Display Ads vs Social Media Ads for eCommerce

Published on

July 23, 2022

Display Ads vs Social Media Ads for eCommerce

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The display ads vs. social media ads controversy has grown as paid digital advertising has become increasingly popular over the years.

Should I use display ads? Will social media ads give me better results in terms of conversions? These and more are questions eCommerce business owners frequently ask.

However, the truth is the answer is not set in stone.

The key is to figure out what ad options work in your eCommerce business niche so you can streamline your marketing efforts and boost your ROI.

This article examines what display and social media ads are and the significant differences between both options. We’ll also carry out a display ad vs. social media ads comparison to help you highlight what channel works better in specific scenarios.

That said, let’s get into it.

Are Display Ads and Social Media Ads the Same?

Right off the bat, the answer is no! Display ads and social media ads are not the same.

Yes, both serve the same purpose — to help businesses showcase their products and services to potential customers. But, they take uniquely different approaches to getting the job done.

So, what sets display ads apart from social media ads?

What are Display Ads?

Display ad

Display advertising (or display ads, for short) is a digital marketing strategy where businesses promote their products or services on other websites through visual ads such as images, videos, and texts.

Display ads typically come in different shapes and sizes depending on their positions on the website.

They also come in diverse forms. For instance, banner ads and rich media ads are some forms of display ads.

Social media ad

What are Social Media Ads?

As the name implies, social media advertisements describe the process of promoting your products or services through paid campaigns on social media platforms.

Today, social media ad campaigns can run on everything from:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Instagram
  • And more.

Like display ads, social media ads can also exist as images, videos, texts and more, depending on the social media platform in use.

Display Ads vs Social Media Ads: 5 Differences you should know

Now that you know what display ads and social media ads are, let us examine some key differences between both advertising options.

Here are five disparities to help clear up the controversy of display ads vs. social media ads.


One of the essential differences between display and social media ads is their reach. Several surveys have shown that at least 60% of the world’s population (approximately 4.6 billion people) browse the web.

Since display ads show on web pages, you potentially have access to all these people.

On the other hand, the reach of social media ads is limited to the number of people that have accounts on those platforms.

Admittedly, some social media platforms have an impressive user base (Facebook has about 2.9 billion). But, the numbers show that display ads may have greater reach.

Advertising Data

With display advertising, it is very challenging, if not impossible, to collect data on the people that view your ads (except they maybe sign up for your newsletter or related action).


You don’t have to log in to view a blog post or read an article on most websites. So, there is no way to identify the user who views an ad or takes a specific action. This can make segmentation and personalization with subsequent campaigns a more significant challenge.

Conversely, with social media ads, each person who views and takes action on your ads is likely logged into their account, making it so much easier to collect information on your potential customers.

Display ads vs social media ads statistics

Conversion rate

While your clickthrough and conversion rates are primarily dependent on the value you offer in your ads and their presentation, your advertising medium also plays a role in your ROI.

Over the years, display ads have developed a bit of a negative reputation due to how they pop up unsolicited on user screens. Furthermore, because of how long they’ve been out there, some users even ignore them on their screens.

On the flip side, since social media ads only joined the advertising game more recently, they’ll likely make more impressions. However, chances are the wider reach of display ads will balance the scale.

Targeting ability

Display ads make specific ad targeting more challenging. In many cases, you cannot predict which screens or on which website your ads will show up. So, many marketers choose platforms that experience visits from their specific potential customers.

In comparison, social media ads allow you to do more specific targeting with your ad campaigns — from choosing the particular platform to working with user demographics.


Yet another argument point in the display ads vs. social media ads faceoff is which is more expensive.

With display advertising campaigns, you’d typically have to spend more to get the results you want. Comparatively, social media ads are a more cost-effective option, especially if you’re on a budget.

Display Ads vs Social Media Ads for eCommerce: Which Should I Choose?

There is no right or wrong answer here. Every business is different. Therefore, each company has unique goals and objectives for its advertising campaigns.

Nevertheless, you can make informed decisions on which advertising option is likely to give you the best results with adequate information.

If you want to expand your customer base without necessarily promoting your brand, then you can choose social media ads as your advertising tool. 

If creating publicity and promoting your eCommerce business is the goal, display ads are the way to go. However, social media ads may be a better choice if you’re looking for high CTRs and conversions.

In the same way, social media ad campaigns will offer you better opportunities for targeting and segmentation. But, display ads will help you get your products or services to potential customers much faster.

Final thoughts

The truth is there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to the display ads vs. social media ads argument. Both options are great advertising tools for your eCommerce tools.

Therefore, while we have tried to highlight the pros and cons of each, you may have to do some experimenting to figure out what works best for you!

Vince Moreau

I'm the CEO & founder of ScaleCrush. You can often find me ranting way too much about BS marketing advice, fluffy and regurgitated content, and calling out gurus. I also happen to have my very own unoriginal thoughts about the stuff we're going through.

Marketing gurus are lying to you. Am I?
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