Snapchat Ads: How To Optimize for Sales

Snapchat ads are completely uncharted waters for many business owners.

They don't seem as straightforward as Facebook or Instagram ads. So it's tough to know where to even begin with them and how they can work for an eCommerce business.

But, they're easier to set up than you might think, so I encourage anyone who has avoided them in the past to give them a shot.


Because Snapchat has 229 Million users every day

It reaches 11% of the U.S.'s entire digital population. Therefore, I've put together this helpful guide that will teach you how to setup your own pay-per-click advertising campaigns on Snapchat.

First Things First, What is Snapchat?

Snapchat is one of the largest Social Media platforms on the market.

It's a phone app with which users can send pictures, videos, or messages. The initial concept was that these messages were only available for a short time period, up to 10 seconds long. 

Snapchat has changed a lot since its creation, and now users can send images or videos without a time limit. They can also save videos or images. 

But the core concept remains the same. Once you exit the message, you won't be able to see it again.

It also has several other cool features, such as filters, the ability to send cash, and Lenses. These lenses are pretty sophisticated. People are able to use them to make themselves look like babies, elderly people, or even a different gender.

The first Snapchat ad was for the movie "Ouija" in October of 2014. It was a 24-hour Snapchat story promoting the movie that appeared in User's Stories and disappeared after the 24-hour period ended. 

Now, Snapchat ads are incredibly common, as any user will tell you. 

How Do I Know If Snapchat Ads are Right For My Business?

In all reality, you won't know unless you give them a shot.

Many digital marketers are having great success with this advertising platform, though.

I will go as far as to say:

If you're trying to reach the 18-24 age range demographic, you NEED to give Snapchat ads a try.

Furthermore, if you have a largely female demographic, it may be a good fit for your business as well. 70% of Snapchat users are female.

Therefore, if you're selling trendy women's shoes, Snapchat is the perfect home for your ad efforts.

If your primary audience is in their 50's or higher, I will say that you may struggle to find tactics that work for you. But this is an opportunity to connect with a different audience. 

Think about your offers/products/services. Are there any that may connect with a younger audience? 

If so, try promoting those on Snapchat. You may discover an entirely new revenue stream.

How Much Do Snapchat Ads Cost?

Snapchat ads range pretty wildly depending on the campaign you're running.

Their cheapest ad offerings start at $5 a day and they go up to hundreds of thousands of dollars per day for their more elaborate options. 

Getting Started: Decide on Your Goals for Your Snapchat Ads

First, Snapchat gets you to decide on your ad campaign goals from a pre-set list. They will use this information to inform their auto-bids and ad placement. 

  • Brand Awareness and Video Views
  • Web Views and Conversions
  • Lead Generation
  • App Installs and Engagement
  • Brand Engagement
  • Catalog Sales

Naturally, you'll want to select Catalog Sales if you're trying to get product sales.

Otherwise, you may want to try using Snapchat Ads for Brand Awareness. Every Digital Marketer I've spoken with has spoken positively about Snapchat's ability to increase brand awareness.

So if that's something your brand needs, I encourage you to check it out.

Bid Strategy

Next, you'll need to select a bidding strategy. There are 3 options:

  • Auto-bidding: With Auto-bidding, Snapchat takes the lead and makes your bids for you. They try to get you the maximum return based on the goal you selected. They use your budget, target audience, and ad campaign duration to decide what to bid for any given ad appearance.
  • Max Bid: With Max Bid, you tell Snapchat how much they're allowed to bid. They will operate underneath that amount while still trying to optimize for your goal.  
  • Target Cost: This one takes your entire campaign duration into consideration. Say your budget for the month is $1000. There may be days where you spend $50 on ads and days when you spend $5. Snapchat will try to show your ads to the most valuable users for your goals and spend as close to that $1000 as possible over the month.

I recommend that you start off with Auto-bidding. It will give you more consistent data than Target Cost, and Max Bid may not give you the results you're looking for if you set your Max Bid too low. 

Give their automated bidding system a chance to acquire valuable customers. Once you're more familiar with the platform, you can experiment with Max Bids or Target Cost.

Snapchat Ad Types

Snapchat offers six primary ad types:

  1. Single Image or Video
  2. Filters
  3. Lenses
  4. Story Ads
  5. Product Ads
  6. Commercials

Single Image or Video Ads

These are probably the most straightforward ads. I recommend that beginners start here to learn the ropes of creating effective Snapchat ads.

These ads show up between or after content on Snapchat, such as User Stories, Publishers, Creators, and Our Stories.

They can last up to 3 minutes, but there's almost no way you're going to get anyone to watch a 3-minute ad on Snapchat.

This is a logical starting place for anyone new to this platform.  

They need to be:

  • 1080 pixels x 1920 pixels
  • 9:16 aspect ratio

How to Make Them Work For You

You can really let your imagination run wild with these. They work for just about any business type.

Make sure you include text or a graphic that tells people what to do next. Let them know if they need to swipe up to access your offer.

Here's are two examples from AT&T.

att tv snapchat ad
att snapchat ad

These were both video ads and included different call-to-actions at the bottom of the ad. If you swipe up, it'll take you to a landing page where you can move further with the offer. 

The important thing is that you make your offer as clear as possible. People are inclined to click through ads so you need to make sure that your ad is getting the point across very quickly. 

Consider using Limited Time Offers, such as daily deals or freebies. Like this ad from Lumin:

lumin snapchat ad

This video ad features both freebies and a limited time offer. You need to play into the fast-paced nature of Snapchat to get the sales you want. 

If you have a Brick-and-Mortar store, try providing a bar code for a coupon in your single image ad. 

Tell your viewers to Screenshot the ad and give them a time-frame to use the coupon for a discount in-store, such as "This Weekend Only!"


Snapchat Filter ads are pretty neat, but I don't recommend them for eCommerce. 

They're less dynamic versions of Snapchat Lenses. Basically, people can take a picture with a promotional filter over the image.

Here's an example from Subway:

Filters are usually stationary, such as the flags subway is using in the filter above.

Who Should Use Filters?

Filters are a great feature for local businesses, primarily restaurants.

Snapchat charges between $5-20 a day for you to run a Geo-filter over an area roughly the size of a suburban home. You'll have to pay more to cover a larger area. All-in-all, a pretty reasonable cost.

It's a cool feature that allows people to share your business with family and friends in the area.

Just make sure you let people know to use it. 


I won't go into great detail on this one either, Lenses are just way too expensive for most eCommerce store owners to rationalize using. 

To give you some perspective, the cheapest price I've been able to find on one of these is $450,000.

Lenses are interactive, like the well-known dog lens that licks the screen when the user opens their mouth.

Who Should Use Lenses?

These are mainly for big budget promotions, such as new blockbuster movies or tv shows.

Story Ads

Story Ads are found in Snapchat's "Discover" area. They show up as their own branded "tile" in your stories.

When a user opens them up, they'll be able to see between 3 and 20 images or videos. 

Use them to show a wider range of products to a highly targeted audience.

Who Should Use Story Ads?

Anyone who has used Snapchat Ads before and had success with them. They're more of an intermediate option.

I don't recommend these for anyone who is brand new to Snapchat ads.

Use the Single Image or Video ads first to figure out what actually works for your audience. 

Product Ads

Product ads have some overlap into Story ads and Single Image or Video ads, because you can essentially use them as either. I do recommend this type for eCommerce businesses.

This ad makes it easier for you to showcase your entire product catalog.

You upload your product feed to Snapchat and then you're able to do some pretty cool things with them.

  • Collection Ads show 4 product tiles on a Single Image or Video ad. Potential customers can tap a product that they're interested in and they'll be directed to the appropriate product page.
    • Use this for advertising similar products. For instance, four different types of women's boots.
  • Use a standard Single Image or Video ad to show off one product. If they swipe up, it will take them to the appropriate page on your app or website.
    • Use this type to show off a specific product offering, such as a best seller.
  • Product Ad Story Ads show off 3-20 images or videos in a branded tile in Snapchat's Discover section, plus it has the dynamic functionality of Product Ads.
    • Use these for showing off entire product catalogs, or try showing 3 images or videos that show off your product and have the fourth ad be a call-to-action for your potential customer to swipe up and buy the product.

Who Should Use Product Ads?

Anyone that is selling a retail item.

Product ads make it easier for you to advertise a wide-range of items. 


The good thing about commercials is that they're unskippable.

They last only 3 to 6 seconds, but you at least know that they can't move on without finishing your ad.

You can also do Extended Play Commercials. These are unskippable for the first 6 seconds. They then lead into a longer commercial that can be up to 3 minutes long.

Who Should Use Commercials?

Commercials work well for services and products that need a video to properly illustrate their value.

Particularly, if you have the time, personnel, and money to put together a quality promotional video that will catch peoples attention in less than 6-seconds.

The Best Part About Snapchat Ads: Targeting

This is what makes your ad efforts actually work. Targeting refers to the act of getting your ads in front of the right customers.

And Snapchat has some excellent targeting options for your ads.

You have the standard options, such as:

  • Age Range
  • Gender
  • Language

But Snapchat also has some incredibly specific options for your targeting efforts.

To name a few, you can target:

  • Any specific income bracket
  • New moms
  • Small business decision-makers
  • Moms with kids in High School

Therefore, you can get extremely nuanced in your targeting.

Target your audience based on what you already know about them from your Analytics. Use this information to create a Custom Audience.

Alternatively, you can import a file from a Customer Relationship Management system and Snapchat will create a lookalike audience from that. 

Audience Categories

Snapchat also offers Audience Categories to try and make your life easier. My only issue with Audience Categories is that they're not usually as effective as you'd like them to be. 

But they do work and they're a good place to start, as well as expand your audience. 

How it works is that you select an Audience Category, then a subcategory, and then, Snapchat gives you even more specific subcategories to help drill your audience down further.

There are four categories:

  • Lifestyles

Lifestyles breaks people up by their interests and hobbies. If you're looking to connect with Fitness Enthusiasts, Pet Lovers, Photographers, Gamers, etc., this is the way to do it. 

  • Shoppers

Naturally, Shoppers are people with a natural proclivity for making purchases online. This is the one that most eCommerce store owners should focus on. You can target Home & Garden, Pet Owners, Apparel Shoppers, and more. 

Spend some time with these and see what works for you. Use the information that you get from customers that actually complete a purchase to create custom or lookalike audiences. 

  • Viewers

Viewers break up audiences by their Movie or Television viewing habits. You can try experimenting with these audiences, but they're primarily for segmenting people by their viewing habits to advertise related media they would be interested in.

  • Visitors

Visitors are people who have visited certain types of establishments recently. Such as people who just went to a concert or visited a car dealer. 

Analyze and Optimize

Snapchat offers their own internal analytics. From here, you'll be able to find out what's working and what isn't.

They'll tell you which groups have the highest swipe-up rates, what type of device they're on, and more. Use this information to improve your targeting. 

You may be surprised to find out who your ads are connecting with. 

We Asked Other Digital Marketers About Their Experiences with Snapchat Ads:


The process of setting up an ad was quite simple, a lot easier than Facebook and Instagram and the analytics are very helpful too.

Brett Downes


People don’t like ads, but they do like seeing people. If your ad is relatable and looks like an actual Snapchat video, posted by an actual person, it will do a lot better than a beautifully made advert.

Camille Chulick
Averr Aglow


In and of itself, the campaign played out well, because it was such a good match for the platform and resonated with the target demographic; ultimately though our demographic targeting somewhat let us down.

Julie Moore 
English Blinds

Final Thoughts on Snapchat Ads

If you've been avoiding Snapchat Ads, it may be time to give them a shot. For the right marketing campaigns, you may be surprised to see how well they work. 


  • Decide on your goals
  • Set a budget
  • Pick an ad format and don't be afraid to try out different ones
  • Set up specific targeting
  • Structure your ads like they're a user's snapchat - use the correct proportions and include people
  • Analyze and optimize

Good luck and get some sales! 

Questions or Comments? Leave a Comment below!

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