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Making the most of your Smart Shopping campaigns in 2021

If you’ve worked on Google Ads over the last 2 years, you’ve likely noticed Smart Shopping evolving from the lesser-known relative of manual shopping to the heart and soul of any PPC party (of which there are many, we are told). The semi-automated campaign type has quickly become a favourite among retailers for its simplicity to set up and its seemingly endless supply of high-ROAS revenue. As Smart Shopping continues to impress clients and marketers alike, we explore how you can ensure that your campaigns are running to the best of their ability.


How does Smart Shopping differ from regular shopping?

Gone are the days of complex campaign priority settings and vast negative keyword filters; with Smart Shopping we leave the heavy lifting to Google.

For the ads themselves, Smart Shopping takes the visual, product-first, approach of regular shopping and adds a healthy dollop of display remarketing on top. While Smart Shopping ads will appear among regular shopping results, blending in seamlessly with their manual counterparts, the campaign type differs after somebody engages with a product. Automatic display remarketing allows Smart Shopping ads to serve on Gmail, YouTube, and across the GDN in various formats. This multi-faceted approach typically drives significant increases in impressions and clicks, subsequently generating incremental revenue while maintaining strong efficiency.

Smart Shopping campaigns will always work towards a target ROAS. While this can be one that we manually set, it is worth noting that if left without a target the campaigns will optimise towards a ROAS of 200% by default.

Smart Shopping campaigns are also limited to only containing one ad group per campaign. Therefore, you may have to give up a degree of granularity if you are looking to replicate your regular shopping in a Smart format.

Lastly, Smart Shopping campaigns do not make use of negative keywords, meaning that we are unable to filter for brand vs. generic traffic, or any other keyword-based divisions. Instead, traffic is filtered based on a product-based-split; campaigns are typically segmented by product groups, with brand and generic traffic being merged into one. This does mean that a well-managed feed is essential for Smart Shopping to filter traffic to the best of its ability. Notably, as a result, we are unable to view search query results and instead must put our trust in Google’s crystal-ball-shaped algorithms that the right products are being put in front of the right people.

This can also be concerning for highly restrictive verticals; while Google claim that it is unlikely that your ad will show against non-brand-safe queries, without negative keywords we cannot rule out that possibility entirely.

How can I make the most of my smart shopping campaigns?

New Customer acquisition

The way that customers are shopping now is reflective of the ongoing global situation, as now online sales are more vital than ever before for businesses. “25% of US shoppers say they will continue to shop online and avoid going into stores once they re-open” - Google, as more and more users are shopping online, this only increases the importance of having a great shopping campaign strategy in place to capture these sales, especially one that makes use of all the benefits of Smart Shopping campaigns.

Alongside the other benefits Smart Shopping has over standard shopping campaigns, there is also now the recently added feature of being able to optimise with new customers in mind.

With the use of 1st party data within your Google Ads accounts, the value of a new customer can be determined and then added onto your ROAS / Sales targets so that with the use of smart-bidding, if the algorithm can detect whether the user is someone who has purchased from you before or not, it’ll then know how much more to value the new potential customer and upweight its bid accordingly.

You can also help improve the accuracy of this by uploading your own Customer Match lists to your Google Ads account – This could be users who have signed up for a newsletter but have yet to convert as an example.

Smart Shopping 1

If your client can provide you with the exact value of a new customer that they have determined internally then that figure can also be used, but if that’s unavailable then Google’s recommendation is to use the default New Customer Value within the interface – Google’s estimate for future value based on your AOV and CVR for Shopping campaigns.

Thankfully, Google has made the implementation and reporting process of this very simple. From within the Smart Shopping campaigns settings, open the ‘Conversion Goals’ tab > Select the ‘New Customer Acquisition’ box > Enter a new customer value (or leave to default value) > Hit ‘Save’

Smart Shopping 2

Once this has been set, the best practice recommendation is to increase your campaign budget cap by 20% to give the help accommodate this new target.

There is only a learning period (of 2 weeks) if this has been enabled for a newly set up campaign, but if your Smart Shopping campaign was already running then there is no learning period necessary.

If you’d like to test this out on a smaller scale first instead of just applying it across all of your Smart Shopping campaigns, then you can try it on an individual campaign first – but just make sure the campaign was achieving between 50 – 100 conversions a week. As always, the more data a campaign has to work with, then the better the results can be. After you’ve been running the New Customers target for a few weeks, then feel free to adjust the target to match the client’s needs – i.e are there any areas in particular they wanted to be pushed more, or is a certain category going to be ran in a promo?

To then be able to see exactly how many new customers have been driven, you can just add a column for this in your campaign views and report back with exact figures per campaign:

Smart Shopping 3

Integrating Smart Shopping with SA360 ATB

One of the newer features that’s been added to Smart Shopping campaigns is the ability to now have bids controlled via Auction Time Bidding within SA360, which means you can then use Floodlight revenue tracking and DDA attribution to help deliver maximum returns for your client.

There are a few steps that need to be set up before you’re all good to go – Conversion mapping for Shopping campaigns is the first. This can be enabled from “Advertiser Settings” in the left side navigation panel – You will need admin access for this.

By default, this is switched off, but once enabled it means that all Google Ads shopping campaigns within the advertiser will have their conversion source updated to match the SA360 default conversion goal.

After turning on the ‘Conversion Mapping for Shopping Campaigns’, the recommendation from Google for best performance is to wait one week before adding any shopping campaigns to ATB enabled strategies. If there were already any shopping campaigns that were in ATB strategies without having the conversion mapping at the same time, then the recommendation is to remove them for a week before adding them back in to restart the learning phase and improve performance.

Something important to note is that the ATB Min and Max bid restrictions that are entered aren’t applicable to Smart Shopping campaigns – So do keep an eye on the CPCs!

The next step is ensuring that you’ve set the bid strategy to optimise towards the default conversion goal. For example, if your account is optimising towards Last Click columns as the default, but then you assigned the strategy to work towards the DDA columns, this would result in misalignment of targets and mean the campaign won’t actually be bidding using ATB. The default conversion goal can also be changed within the same “Advertiser Settings” option, so just make sure the column selected in there is the same as the one your bid strategy is targeting.

Smart Shopping 4

How can I report on my Smart Shopping activity?

Hesitation around Smart Shopping typically comes back to a lack of visibility. Aside from the aforementioned lack of search query results, we are also limited in terms of reporting on performance. Despite the multi-faceted nature of Smart Shopping, combining regular shopping with dynamic display remarketing, the Google Ads interface offers little more than the usual top-level performance metrics. It would be useful to understand which placements are performing better than others, but at first glance this doesn’t appear to be possible.

However, venture into Google Ads’ custom reports feature and we are actually able to extract this data. By making use of the Placement Group and Placement Type columns in our report, while filtering for only Smart Shopping campaigns, we can now view performance metrics by placement type (Webpage vs. Gmail vs. YouTube) as well as individual placement (right down to the individual YouTube channel on which the ad was served). By then deducting these values from overall campaign stats, we have an isolated view of display remarketing performance versus shopping.

While this solution does not uncover as detailed a picture as we have with regular shopping, it is a positive step in the right direction of cracking Google’s black box around Smart-Shopping.


What does this mean for regular shopping?

While Smart Shopping is a breath of fresh air among the Google Ads repertoire, regular shopping is by no means antiquated. If you’re after an audience-first solution then regular shopping is the way to go, with Smart Shopping campaigns not accommodating any audience-specific targeting. However, with new solutions such as new-customer weighting and ATB-integration becoming more commonplace, it seems to be only a matter of time until regular shopping is left out in the cold peering through the window at the ongoing PPC party (again, an invite, please).

If you have any questions on Smart Shopping or would like further information, don't hesitate to get in touch:

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