-generated content. YouTube also has ads, and if you have been using it for a while, you’ll notice there are more than ever before. That’s because the company wants to convince users to pay for premium where they can avoid watching ads. Even so, YouTube generates ~$7 billion in advertising profit every quarter.

Most YouTube users do not pay for a premium subscription. This means they eventually have to watch some ads in return for watching their content. Most will watch classic YouTube videos but there is an excellent opportunity for ecommerce brands and retailers to advertise on YouTube Shorts.

What are YouTube Shorts?

YouTube Shorts are YouTube’s answer to TikTok and Instagram Stories. They are short, vertical videos users can watch quickly. If the current video isn’t of interest, then the observer can quickly swipe to move on to the next bitesize video. As on rival platforms, YouTube Shorts serve up content according to the viewer’s behaviour and interests. Over time, the algorithm learns what you like and what you don’t (with a bit of help from Google’s knowledge of your online presence as well).

What are YouTube Shorts Ads?

Just as on Instagram and TikTok, every few swipes will reveal an ad. Nobody is forcing the user to watch and they can swipe if they like. But if they do watch, they may click on the call-to-action and be taken to wherever the advertiser wants the viewer to go.

YouTube Shorts Ads has a huge audience (YouTube Shorts currently has 1.5 billion viewers a month with 50 billion Shorts being watched daily), and although most marketers are focusing their social media ads budget elsewhere, it’s essentially the same ad format as on other platforms. Do it correctly and you don’t even need to film new content. You can simply repurpose your existing content.

In addition, YouTube allows brands and retailers to advertise alongside both popular and relevant short videos via YouTube Select and they can ensure their ad is the first video a viewer sees when Shorts is opened. This is similar to advertising options on TikTok.

How to Upload a YouTube Shorts video

Before running ads on YouTube Shorts, you need to upload a video that is suitable for Shorts.

  1. Go to your YouTube profile and select the ‘Shorts’ tab
  2. Upload and publish your chosen video
  3. Select the URL then head over to Google Ads

If you can’t see YouTube Short tab

  1. If you can’t see the ‘Shorts’ tab, it’s because you haven’t yet uploaded a Shorts video. These have to be vertical videos (16:9 aspect ratio) and no longer than 60 seconds.
  2. If you still can’t see the ‘Shorts’ tab then head to ‘customize channel’. Look in the Feature section and click to ‘add section’. Shorts will be an option under ‘Videos’.

How to run ads on YouTube Shorts

It’s straightforward to set up YouTube Shorts Ads, and it’s run from Google Ads.

  1. Login to Google Ads and select new campaign.
  2. Select your objective (‘sales’ is a good option if you are promoting a product)
  3. Set conversion goals and then select ‘video’ for Campaign Type
  4. Decide on a campaign name, bidding strategy, budget, and dates that you want the campaign to run
  5. Click additional settings and then ‘devices’ – opt out of everything except for mobile
  6. Select your audience and their interests
  7. Paste in the URL of your YouTube Shorts video
  8. Hit ‘create campaign’ and that’s it!

Not sure if your Shorts Ad is going to convert? Check out our tips below.

9 Tips for YouTube Shorts Ads

Using YouTube Shorts Ads in ecommerce is an excellent idea but you have to make sure you advertise well. If you don’t, you might be wasting your time and money on adverts that will never convert. Bearing this in mind, here are some top tips for great YouTube Shorts Ads.

Optimise product feed data

This is the most important part of advertising online, whether on YouTube or elsewhere. Make sure that your product data feed is optimised for the platform on which you are selling. When a brand or retailer has many thousands of SKUs, it’s easier to use a product feed management platform.

At Intelligent Reach, we ensure that every field of the product feed is filled as required. We then optimise it and allow for the possibility of A/B testing, dynamic custom labelling and more.

Interested in learning more? Book a demo of Intelligent Reach.

Don’t reinvent the wheel

What do people like to watch on YouTube Shorts? Spend some time scrolling through your own feed and ask your team to do the same. What are the ways that content creators convince you to keep watching? Copy their style and mimic organic content as much as possible.

You can do this by making your video look as natural as possible. No hard selling, avoid jargon, and don’t try to do high concept. Keep it simple and to the point. Be relatable, conversational and interesting. In fact, try and use the BBC’s old mantra if you forget – to inform, educate and entertain. In this way, you’ll get more reactions and comments, and engage a wider audience.

Get the message across quickly

People may swipe on your ad but that’s not the worst thing in the world as long as they heard the message. Sometimes it’s all about brand awareness as much as making a sale quickly. You have roughly 3 seconds to grab someone’s attention but it’s possible to highlight your message at the start of the video.

Consumers aren’t always looking to buy immediately but your message may resonate. A few days or a week later, they may see your ad again and give it a second chance. So make sure that your message is strong and clear within those first few important seconds!

Don’t be too promotional

Yes, it’s an advert but don’t make your Shorts ad look too much like an advert. It's the same rule for mega brands as well as those learning how to increase sales in D2C ecommerce. People often want to skip ads to get to their content faster and being too in your face can be off-putting. Don’t be too pushy. It’s best to focus on creating something valuable and engaging, which puts storytelling first.

How to do that? Perhaps by not selling the product itself but all of the benefits it brings. Or maybe give tips on its various uses. You could even make a mini-series featuring your product (think about how EE does this with its adverts). In this way, engagement should be higher and your brand will become more recognisable.

Take inspiration from TikTok Ads

YouTube Shorts ads might remind you of scrolling through Instagram Stories or TikTok. As you might except, the algorithm on YouTube is very similar. As such, see what works for ads on those platforms and they should inspire you to create something great elsewhere. Think about the ads you have seen many times over the past few weeks and even months. Clearly, they are still running for a reason, so those are the ones most likely to be converting.

Learn more about advert types and selling on TikTok.

Consider a voiceover

In a world of crazy visuals, it can be hard to know what to focus on when you are watching a video. With this in mind, consider adding a voiceover to your ads. Offering extra information in a calm tone can be the difference between engagement or an instant swipe.

Make it clear, concise and consistent with what is being shown on screen and you can’t go too far wrong.

Demonstrate your product’s value

A YouTube Shorts ad should capture the attention. There isn’t long to convince someone to keep watching so it needs to be impactful. Perhaps offer a demo of your product and its unique features (the classic ‘Will It Blend?’ series springs to mind).

Another way to do this is to compare your product to others. Outline how it’s better than the competition and why those watching need your product in their lives. It’s also possible to showcase the product in a variety of different environments for maximum cross-sector appeal.

Make the most of the medium

Just like with Instagram and TikTok, a YouTube Short will offer the opportunity to add ‘stickers’ to your video. These overlays or captions are crucial to distilling the core of your product to the audience. They also help with those watching on mute.

The best practice for stickers is to make sure they are clear and readable. Use a font that is easy to read and make sure the character size is large enough to stand out. You can definitely have fun with them – by adding creative flair and doing something different with captions, your videos may stand out against other ads.

Remember a call-to-action (CTA)

This is by far the most important part of ad on a YouTube Short video. Remember to include a CTA in the form of a big, easily clickable button. With most products it should be a link to buy but there may be cases a ‘learn more’ button will do.

For maximum impact, consider including a discount within your video or highlight an ongoing sale. You should get more clicks and conversions over time. The important thing is to highlight exactly what you wish the viewer to do with no confusion.


There is a lot to like about advertising on YouTube Shorts. It’s a new, growing format that offers a large audience. Because it requires the same style of videos as TikTok and Instagram Stories, brands and retailers can easily repurpose content. The best bit? Not many marketers are currently using it, so there is an excellent opportunity for you to get ahead of the competition.

Follow the steps above and you can’t go too far wrong with your YouTube Shorts ads. And if you are looking for help with your product feeds, and are in the market for data feed software, look no further than Intelligent Reach.

YouTube is just the start...

Go beyond YouTube and learn more about excelling on Google Shopping with our in-depth guide

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Go beyond YouTube and learn more about excelling on Google Shopping with our in-depth guide

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About the writer
Henry Fosdike
Henry is Senior Content Manager at Intelligent Reach. When he's not involved in pushing content experimentation and marketplace management, he can most often be found reading a book, out on a walk or playing games and watching films in VR.

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