Should you trust Google’s AI for the best results in online advertising? Let’s put Google’s Smart Shopping campaigns to the test.
If you’re running online advertising campaigns for your e-commerce business, the previous couple of years might have been quite a ride for you. Instagram shopping options in their stories feed, Google launching image ads for shopping, Facebook making more and more changes seemingly every month. As such e-commerce marketing has been going gaga (not Lady…)
However, the most intriguing is yet to come… with the introduction of Smart Shopping campaigns – the latest launch from Google.
When it comes to making their online advertising options more compelling, lucrative and ROI focused (for them and the customer), Google has, for a while now, been coming up with several automated solutions – from bidding options to responsive ads and more. Google basically wants all advertisers to give up the manual workload that comes with running campaigns and shift to high-level management (make that ‘automation’). And this is why they’ve launched Smart Shopping.
Smart Shopping offers all the latest automation solutions and machine learning technology to online advertisers. All the tedious work involved in campaign management like building product groups, bidding, negative keywords setting, campaign level management can be avoided. In theory, you no longer need to go through the labor intensive process of manual maintenance (well, that’s what they are driving towards).
The new campaign structure is self-driving and requires the least maintenance. It can expand your reach across several Google networks to give you maximized conversion value due to ‘smart bidding’. In essence, Smart Shopping automates the campaign management needed to run an enhanced e-commerce business.
Google Smart Shopping
Smart Shopping is one of the newest campaign types for Google shopping campaigns and unlike other standard shopping campaigns, Smart Shopping campaigns use machine learning as well as algorithms for bid placement or automation placement. As small or medium e-commerce businesses have several other important aspects of campaign optimisation to consider (limited time, resources, budget), Smart Shopping campaigns can produce a 20% rise in returns over standard campaign performance.
The goal of Smart Shopping campaigns is to simplify advertising products on the Google Ads platform through the use of automated bids and ad placements. Smart Shopping campaigns run both display ads and product shopping ads, remarketing ads and audience types that are eligible for the display network, search network, YouTube and Gmail.
- Smart Shopping offers your business the ability to generate PLA (product listing ads) even with minimum assets and inputs required for an ecommerce business.
- Smart Shopping can pull product creative from existing product feeds in the Merchant Center linked to your Google Ads account.
- Smart Shopping utilises machine learning to serve suitable combinations of both text and visual ads to prospects across search, display, YouTube, etc.
- Smart Shopping optimisation allows for the production of ads and offers the highest conversion values after only 15 days.
How does it work?
Google Smart Shopping campaigns are automated for the optimisation of your business goals. Optimising ad delivery automatically across several ad networks of Google, they can enhance an advertiser’s potential to meet defined goals including conversions, ROAS, etc.
Bids or placements are adjusted automatically depending on the likelihood of ad clicks resulting in the defined goals of the advertiser. This is similar to conversion optimisation in Facebook.
Smart Shopping ads can run on multiple networks as well as on the search network. Ad placements can be shown on display, shopping, YouTube and Gmail, but there is a restriction, in that you can’t exclude any specific network or break out network placements.
How is it different from standard shopping?
With Smart Shopping campaigns, the user has to set up a Google ads account and a Google merchant center account, then upload the product feed data into the merchant center account. Next, select the location or country and the budget. You can also choose the bidding target, an additional option that may be worthwhile within your Smart Shopping campaign setup.
Google extracts all the information and decides the bidding amount, time and placement of your ads to display through their machine learning. The goal of Smart Shopping campaigns is to achieve the best possible conversion rates, while completing a certain target number of interactions. Google strives to reach the maximum number of potential customers and aims to find the right audience who are eager to spend more.
Standard shopping vs. Smart Shopping campaigns
Here is an evaluation of both Google standard shopping campaigns and Smart Shopping campaigns that will guide you in which one to opt for:
|Standard Shopping||Smart Shopping|
|Complete control over your campaigns||Quick and automated|
|Works manually but more complex||Easy setup procedure|
|Labour intensive and time consuming||Time saving|
|Full control over device and location targeting||Minimal control over device and location targeting|
|Demands knowledge and experience||A broader range of ad types|
|Freedom to choose keywords||Exposure in multiple networks|
|Allows you to set negative keywords||No chance of adding negative keywords|
|Allows for bid adjustments||No bid adjustments possible|
|Granular analysis of data||No granular analysis of data|
Smart Shopping advantages
Besides the drawbacks, there are several compelling reasons to use Smart Shopping campaigns.
- Smart Shopping campaigns are incredibly easy to setup
- Save a lot of time for you to focus on other important matters
- Encompass a number of ad variants
- Quick exposure across the display network and Google shopping
- Utilises automated bidding strategies and machine learning.
If you setup a shopping feed for your ecommerce website, Smart Shopping campaigns can be the easiest way to get started with any ecommerce brand in the ecosystem of Google.
Unlike traditionally complex shopping campaigns, Smart Shopping campaigns are much easier to implement. Be it the product catalog, group or structure of your campaign, bidding options location targeting, negative keywords or inclusion-exclusion of search terms. All these are highly complex in the conventional method, but if done in Smart Shopping, can be triggered in a matter of minutes.
The Best Practices of Smart Shopping Campaigns
With the rise of Google and their every increasing portfolio of online advertising options, it can be confusing as to which is right for your business. So, does Smart Shopping suit your marketing tactics?
Google has some recommendations for you here:
Note: As with any online advertising campaign, you need to test and apply, rinse and repeat, for the best performance appraisal of your ad campaigns…
- Start small – Smart Shopping campaigns tend to have priority over existing campaigns for identical products, hence the smart ones may disrupt the normal activities and performance of these ads. You should start with a particular product group, leaving the rest in normal shopping campaign mode. This way, you will not disturb any other Google Ads activities or their performance levels.
- Testing is a must – Performance evaluation can be done after only 15 minutes. If you are satisfied with this performance, proceed further and add other product groups to get to the stage of having a full product catalog running through the system.
- Avoid duplicates – In the event that you are adding the whole product catalog within a single Smart Shopping campaign, you should pause your existing shopping and dynamic remarketing campaigns. Although it is believed that Smart Shopping campaigns have priority over the existing campaigns for the same products, Google still advises you to pause the regular campaigns to avoid over-serving ads and wasting budget.
- Segmentation of products – If you have a big catalog of different products, you might face problems. There might be strong competition between some products that result in higher CPCs and lower ROI. Again, some products may have lower CPCs and may be more expensive but offer higher ROI with the same sales. So, if you are willing to use a target ROAS strategy, you will want to segment products in individual campaigns to see separate ROAS values. This way you will not miss out on any of the products that have natural returns far from your target ROAS.
- Stay single – No, we are not advising you on your relationship status! Keep aside old campaign priorities and over-segmentation of products and go for a single, Smart Shopping campaign to target the entire product catalog. Google does all the jobs on your behalf to show products at the right time, with prices.
- Strategise wisely – Think tactically before selecting bidding strategies as this can have a significant impact on your campaigns. You can get maximised ROI within a specific budget with maximised conversion values, but an ROAS strategy will stick to the target set by you. Hence your strategies should be robust ones.
- Adjustment of tactics – Segmentation of your products in individual groups in the same campaign can also be done even when you want to target the entire catalog. You can thus get granular reports and easily measure your campaign performance based on the performances of the product groups. You can also separate those products with a high or low budget and keep them in a different campaign.
Is a Smart Shopping campaign suitable for you?
Before starting a Smart Shopping campaign, you must make sure you’ve met the following requirements:
- You should have a Google Ads account and a Merchant Center account
- You need to have the Merchant Center account approved and uploaded with your product data feed
- The conversion tracking tag should be installed on your website
- You must check that your conversion tag is manually set to track transaction-based conversion values.
- Your website should have a remarketing global site tag
- Your website needs to be tagged for dynamic remarketing [Know how to tag for dynamic remarketing]
- At least 20-30 conversions are required over a period of 45 days across your existing standard Google shopping campaign
- Your audience list should consist of at least 100 active users
- You should have a banner image for building brand awareness.
Apart from these criteria, you must also:
- Meet the requirements for Shopping campaigns
- Follow the Shopping ads policies
- Follow the policy of Personalized Advertising
Getting started with Google Smart Shopping Campaigns
Set up a Smart Shopping campaign
Before creating your first Smart Shopping campaign, it is important to be aware that these campaigns run as both display network remarketing ads and shopping campaign ads. So, if you are already running either of these campaign types, pause them before launching a Smart Shopping campaign. Google then recommends you target all available products through a single Smart Shopping campaign.
Smart Shopping campaigns approach is very different from the normal approaches you have for shopping campaigns. And one critical thing to keep in mind, the more information Google gets to work with; the more effective their algorithms will be in working your campaign to an optimised state.
First, choose the shopping campaign option with a proper Merchant center account. Then select the subtype ‘goal optimized” campaign:
While being consistent with Google’s recommendations, all the products in your merchant feed will be selected automatically and included in your campaigns. You can make necessary changes if you wish but the inclusion of all the products in one single campaign helps Google algorithms track all listings viewed by people when they visit your website, and this data is used to optimise your campaigns performance. Hence, you should go with this default option unless you don’t want to include all your products.
In Smart Shopping, Google automatically can create ads for you according to the way customers interact with your website. While setting up your Smart Shopping campaign, you need to upload a number of creative assets and some initial headlines, as well as ad descriptions for Google to use.
Google delivers the initial content in the form of responsive display ads and YouTube ads to visitors of your website, even if they do not show interest in any of your products.
Hint: When you are new to Google shopping, you should do some additional things while setting up a Smart Shopping campaign:
- Conversion Tracking: Setting up conversion tracking is important as Google algorithms need to extract important data that helps make your campaigns more successful. Therefore, you need to setup transaction-specific tracking method. At least 20 conversions need to be achieved in 45 days for a Smart Shopping campaign to work well.
- Site Tag: You should add a global site tag to your website that will allow Google to track visitors on your website. At least 100 users must be tracked for a Smart Shopping campaign to obtain enough data for optimisation.
- Google’s requirements: You should meet Google’s requirements for running Smart Shopping campaigns.
With all these requirements fulfilled, setting up a Smart Shopping campaign is easy!
While creating a new campaign in Google Ads, choose campaign type “shopping”, then select campaign goal as “sales”, choose your ‘Merchant center’ and a ‘Target Geography’.
Select the box for the ‘Smart Shopping Campaign’.
Next, you need to give the campaign a name with an assigned budget. Target ROAS can also be set if you wish but it is not essential. Maximised conversion value bidding strategies can work instead of target ROAS.
Next, Google will ask you to setup the first product group. Unlike when you want to assign a particular product type to the campaign, you can leave this space blank so that all the products get added to the product group.
You can create product groups later, even when the campaign has started working. You can also view the ad preview panel to see how your ads would look on both the Display network and Shopping network.
You need to add a business logo on the Merchant Center that will be used for ads on the display network. You also need to add a short and long headline, ad description, and a final URL. All this information is important for ads on the display network, Gmail and YouTube ad campaigns.
All set and ready to go with your first Smart Shopping campaign!
Setting up a Smart Shopping campaign in Shopify
Google is now teaming up with various third-party ecommerce platforms to make it easier for you to get started advertising your products across the Google network.
A Smart Shopping campaign can, therefore, be setup directly from within Shopify itself. It is quite easy to setup the campaign from this platform and you don’t need to keep a huge budget for this setup. Your products can be synced and then you can run a Smart Shopping campaign with a result tracking method.
Setup process – Smart Shopping in Shopify:
First, you need to go to the Shopify App Store to install the official Plug-in for Google Shopping. Configure the settings and connect your Google Ads account, then go through the checklist to test if all is done. Remember to setup billing from within your Ad account.
Next, click on “Create Campaign”.
Then, setup your daily campaign budget and click “save”.
Now, you’re done! All set with a Shopify Smart Shopping campaign.
Pitfalls of Smart Shopping Campaigns
Although they look great at first glance and might sound foolproof in theory, Smart Shopping has some limitations:
- Unavailability of negative keywords: Negative keywords are not available in Google Smart Shopping, despite being a crucial aspect of traditional shopping campaigns. So you may feel uneasy losing control of the ability to remove keywords from your campaign. You could also end up losing valuable budget on irrelevant traffic.
- No location targeting: Location targeting is not present in Smart Shopping. You can select the country of sale only, but you cannot target a specific city or region, nor can you exclude a city.
- No ad scheduling: Google will automatically figure out suitable times and days for your budget spend. Hence you don’t have an option of scheduling ads. For instance, if performance is poor in a certain period of time, you have no other way than to leave it on Google either to run or stop showing the ads.
- Device targeting: You are unable to select the device type for showing ads. If, for example, the majority of your target audience are mobile users, you still have to pay for ads to be displayed on laptops and desktops.
- Bid adjustments are not available: Bid adjustments are way too crucial for the optimisation of campaign performance and to get the most out of your ad budget. But unfortunately, bid adjustment options are unavailable for Smart Shopping.
- No audience targeting: You should have an audience list of at least 100 users for a Smart Shopping campaign, but you cannot decide your audience for targeting. It will be chosen automatically by Google depending on its machine learning algorithms. Google will select the best audience for you at the lowest cost.
- No network placements: The performance of your ads varies across different networks. While display ads have lower CTR and low conversion rates, ads running on Gmail and YouTube have better performance with regards to conversion optimisation. But you don’t have the option of excluding undesirable networks, hence you have to pay for unwanted clicks from irrelevant search traffic.
- Granular reporting: Due to the absence of in-depth reporting, you cannot analyse data gathered from ads on the display network, shopping, YouTube or Gmail to check the origin of your sales.
Moreover, a number of columns are also unavailable, such as:
- Search Impression Share
- Click Shares
- Search Abs Top IS
- Search Lost in Budget
- Search Lost in Rank
Apart from search, Smart Shopping ads run on multiple networks. Therefore, the data might be inaccurate as it would refer to only search networks. And this leads to the biggest drawback of Google’s Smart Shopping campaigns. That is, you will not be able to report the performance on the display network individually to shopping, Gmail and YouTube. The ads running on these platforms also perform differently. This can lead to worse performance than your usual regular shopping campaigns as the reporting gets affected by ads on all the networks.
But again, you can see performance improvements while comparing your Smart Shopping campaigns with all other existing shopping and dynamic remarketing campaigns.
There are a number of other pitfalls too:
- No shared budgets
- Not supported by Google Ads editor which is very annoying for account managers of large accounts.
The crucial point of Smart Shopping is that you will lose manual control with such campaigns. Google’s AI is the driver in every regard. Which means you need to trust Google in its automation and ensure it is fed with enough data to thoroughly test and report, thus improving its processes.
Some key tips & insights for Smart Shopping campaigns
You should select a budget depending on the historical data of the daily spends on your existing standard shopping and display remarketing campaigns. This will allow the campaign to maximise your conversion value automatically within a selected budget.
You can set optional ROAS to stay within a specific ROAS goal. If no target ROAS is set, Google will set maximise conversion value goals depending on your budget.
Include all products
You need to target all available products within a single campaign to get the maximum performance from your campaign and to measure performance comparisons in the simplest manner.
Feed optimisation is best practice when running shopping ads and is applicable for Smart Shopping campaigns.
Experiment with ROAS
If you have an ROAS set, it might restrict your volume as well as your ability to splurge your full budget. So, try to decrease or eliminate ROAS, then set and check if this increases your conversion values.
Pre and post-testing framework
After the implementation of a Smart Shopping campaign, gauge the performance and compare it to the time when you had standard shopping and dynamic remarketing running.
If you have any doubt about including all your products, you can test and check with specific product groups to see the performance levels of the campaigns. You can also choose to test in specific markets of the world if you decide to sell your products in multiple geographies.
Conclusion: Is Smart Shopping for you?
The reality is, it depends.
Regarding performance data, the results are a mixed bag and the only way to find out whether Smart Shopping is worth it is through testing. Test your new Smart Shopping campaigns across a wide range of products to check if they generate significant and improved results. There might be pros and cons but you need to check the overall results. At times, performance might decline, or at times you may see healthy improvements compared to existing shopping campaigns and dynamic remarketing campaigns.
It has been a year since Google’s Smart Shopping campaign option launched, but nothing particularly impressive has stood out regarding performance enhancement. They currently do not outperform regular shopping campaigns and we would recommend continuing with the manual processes you currently have in place or are thinking of until the day comes when automation is the only choice available.
Traditional shopping campaigns have proven to be the most profitable for eCommerce businesses and you can experience a strong performance from the meticulous control you have over your campaigns. Without this control, you are blind to what is working and what is not, with no control over doing anything to change it. As a result, you can lose sales and your competitors can outperform you with relative ease.
But should you give Smart Shopping a try? Most definitely!
Trial and error have always been an essential part of every successful Google Ads campaign. And the most attractive USP for Smart Shopping campaigns is that they can save you tens, if not hundreds, of hours overtime.
They offer you the opportunity to get better results with less effort – if you feed their AI with enough data. And in the future, it will no doubt improve as their machine learning and precision shopping algorithms learn the key patterns of online traffic/visitor interaction/buyer behavior.
For beginners – those who don’t know about advertising on shopping platforms, and are not experienced in running campaigns, Smart Shopping campaigns can be your best friend. Try and test one area of your product catalog, and go from there. Similarly, if you want the easiest way to run Google shopping, try Smart Shopping campaigns as a zero maintenance approach that will save you considerable time and a steep learning curve.
Finding this scary yet appealing? We are just a call away. Talk to Oxedent and we will help you scale your business and dominate your competitors with better results for your eCommerce business.
Here is a sample of a successful client…
How RT Wall Stickers switched to Smart Shopping and boosted conversions by almost 100%
- Increase conversion values
- Improve ROAS
- Lower cost per conversion
Switched to Smart Shopping campaigns from the standard Google shopping campaign setup with a maximise conversion value bid strategy.
- 99% increase in ROAS
- 2x increase in conversion values
RTwallstickers.co.uk is located in Torbay, South Devon and provides products across the country and internationally. It has grown to become a major market player, specializing in high-quality bespoke designs which they turn into amazing wall decals.
Vinyl wall decals are an inexpensive way to add great, non-permanent designs to your wall space. They genuinely enjoy creating designs and artwork, and offer a wide range of ideas for accenting homes and office walls. Their wall stickers and decals are considered some of the best you will find anywhere today.
RT Wall stickers previously used various platforms to sell their products across the UK and we originally helped them run their first successful online advertising campaigns by setting up and managing standard shopping, achieving a strong number of conversions as well as an impressive number of clicks and impressions with a manual CPC bidding strategy. Their ads ran on both Google search and shopping networks.
But RT Wall Stickers were keen on making more enhancements to their online campaigns and wanted to test the waters of Smart Shopping. So, after just under a year of using standard shopping, we replaced their traditional campaigns with Smart Shopping to combine search, shopping, remarketing on GDN (Google Display Network) and YouTube.
We used the machine learning processes of Google to reach out to shoppers across the whole of the UK. Google Smart Shopping then determined the ads that should appear, the bid amount for them, which products were the right ones for each kind of customer and what was the right time to display the ads. Smart Shopping automatically optimised the campaigns to find the types of customers that would bring more conversions.
Through the effective running of Google Smart Shopping campaigns, RT Wall Stickers was able to reach potential customers and generate profit in their UK business within a few months and delivered an increase in their revenues, double the conversions, a 2x increase in conversion values as well as double ROAS.
RT Wall Stickers tried both standard shopping and Smart Shopping campaigns for 10 months each, keeping the average cost equal for both campaign types and we have seen the following results:
Decrease in ad spend
Reduction in cost per conversion
Increase in no. of conversions, clicks, and impressions
Increase in conversion value
Now that they are content with their Smart Shopping results, we have paused their standard shopping campaigns and kept the dynamic remarketing campaigns running.
The results have surpassed their expectations and hence, RT Wall Stickers have made Google’s Smart Shopping campaigns their default campaign type.
RT Wall Stickers experienced overwhelming success from this strategic change and the company is seeing rapid growth as a result. It is also exploring new markets through the use of Smart Shopping.
Robbie Tucker, CEO of RT Wall Stickers says overwhelmingly…
“Smart Shopping campaigns have helped us to reach our goals much more effectively with the minimum spend. We really had a quick win with Smart Shopping. One thing I love about Oxedent’s Google shopping management is they focus on sales value and ROAS, not just clicks and impressions.”