What are “Smart Shopping Campaigns”? Are they suitable for you and your online shop – and why should you try them out? I’ll give you answers to these questions in my blog article.

Google Smart Shopping has nothing to do with the “Smart Shopper” – rather, the way in which Google runs the shopping campaigns is “smart”.

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What are Google Smart Shopping Campaigns?

From the Fraunhofer Institute to Google to the Bildzeitung : machine learning and artificial intelligence are one of the current buzz topics. According to the Fraunhofer Institute, machine learning is one of the key technologies of artificial intelligence (and this in turn is a branch of computer science): “Machine learning aims to generate ‘knowledge’ from ‘experience’ by using learning algorithms to develop a complex model from examples.”

Here you can build a bridge to Google Smart Shopping campaigns. These are an (intelligent) combination of a shopping campaign with banner remarketing in the Google Display Network. The “smart” thing about it is that Google plays out the shopping campaigns (based on your product feed and banners) on the basis of machine learning. After the campaign has started, the Google algorithm learns through “experience” in the form of user signals (e.g. the existing or missing interaction of a user with the shopping ad and the associated remarketing banners) and gets better and better over time.

Now for practice: what do smart shopping ads look like? The visual format of the Smart Shopping Ads does not differ from standard Shopping Ads. So you cannot tell at first glance from a shopping ad whether it is a smart shopping campaign or a completely normal shopping campaign.

Shopping ads can appear in Google search results, but also on other external marketplaces and websites that have integrated shopping (e.g. YouTube, websites in the Google Display Network, Gmail).

The big advantage is the intelligent (= smart) linking of shopping campaigns with banner remarketing campaigns. That means:

1. The user is looking for a certain product, for example the Nike Free Sneakers. He sees the Google Shopping results, clicks on the Keller Sports shopping product display and is forwarded to the Keller Sports online shop (purely fictitious example).

The user finds what he is looking for and clicks on the Keller Sports shopping ad.

2. He looks at the sneakers in the Keller Sports Shop, but does not buy yet and leaves the site again.

Nike Free RN: Product detail page in the Keller Sports Online Shop.

3. The potential customer then continues to surf the Internet – and then receives banners from the Google Smart Shopping campaign (this can be the Keller Sports logo or combinations with product photos from the data feed).

4. The user remembers that he actually needs new sneakers – and ultimately buys his new Nike Free at Keller Sports.

Now what is the difference between smart shopping campaigns and normal shopping campaigns that are associated with banner remarketing campaigns? The difference is that in the second case you set up two separate campaigns and link them with each other via remarketing. But Google rates far more user signals in its smart shopping campaigns. The smart shopping campaign thus learns over time to classify these additional user signals and to display the shopping ads with the banners in the correct environment.

A bit of Google Magic is included here – and a lot of black box too. Because you cannot view and evaluate the placements (i.e. the pages in the Google Display Network on which the banners were displayed), the search queries that led to a click, or the assets (banner combinations) – not even directly Request to Google itself.

According to Google’s experience, smart shopping campaigns have a significantly higher ROAS with a similar number of conversions compared to standard shopping campaigns. We can confirm this from our first experiences with smart shopping.

Requirements for Google Smart Shopping campaigns

To get started with Google Smart Shopping, you need

  • an online shop.
  • a Google Ads account with functioning conversion tracking (including transfer of sales values).
  • a Google Merchant Center account linked to your Google Ads account.
  • a Google Shopping Feed uploaded to the Google Merchant Center.
  • a logo in the size 1: 1 (at least 128 x 128 pixels), uploaded in the Merchant Center (e.g. your online shop logo).
  • an existing Google Shopping campaign with which you generated at least 20 conversions in the last 45 days.
  • the Google website tag built into your site.
  • a remarketing list with at least 100 active users.

If you meet all the requirements, you can start Google Smart Shopping campaigns.

Who are Google Smart Shopping campaigns for?

According to the requirements, smart shopping campaigns are suitable for you if you operate an online shop and have already gained initial experience with Google Shopping. If your goal is to increase the efficiency of your shopping campaigns and you are ready to accept Google’s “black box” – then test Google Shopping campaigns.

By the way: The number of conversions does not necessarily increase with smart shopping campaigns, but rather the revenue that is generated with this number of conversions.

Practical guide: How to set up Google Smart Shopping campaigns!

  1. Check whether you meet all the requirements for creating smart shopping campaigns.
  2. If so, you can start right away. Go to the campaign level in the Google Ads account. Click here on the blue plus sign to create a new campaign.
  3. Select a campaign goal and choose “Shopping” as the campaign type. Select the Merchant Center account in which your shopping feed is created and the country in which the Smart Shopping Ads should be displayed.
  1. Then select “Smart Shopping” as the campaign sub-type. You cannot change this type after creating the campaign (accordingly, you cannot convert an existing shopping campaign into a smart shopping campaign).
  1. Make the last adjustments:
    • Name your campaign: The campaign name does not appear anywhere – only you should be able to assign it. For example: smart_shopping_all products.
    • Set a daily budget : You can use the budget of your previous standard shopping campaigns as a guide. If you are too risky of spending too much budget too quickly, split up your shopping budget. For example, use 50 percent for your previous shopping campaign and 50 percent for the smart shopping campaign. After the first few weeks you can then redistribute the budget.
    • You don’t have a choice when it comes to the bid strategy: For smart shopping campaigns, Google automatically uses the bid strategy “maximize conversion value” (i.e. maximize sales).
    • Target ROAS: Here, Google gives the tip not to enter a target ROAS when starting the new campaign. For whom the alarm bells are ringing: Check such statements from Google, and rightly so! We actually tested it – the recommendation was to run the campaign for about five weeks without a target ROAS and then enter the ROAS value of the last few weeks as the target. In our case, it actually worked fine.

Optimizing Google Smart Shopping Campaigns

My tip in advance: You should be patient for about five weeks and monitor your smart shopping campaign daily during this time. Five weeks make sense because the smart shopping campaign normally has a learning time of around two weeks – and then needs some “breathing space” to develop. During this time you should not adjust anything – unless of course, the performance gets out of hand and you therefore decide to abort the test.

The reporting options are unfortunately – as is so often the case when Google’s machine learning is increasingly involved – limited. You can neither pull a search query report, nor can you evaluate the placements.

The lower transparency in the evaluation (compared to shopping) leads to fewer optimization levers.

But after the five weeks you should do the following:

Review: How is the smart shopping campaign doing compared to the normal shopping campaign?

  • How many impressions and clicks were generated at what cost?
  • How many conversions did you make through the smart shopping campaign?
  • How high is the turnover via Smart Shopping compared to the regular shopping campaign?
  • How does the ROAS compare to a similar timeframe for the smart shopping campaign?

Optimization levers are:

  • Budget use : Use more budget if you are satisfied with the performance.
  • Splitting the smart shopping campaign into several campaigns: Even with smart shopping, it can be advisable to split a campaign into several. When does that make sense? If the performance of the products or the value of the goods is very different – you do that analogously to the standard shopping campaigns using custom labels.
  • You should not set the target ROAS until after about two months, as the algorithm then had enough ” breathing space ” to learn. In the first step, it is recommended to use the ROAS as a goal, which has already been achieved on average over the past few weeks. You can then gradually increase your target ROAS. Go slowly here, because if you cut the target ROAS too quickly, you can “cut off” the traffic.

Conclusion

Do I recommend using smart shopping campaigns? I say clearly: Yes, I recommend testing smart shopping campaigns – if you already have some experience with normal Google shopping campaigns and can accept Google’s “black box”. Only then can you assess whether the use of smart shopping has also improved performance. However, are you generally dissatisfied with the conversion rate of your online shop? You can find starting points for conversion optimization, for optimizing your product texts and product descriptions on our blog.

What do you think of Google Smart Shopping campaigns? Top or flop – have you already gained experience with it? I look forward to your contribution in the comment field below.

If, on the other hand, you need professional and individual advice for your online marketing strategy and especially Google Ads, you can contact us at any time using our contact form. We look forward to your request!

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