Balsam Hill Drives Efficient Conversions with YouTube

Balsam Hill is an online retailer that sells high-quality artificial Christmas trees. They needed to drive sales during the holiday season, and turned to YouTube to drive response. Using TrueView ads, the team ultimately saw CPAs similar to search, and even cheaper than the CPAs of traditional display ad formats.


  • Drive sales during the holiday season


  • Used TrueView ads to remarket to users who had previously visited
  • Tested multiple variations of ad creatives on YouTube before focusing on the top videos based on CTR, VTR, and conversions


  • Saw conversions come in soon after campaign launch and expanded efforts to include additional remarketing lists
  • Achieved CPA similar to Search, and even cheaper than traditional Display ad formats
  • Drove 10x the number of conversions at cost per conversion 87% lower than their 2011 campaign

Balsam Hill Christmas Tree Co is an online retailer that sells high-quality, realistic, artificial Christmas trees, costing between $100 and $20,000. Since launching in 2006, Balsam Hill has grown its digital marketing strategy to stay ahead of the game, taking on the challenge of selling high-end products in a small window during the holiday season.

After running a variety of video campaigns in the past, Balsam Hill took the next step forward with their online video efforts in 2012. Working closely with WebMetro, their digital agency, Balsam Hill launched a YouTube TrueView remarketing campaign for the first time.

Leveraging YouTube: Remarketing and testing ad creatives

With remarketing, Balsam Hill was able to find users who had visited its website but had not made a purchase, and re-engage them using specific creatives and calls-to-action. They also tailored their calls-to-action to YouTube, as the team optimized the first 5 seconds of the videos to complement the TrueView ad format.

To determine their best ad creatives, the team also tested multiple variations of their creatives on YouTube. They eventually narrowed their focus to the top videos that returned the best outcomes in terms of view-through rates, click-through rates, and most importantly, conversions.

According to Kim Coen, Senior eMarketing Manager at WebMetro, testing campaigns and quickly generating learnings is unique to YouTube, and incredibly valuable. As Kim described, "YouTube provided us with quick learnings, especially since we have a very short time period to drive most volume and revenue. It gives you insights into how people are engaging and how the ads are working, and this can be helpful even when you move into other platforms such as TV."

YouTube closes the gap between the ultimate action you want and showing that ad

An actionable platform with real results

Balsam Hill and WebMetro had initially focused on remarketing only to 30-day non-converters, but once they saw conversions begin to flow in, they expanded their campaign to include additional prospects on YouTube, leveraging more remarketing lists and tools. Eventually, Balsam Hill saw CPAs on YouTube that were similar in cost to Search, and lower in cost than most of their traditional Display campaigns.

By optimizing their creative and focusing on remarketing, the team moreover saw 10x the number of conversions compared to a previous 2011 campaign, at a cost per conversion that was lower by 87%.

As Kim explained, "YouTube closes the gap between the ultimate action you want and showing that ad. The whole idea with TV is to create a lasting impression and have people want to take action after viewing the commercial. On YouTube, they’re already in front of their desktops and tablets, and they’re already engaging. So the fact that they haven’t skipped your ad and are watching your commercial — there’s instant gratification that they can immediately click through to the website and purchase."

Kristen Gasior, VP of Online Marketing at Balsam Hill, further emphasized that it’s not just about taking action, but also about measurement and accountability. "Traditional TV advertising is challenging because we don’t have a lot of control over the specific placement, nor do we get accurate measurement of whether people have taken action after watching the commercial. YouTube is almost the opposite. We know how many people watched the commercial, how many people clicked, and whether those people converted," she noted.

The next evolution

True to their spirit of innovating and staying ahead of the competition, Balsam Hill plans to continue expanding their YouTube strategy in 2013.

As Kim asserted, "For the next season, we will continue to be as aggressive as we can on YouTube. We’ve put in a request for even more video variations to test on YouTube, and we’re continuing to expand even outside of remarketing to see if different video assets will help us, even for people who haven’t visited the website before. YouTube will continue to be a critical component of our strategy going forward."

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