Google Marketing Live is always the event to watch when it comes to online advertising. No matter whether you’re a small online retailer or a national company with branches and franchises, there is always an announcement that will affect the way you can advertise online.

(That doesn’t mean you need to be there or watch it online, but it’s worth finding out what went down or checking with your advertising agency that they’re up to date)

One of the biggest announcements to come out of the event this year was the introduction of Smart Shopping Campaigns for Google Ads.

Up til now Google shopping campaigns have been similar to other ad types in the way we optimise them to get the best ROAS. But with machine learning and AI coming into play recently Google has turned the tables with a new way to advertise products online.

As an e-commerce enthusiast and since many of our clients are online retail stores, I thought it would useful to highlight what’s changed and what the everyday e-commerce business owner really needs to know about Smart Shopping ads.

smart shopping campaigns

What is SMART Shopping?

As soon as things get more high-tech in this world we seem to add the word smart before them. Smartphones, Smartwatches etc.

Google has done exactly that with their new shopping campaigns… Making them a lot smarter than the previous model.

Smart shopping campaigns are designed to automate the process of creating, managing, and optimising previously complicated shopping ads.

Using machine learning and AI Google Smart shopping campaigns remove the guesswork from your campaigns by utilising previous conversion data to serve your ads to users that are most likely to convert.

But it goes deeper than that, as you’ll learn later, by managing the time schedule, the bids and the keywords which for your entire campaign.

Hence the SMART forename.

Dynamic Display Ads are now included in Smart Shopping

Dynamic display ads are a favourite for e-commerce stores, but for some e-commerce business owners I’ve met in the past they’ve been a bit confusing. Setting up effective targeting, deciding on which styles of ads to run and other features can make dynamic display ads a good waste of money for some retailers. (read about more mistakes that can waste your ads budget here)

google smart shopping display ads

New Smart Shopping campaigns take the guesswork out of dynamic product display ads by using the same user data that controls the Shopping ads to deliver the right products to the right type of searchers at the best times of the day.

This means that your products are being shown on not only Google search, but also the Google display network, YouTube, and Gmail. Which is one of the many new features that were announced earlier this year.

In my opinion this is one of the best features of the Smart Shopping campaigns as it streamlines your ads and allows Googles’ super smart bots to deliver your ads with one common goal in mind. Conversions!

Bidding and scheduling are out of your control

With Smart shopping campaigns, Googles’ bots take over the entire process of your campaigns.

Gone are the days of setting max bids for different products groups, and running an ad schedule with bid adjustments throughout different times of the day.

Google now does all of that for you, controlling your bids across products groups and using your previous conversion data to calculate the best times of the day to display your ad to maximise conversions.

While this is great news in terms of time-saving, we have noticed that by leaving Google to work their ‘magic’ in smart shopping, you can start to spend a lot more per bid than is profitable depending on your margins and product lines.

Things you do still have control of in Smart Shopping campaigns

While they’ve removed lot’s of features from normal shopping campaigns, Google has left behind some very useful features for your control. These include:

  • Location-targeted big adjustments – This feature has changed slightly but the core is still there. Allowing you to adjust bids up or down by a set percentage depending on the location of the searcher.
  • Device bid adjustments – Not much has changed here, bids can still be adjusted based on the device the searcher is using. But without knowing the maximum CPC bid, it can be slightly risky adding a large bid adjustment.
  • Product groups – A much-needed feature to control. Smart Shopping campaigns aren’t likely to work for every product, especially those with lower margins. However, by allowing you to categorise and exclude products in the same way as normal shopping campaigns you can focus Smart shopping on specific product groups that benefit from the new approach.
  • Ad Headlines, text, and logo – Since Google’s now wrapped up dynamic display ads in the new Smart Shopping campaign, you still have control of the headlines and basic ad content. Similarly to a normal dynamic display campaigns. Although full design capabilities are limited.

Who can use Smart Shopping campaigns?

Due to the nature of this beast, there are some requirements that you need to tick off before being able to run a Smart Shopping campaign.

You must:

  • have a Google Ads account
  • have a Google Merchant Center Account
  • have a product data feed uploaded and approved on your Merchant Center account
  • have a conversion tracking tag installed on your website
  • be tracking transaction-specific conversion values
  • have a remarketing global site tag on your website
  • have tagged your site for dynamic remarketing
  • have at least 20 conversions over the last 45 days across existing Shopping campaigns
  • have at least an audience list with more than 100 users

The exciting part of Smart Shopping campaigns is that the process of setting them up is super easy, and therefore can be done by smaller outlets who don’t have the budget for an advertising agency.

As mentioned before though, just like any other Google ads campaign they can get expensive, fast.

My own (slightly bias) advice would always be to use an expert agency to manage your shopping ads. Because even with Googles’ AI doing the brunt of the optimisation work you’ll likely need an expert opinion to track the profitability of the campaign.

Finally, they might not be the best option for your business

There are pros and cons to every new Google Ad release which you’ll hopefully know more about after reading this post. But the most important thing you should know about Smart Shopping campaigns is that they aren’t a magic pill for all e-commerce stores.

We don’t yet have enough data to make clear directions on which businesses and products, Smart Shopping campaigns won’t work for.

But with the limited data we have, I’d advise any e-commerce website with average order values of over £50 and product margins over 30% to atleast give Smart Shopping a try.

Set-up a new campaign and test it against your existing Google Shopping campaigns. Giving it 2 – 4 weeks before reviewing and making a decision on which is performing best is a good idea as Smart Shopping need time to do some learning before they are fully optimised.

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