In the rapidly evolving landscape of digital marketing, in particular across Google search, staying ahead of the curve is important. In 2023, the pursuit of a personalised online experiences is still front of mind for retailers, allowing them to engage with customers on their own terms. This approach can be a crucial factor that separates you from your competitors and across search the key to that experience is Local Inventory Ads, or LIAs
Although LIAs are not an entirely new concept, there have been some recent updates from Google which have expanded their utility. In this article, we will give you an overview of LIAs, their implementation and the benefits they can bring. We are also going to share how Productcaster has become one of the best partners for supporting with the set-up of LIAs for retailers across Europe.
Understanding Local Inventory Ads
To begin, let’s demystify LIAs. The concept is relatively straight forward – they enable retailers to showcase their products and store information to local shoppers. Essentially, they empower potential customers to view product availability in their local store allowing for in-store fulfilment, i.e. collection or complete the purchase.
Retailers can use LIAs to seamlessly connect to a locally hosted shop front by Google, furnishing shoppers with important information for making purchase decisions, information such as stock levels, opening hours, directions or even distance to store. This helps to deliver a frictionless shopping experience.
The advantages of LIAs
LIAs offer a range of advantages, making them a great tool to differentiate yourself from other retailers, such as
- Highlighting instore inventory from a simple Google search for a shopper in your category
- Informing the shopper of future instore availability utilising deliver to store or pick up on x day messaging
- Streamlining click and collect messaging to simplify the purchase journey
- A cost saving potential - if the product information is there on the SERP, does the shopper need to click through to site?
- Offering performance uplift. Google’s estimates are between 15% and 20% uplift in performance. Productcaster stats show this is closer to 12% to 18% increase in performance.
We mentioned earlier about Google developments of LIAs, and the main developments have been around the types of LIAs.
The 3 types of LIAs available
There are 3 distinct types of LIAs available, each tailored to specific retailer needs or their specific ability to implement a, once very, complex process for executing LIAs.
To keep it simple we have broken down the core differences between the 3 types based on technical requirements, performance uplift and implementation.
This version does not need an additional product inventory feed and is ideal for retailers that are seeking a way to test the waters of localised marketing before building the development for more complex implementations into their e-com roadmap
- Technical requirements
- Website supports a collect in store option
- There is no product inventory feed needed
- Utilises the existing PLA product feed, with some additional attributes
- Performance uplift
- Up to 15% increase in online results from local search queries*
- Effort needed to implement is LOW
LIA Basic and Full
Both require additional product inventory feeds, but the key difference is the landing page experience for the customer. Basic caters to retailers with limited stock capacity across their store estate whereas Full caters for retailers with a large store estate and a large product inventory offering. They both serve as a bridge between the online and physical world, and it is fair to say how important physical availability is within retail.
In both of these versions there are requirements to have a Google My Business account linked to Merchant Centre, a primary product feed and an inventory feed containing all of the localised product details.
Latest Local Inventory Ad developments
There have also been other developments from our friends at Google, more specifically Autofeeds.
Google has introduced two new Autofeed options for retailers seeking a faster onboarding process without the need to construct and maintain product and inventory feeds. These solutions require eligibility for Merchant hosted local store fronts for both Basic and Full versions of LIAs
By utilising a new Google pixel on site and leveraging tag manager, it is possible to scrape feed information for a retailer's website. This is an excellent option for retailers that are not easily able to build and maintain inventory feeds and can be used as a long-term solution if set up correctly.
As with most things there are some minimum requirements that need to be in place in order to use pixel autofeeds.
- Merchants must be eligible for MHLSF Basic or MHLSF Full
- Store Inventory must be available on the website
- Retailers need to add a tag to Google Tag Manager or insert a JS template
It is also advisable to flag any issues with either your CSS provider or agency in order to create a feedback loop with Google on the feature and its potential future development. Productcaster is supporting our retail clients by creating this feedback loop with Google to ensure we can feed into the ongoing product development.
The second option from Autofeeds is using the Google crawl feature. This feature allows Google to crawl the retailer's website and gather local inventory information. This is not a solution we would advise for retailers with more than 20 physical stores as the products are limited to 50 which makes it less viable for the majority of retailers. We did feel it would be remiss of us not to mention that fact in this post.
A superpower for retailers
In conclusion, Local Inventory Ads stand as a “superpower” for retailers with a physical store footprint in order to create a seamless path to purchase by creating an omnichannel approach for their customers. Golden quarter for retail is fast approaching and implementing LIAs into your armoury will drive improved performance.
If you believe that Pixel or Crawl Autofeeds would work for your Merchant Centre, then there is a step-by-step process to implement this through your product feeds. You can either speak with your Google representative who can help you through the process or contact our Client Success Team and allow us to take the pain out of the set up when you move to Productcaster CSS.
With up to 20% savings on your CPCs*, a simple one-step notification process and no downtime to your campaigns, it’s never been easier to switch your CSS and feed management to Productcaster. Just drop us an email today.
(*compared to those served via Google CSS)
In today's digital advertising landscape, effective management of your bidding strategies is crucial for maximizing campaign success. By harnessing the potential of Google’s smart bidding strategies, advertisers can improve their ad performance, save time, and achieve better ROI. This article will delve into the key aspects of Smart Bidding and provide actionable tips for automating and optimizing your bids on Google Ads.
Understanding Smart Bidding
Smart Bidding is a suite of automated bidding strategies powered by Google's machine learning algorithms. It leverages a variety of signals, including device, location, time, audience, intent and conversion data, to optimise bids in real time. By analysing vast amounts of data and making auction bid adjustments in real time. Smart Bidding helps advertisers achieve their campaign objectives and serve the right ad to the right user at the right time. We’ll look at some of those objectives in the next sections.
Smart Bidding vs. Automated Bidding
While the term “smart bidding” is used to categorise all non-manual bidding strategies, it is important to note that there are two types of bidding strategies available within the Google suite: smart bidding and automated bidding.
The two share some similarities, however, the main difference is that smart bidding strategies optimise towards revenue and ROAS while automated strategies optimise towards search metrics such as clicks and impression share.
Choosing the Right Smart Bidding Strategy
Choosing the right bidding strategy depends on what goal you are trying to achieve with each campaign. Here is a flow chart of how to choose what bidding strategy to use depending on your business goals:
- Target CPA (Cost-Per-Acquisition): This strategy sets bids to achieve a specific cost per conversion. It works best when you have historical conversion data and a desired CPA target in mind.
- Target ROAS (Return on Ad Spend): With this strategy, bids are adjusted to maximize the conversion value based on a specific ROAS goal. It suits campaigns where the value of each conversion varies, and ROI is a priority.
- Maximize Conversions: This is ideal for advertisers who want to generate the highest number of conversions within their budget. This strategy automatically sets bids to maximize the conversion volume.
- Maximise Conversion Value: This strategy is ideal if you are trying to hit a ROAS target within a set budget.
- Maximise Clicks: This strategy sets your bids to help get as many clicks as possible within your budget. You can add a max CPC limit to control spend.
- Target Impression Share: This strategy sets bids with the goal of showing your ad on the absolute top of the page, on the top of the page or anywhere on the page of Google search results. You can set an impression share target which will help Google optimise towards the position you want to maintain on the search results page.
Once you’ve chosen your strategy, all you need to do is set up Smart Bidding on your campaigns Sounds easy? It can be…
Setting Up Smart Bidding
To start using Smart Bidding, you first need to ensure that your conversion tracking is properly set up. For automated bidding, however, conversion tracking isn’t entirely necessary as the algorithm will optimise towards search metrics such as clicks or impression share and not towards orders and revenue.
You will also need to check your data. Smart Bidding requires a sufficient volume of historical conversion data to make accurate bid adjustments. It’s recommended that your account has at least 30 conversions in the pastlast 30 days to maximize effectiveness. While it is possible to start using smart bidding on new campaigns, in our experience it is better to use Maximise Conversions (without a CPA target) or Maximise Clicks (without a max CPC limit) on newly launched campaigns or accounts until enough learnings are gathered to switch on to a different bidding strategy or introduce ROAS/CPA targets. This allows Google to learn what performance looks like at different levels of spend and risk so that when a target is introduced it will be better prepared to achieve it.
Not all campaigns should be optimised using the same bidding strategy, so make sure you consider what goal you are trying to achieve with each campaign. For example, you might want to consider using Target Impression Share on your pure brand campaigns to increase or maintain visibility. On the other hand, your brand generics campaigns might perform better when optimised using tROAS or Maximise Conversion Value (if you have strict marketing budgets in place).
Well-organized ad campaigns with clear goals, relevant keywords, and structured ad groups contribute to the success of Smart Bidding. So, make sure that your account structure is optimized for better performance. To do this, you could consider the following optimisation techniques:
- Segmentation: Divide campaigns into smaller ad groups to target specific keywords or audience segments. This allows for more precise bidding and better control over performance. Avoid over segmentation as this can make the accounts difficult to navigate.
- Hagakure: Consider restructuring your account using the Hagakure method in order to achieve the best results through smart bidding. In a nutshell, here is what that would look like:
- Ad Schedule Adjustments: Analyze performance data to identify specific times of the day or week when your ads perform better. Adjust bidding by modifying ad schedules to allocate budget more efficiently during high-converting periods. While this can be a helpful tool for B2B business models where potential customers only shop during business hours, for example, it is recommended to allow your ads to run unrestricted. In time, smart bidding will learn when your audience is more likely to convert and will serve more ads during that period.
- Seasonality Adjustments: Account for seasonal variations or fluctuations in conversion rates by adjusting bidding strategies during peak or off-peak periods; however, avoid over adjusting your targets, as smart bidding strategies can account for peak periods using historical data from your account.
Why is Smart Bidding better than non-automated bidding?
Smart Bidding offers several advantages over traditional bidding methods and alternative bidding strategies. For example, Smart Bidding uses machine learning algorithms to analyse vast amounts of data and make real-time bidding decisions. This automation saves time and takes away the need for manual bid adjustments, allowing you to focus on the strategic aspects of campaigns. Your campaigns are also going to be optimised on an ongoing basis, as Smart Bidding adjusts bids in real time based on several signals, including user behaviour, device, location, and time of day.
For those who worry about losing control, there is a level of built-in control. While Smart Bidding automates bidding decisions, you can set constraints and parameters. Bids can be adjusted based on specific business requirements, allowing for customisation and flexibility within the automated framework. Working with smart bidding is like owning a self-driving car: the car is perfectly capable of driving itself, however it needs the driver to tell it where to go. While there are some elements that are outside of our control when it comes to smart bidding, the most important ones are still within our control. We are in control of where we want our campaigns to go and Google decides how to achieve that goal in the most efficient way.
Smart Bidding also considers a wide range of factors and signals to make bid adjustments, leading to more precise bidding. It considers historical data, conversion patterns, and user intent, resulting in bids that are better aligned with the likelihood of conversion. The strategies are goal-oriented, which allows you to optimise towards specific outcomes such as maximizing conversions, achieving target CPA or ROAS. This performance-driven approach helps advertisers align their bidding strategies with their overall campaign objectives.
Finally, Smart Bidding continually learns and improves based on campaign data and performance. The algorithms adapt and refine bidding strategies over time, leading to enhanced efficiency and better results.
What are the disadvantages of Smart Bidding?
It all sounds too good to be true. So, while Smart Building offers lots of benefits, there are some potential disadvantages and limitations to consider including:
Dependence on Sufficient Data
Smart Bidding relies on historical conversion data to make accurate bidding decisions. If your campaign lacks sufficient data, such as a low volume of conversions, it may not perform as well as it could. Volume of data is crucial for the algorithms to learn and optimise bids effectively.
Smart Bidding operates using complex machine learning algorithms, which may make it challenging to understand how bids are determined and the specific factors driving those decisions. This lack of transparency can sometimes make it difficult for advertisers to troubleshoot or diagnose issues within their campaigns.
Certain industries or niche markets may present unique challenges for the technology. Industries with longer sales cycles, high-value conversions, or complex attribution models may require additional customisation or manual interventions to achieve the best results.
Smart Bidding has revolutionised the way advertisers manage their bids on Google Ads. By automating and optimising bidding decisions through machine learning algorithms, it gives you the tools to achieve campaign goals effectively and efficiently. Yes, there are some limitations to take into consideration, but overall, Smart Bidding is set to save you time, money, and help you achieve the very best results.
In 2018 Summit built their proprietary technology Productcaster, giving clients access to the Google Shopping auction for up to 20% less cost than their competitors who are not making the most of having a Comparison Shopping Service (CSS).
Why did we build Productcaster CSS?
Productcaster was developed by Summit in answer to the antitrust ruling from the European Union against Google in 2017, which meant that Google could no longer monopolise the Comparison Shopping space, enabling alternatives to Google Shopping to appear in the Product Listing Ad (PLA) results. Within the first 6 months of the CSS programme launch, Productcaster established itself as the largest CSS partner in Europe and we have maintained this and our ‘Premium’ status ever since.
What is the incentive for using a CSS partner?
To incentivise retailers to work with CSS partners, Google removed their cut of the cost of a Shopping Click for those who partner up with an alternative CSS. This means that savvy retailers are saving up to 20% on their Google Shopping spend. For every £1 spent through Google Shopping directly, only around £0.80p is being spent on your click, while £0.20p is going towards Google’s ‘Hosting Fee’. When working with Productcaster, your full £1 is being invested: without spending any more, you are unlocking improved performance. In the current economic climate, any cost saving that can be found is crucial to retailer survival.
Given the ultra-competitive nature of the Google Shopping auction, any advantage you can gain over your competitors is essential. Even if all your competitors are already using a third-party CSS partner while you are not, finding a partner will help you in levelling the playing field: regardless of the CSS crowding situation in your vertical, having a CSS partner will benefit you.
Which commercial model is best for you?
When choosing a CSS partner, there are different commercial and support models you need to consider, Productcaster offers the following on a fixed monthly fee basis:
- SaaS: access to the CPC savings.
- SaaS +: access to the CPC savings, reporting and troubleshooting
- Premium: access to the CPC savings and strategic support
We have created these different levels of support to ensure that we are meeting your service and commercial expectations.
With Productcaster, you will not have to change your current set up: you keep control of your campaigns in the same interfaces you currently use and the only change you see is under your Google Shopping ads which will go from ‘by Google’ to ‘by Productcaster’.
If you would like to start taking advantage of the CSS advantages, please get in touch by email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone +44 (0)20 3948 4696.