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Google recently announced the launch of Comparison Listing Ads (CLAs), a new shopping ad feature for Comparison Shopping Services (CSS).

In this article, we take a look at what this entirely new advertising format means for both Productcaster, our CSS partners and consumers.

What are Comparison Listing Ads?

Comparison Listing Ads allow CSS providers to advertise a group of products in the Google Shopping auction from the CSS website.

Designed to drive additional traffic to CSS providers, Comparison Listing Ads consist of images related to the user’s search, displaying a collection of similar or related products that are available on the respective CSS platform.

Comparison Listing Ads

The CLA format will give consumers greater choice by being able to compare product prices across a number of retailers.

Where will CLAs appear?

An additional tab within the usual shopping results will indicate the presence of ‘comparison sites’. Consumers will be able to switch between both a product view and the new comparison site view.

The CLAs will appear in a second carousel for relevant searches, below the traditional Google Shopping carousel. The CLA carousel will show the user a collection of products available, allowing them to click through to view and compare on the CSS provider’s site.

However, it is worth noting that Comparison Listing Ads will only trigger when there are enough relevant ads available for a given query, currently understood to be three.

What does this mean for current Shopping results?

Comparison Listing Ads and their visibility is entirely separate to traditional Google Shopping results, and does not impact on the Shopping carousel served when a user makes a search.

The impact on the traffic available to those Shopping results as a result of consumers clicking through CLAs is not known at this stage as the ad format is still in beta. However, we will be working with our partners to understand this impact, and more so the wider opportunity that this new format presents.

Will CLAs be available on Productcaster?

Yes, Productcaster will offer CLAs.

As a Google Premium Partner, we were approached to be a part of the initial beta group and will be testing the new format prior to us launching it fully to ensure our approach really does add value both to our CSS partners and their customers.

To learn more about how you can benefit from CLAs and CSS, contact us today via email cssteam@productcaster.com or phone +44 (0)203 910 7026.

Are you a brand or agency who wants to learn how to save up to 75% on your feed management solution? Join us for our 45-minute webinar to find out how you can do exactly that.

Register for the webinar here.

The webinar will be hosted by Commercial Director of Productcaster, John Readman, and Managing Director of Marketing Technology for Summit, Dave Trolle.

Here’s what the webinar will cover:

The value of feed driven marketing

Feed driven marketing drives up to 60% of brand’s online revenue. Over recent years there has been exponential growth in channels which are primarily dependent on product feeds. We take a look at the opportunity for brands and agencies to better grow their feed driven marketing strategy.

How you can immediately profit from Feed Manager

Discover how to unlock the hidden value and gain insight into how you can profit from using a trusted feed management solution. This is an essential step that you must get right in order to maximise ROI on your feed driven marketing.

The simplicity and sophistication of our software as a service platform

Take a look at our Feed Manager solution including, publishing, optimisation, enrichment and diagnostics.

The success of brand and agencies using Productcaster

Listen to real-life case studies from brands and agencies and learn how using Productcaster has improved their online marketing strategy to drive success.

Interactive live Q&A

At the end of the webinar, you’ll be given the opportunity to learn, discuss and debate with like-minded peers and industry specialists.

Register for the webinar here.

In the meantime, why not sign up for your own FREE feed report to reveal missed opportunities, and improve the efficiency and revenue from your feed driven marketing.

Ensuring you keep your feed well optimised is one of the most important areas of your Shopping Campaigns. In fact, it’s key to their success. Making sure all the parts come together harmoniously to entice shoppers to click on your product will result in more revenue and engagement.

There are, however, there are numerous opportunities that agencies and brands miss when it comes to product feeds. In this article, we share our thoughts on what some of those opportunities are and how to make the most of them.

Poorly Structured Titles

Google has been kind enough to give a decent character count for your titles, so utilise it. It’s important to list any relevant product details as well as the brand, if the item is a branded product of course. The first 45 characters should include the most important attributes with the last 25 including other relevant information like product colour and size.

Titles should always be unique to the product you are marketing. If it’s a product variant, make sure you add something unique into the title to differentiate them from one another. Avoid keyword stuffing however and leave out block capital letters. Promotional text that discusses price and sale dates should be left out of your titles and added to the product descriptions.

In a nutshell, view your ads from the consumer’s perspective. If something isn’t obvious from the product image, then try to put this information at the beginning of your title so that it becomes obvious to your customers.

Tommy Hilfiger Poor Title Structure Ad

Short & Dull Product Descriptions

If you are selling a couch, should you call it a couch, a sofa or a settee? The right keywords are paramount in both your title and description. In this instance, sofa has a higher search volume than the other two, but that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t use those words elsewhere. Add sofa to the title and expand your reach by including settee and couch in the description.

On the subject of keywords, it’s important not to overwhelm your description by stuffing search terms in there. Try to make it sound as natural as possible while providing all the relevant information in engaging and attractive copy. You have up to 5,000 characters to play with, but users will need to click to expand a longer description, so it’s worth bearing that in mind.

Stock Availability Discrepancies

It is important to keep your availability information up to date. Imagine it from a consumer perspective: you see a stylish table lamp for sale at a great price and even better, it’s in stock.

Naturally, you click through to buy the product only to be told it’s out of stock. Not only is this frustrating but it reduces the chance of you buying from that brand again, and brand loyalty is especially important in the current retail climate.

Ensuring that the availability attribute in your product data matches that of your landing page will mean users shouldn’t try to buy a product that you don’t have in stock.

Pricing Issues

A common oversight brands and agencies often make is relying on a site scrape alone to update their pricing. Although not an issue if the site is relevant and up to date, challenges may arise if the site does not align with promotions and frequent pricing changes.

A more reliable process would include a feed management solution which accounts for numerous price changes per day. This is particularly important for retailers who change promotions or are in sales.

Missing/Incorrect Unique Product Identifiers

Unique product identifiers do pretty much what they say on the tin. They define the product that you are selling within the global marketplace. Common examples of UPIs include Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs), Manufacturer Part Numbers (MPNs) and brand names.

Unique Product Identifiers

The purpose of including UPIs is to simply make your ads richer and easier for users to find. When it comes to GTINs however, not all products have one assigned, meaning there is no need to submit one. It’s important though that if an item does have a GTIN, it is submitted as the product could be disapproved if you don’t. Some examples of products that may not have an assigned GTIN include:

It’s important to note that the GTIN/EAN number must be valid and match what is in Google’s own database. If the number isn’t valid, it will be flagged by Google in the Merchant Centre.

Those are just a few of the opportunities that agencies and brands can miss in their product feeds. If you’d like to find out more about how Productcaster can help you unlock the hidden value in your feed and beyond, get in touch with the team today by calling +44 (0)203 910 7026 or email cssteam@productcaster.com

Google announced back in December 2018, changes to the criteria to the minimum requirements as a Google Comparison-Shopping Services (CSS) partner. The purpose of this was to raise the bar to becoming a partner, enhancing the customer experience on the partner comparison sites. This included the following requirements:

From today, February 21st 2019, Google will enforce these requirements across all partners.  The number of official CSS partners on the Google CSS partner finder page has dropped from over 130 to just 48 across Europe - we are pleased to say we remain an official partner.

What this means for retailers?

If you already have an existing CSS and they are no longer eligible to advertise in your territories, all ads for those countries will be disapproved. Some may have been aware since earlier this month, an ongoing red alert flag in the Merchant Center, highlighted as a warning, will now become error messages if no action is taken. Explore what your current CSS partners strategy is and how they plan to adhere to the most recent Google update. As a fully compliant partner across EU markets, we are here to support you if you are not happy with the answers to your questions.

What this means for partners?

For those CSS who are eligible with the merchant count of 50 territories, service remains unchanged. In the instance where this threshold is not met, we have options to enable CSS partners to provide continuous service and support for their existing clients whilst remaining a valuable service for their own agency.

These include:

 

The benefits of the Productcaster platform

 

As early adopters of the CSS initiative, our continued service and support to the development of the Productcaster platform enables us to offer the following benefits for our clients:

 

Product integration:

 

User experience:

 

Technical infrastructure:

 

Our goal into 2019 and beyond is to ensure retailers and agencies have continued support and service. If you would like to find out more about how we can work together, contact a member of our CSS team on cssteam@productcaster.com or call +44 (0)203 910 7026

As marketers find themselves already in the full swing of 2019, it is easy to move ahead with plans and activity without reflection on key learnings from the previous 12 months. Measurement and analysis are a key part of any smart marketer’s marketing protocol in order to look forward. So, when it comes to highlighting some of the significant marketing events of 2018, the introduction of the Comparison Shopping Services (CSS) via the Google Partner Programme tops the leader board.

CSS took much of the limelight from as early as spring last year following Google’s EU fine for taking advantage of their position in the Google Shopping market. As a result, they were ordered to open up the competition in the Shopping auction to help other CSS appear in the prime spot in search results.

As one of the key players in the CSS landscape, Productcaster has been instrumental in one of the most significant changes Google Shopping has seen in recent years. However, the story doesn’t end there. Google announced in December 2018, the requirements for the CSS programme were to change again. They stated that:

But following CSS requirements being asked to change once more, one question remained for many. Is CSS still worth it?

CSS: Part of Your Marketing Tool Kit in 2019

Following the conclusion of the Google ad incentive scheme at the end of December 2018, many retailers and agencies raised concern whether CSS should remain a key part of their online marketing strategy for the year ahead. In some cases, an uncertainty grew around whether the benefits were strong enough to keep them using the incentivised model positioned by Google.

Results from Productcaster clients who have switched to a Google only test are now reverting back to using CSS after seeing stronger results in both CPCs and impression share. In one instance, a client in January 2019 saw a 29% drop in impressions by reverting their Shopping activity back to Google for 2 weeks, as a result of running a controlled A/B test in collaboration with the Productcaster team.

Productcaster's Commitment to CSS

With over 80 million products on the Productcaster Comparison Shopping site across all territories, our own research shows that although many retailers used the ad credit incentive for short-term gains, the real winners are those that are continuing with their CSS reaping the most benefits. Productcaster continues to successfully onboard new clients every week and help retailers and agencies understand the performance benefits available to them. Find out more by contacting cssteam@productcaster.com or call +44 (0)203 910 7026

To catch up on our webinar which covers why CSS is for life and not just for Christmas, watch back here.

 

In 2019, retailers’ product data feed is expected to become the core of a successful paid marketing activity. A feed, which in basic terminology consists of a list of products and their defined attributes, must reflect a systematic and detailed product management approach in order to provide the best results.

The quality of the feed dictates the success of Shopping Ads on Google and Bing, along with Marketplace listings on Amazon and eBay, and consequently, many sellers are rethinking how best to optimise their data in order to best reach their customers.

 

Speaking your customer’s language

As the way we shop continues to evolve, retailers must be savvy about various touchpoints in a customer’s journey to keep up with ever-changing landscape and persistent competition. So much can now be achieved at the touch of a button - from ordering a taxi to booking a reservation at your favourite restaurant – and technology is continually evolving to make our lives (and shopping habits) easier.

Retailers must not only think of their data feed but also the way in which consumers search. Learning to speak your customers’ language is a useful tactic to keep ahead of the competition.

Although Google has consistently dominated the digital space, over recent years other partner networks have provided retailers with an opportunity to give their products further visibility. Bing, Amazon, Facebook and more all require their own unique feed attributes which are critical to retailers’ campaign performance. Missing information reduces impression volume, which in turn can translate to a loss in revenue. The importance of a well optimised, rich data feed is now more important than ever to ensure customers are reached on multiple platforms at a variety of touchpoints during their purchasing journey.

 

Common product data feed mistakes

Through years of experience our product data experts have identified a number of common mistakes that can jeopardise the success of a retailer’s feed. These include:

These issues are all easily resolvable and can have a drastic impact on sales and revenue.

 

How to best optimise your product feed

Feed optimisation and enrichment is important so that the best feed is provided to your partners, meaning better ads and improved click-through-rates, conversion rates and ROI.

Feed optimisation is complex, but there are a few key recommendations that can improve performance:

Be sure to look out for our short downloadable guide on feed optimisation tips coming soon on the Productcaster site.

 

Choosing the right data feed management platform

Data without the correct management can be detrimental to a business. Both time and revenue can be lost dealing with overwhelming amounts of feed data, which can seem like an impossible task without the correct support and guidance.

When choosing your feed manager platform, choose one which allows you to:

To find out more about some of the best ways to optimise your feed and maximise your performance, get in touch with a member of our team today at feedmanager@productcaster.com 

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The Current CSS Landscape

Comparison Shopping Services (CSS) have created plenty of noise in the online retail space during 2018. Whether an agency, retailer or consumer, most have encountered the change in the Google Shopping market through seeking the reward incentives for their own financial gain or have discovered through plain curiosity in the way the text under the adverts now look.

Google Shopping screenshot with cycling helmets

For those who require a refresher, Google was hit with a 2.4 billion euro fine back in June 2017 and the market was challenged to drastically evolve to enable more competition and provide other CSS providers better access to the Google Shopping market. Retailers and agencies could continue to place their ads via Google or access the incentivised programme via another CSS such as Productcaster. As well as gaining a saving of up to 20% on Cost Per Click (CPC) activity, Google also introduced an incentive programme, SpendMatch, that rebates online merchants up to 30% of their shopping ad budget as cashback.

Google Shopping: Analysis and Market Overview

Global search and online visibility experts, Searchmetrics, analysed the current market situation around Google Shopping following their initial report back in January 2018. They specifically viewed the change in landscape in the UK and Germany, analysing what impact CSS had on the shopping market, how the proportion of Google ads vs. competitor ads had changed, and which product comparison pages were most frequently found in the shopping units. The most recent report also analysed the French market.

Using their expertise, they analysed a robust keyword set and reviewed each of the three Google indexes on four separate dates in autumn 2018.

The Findings

Although the market has changed, as expected Google themselves are still heavily present in all three markets analysed. The graph below also indicates around a third of shopping ads are provided by competitor CSSs, with Google Shopping still maintaining two thirds of the market in the UK, Germany and France.

Searchmetrics Google Shopping Analysis
Image: Searchmetrics Google Shopping Analysis and Market Overview Report

In the January 2018 report, which analysed only the UK and German markets, the study found that CSSs were majorly unrepresented in the Product Listing Ads (PLAs). In the UK only 0.4%, and in Germany only 2%, occupied the prime shopping spots. Fast forward to present day and what is evident is the large increase with 32% visibility in the UK, 33% in Germany, and for the first time analysed, France with 31%.

Searchmetrics CSS market share
Searchmetrics Report: Comparison of market share of competitor CSSs: January 2018 vs December 2018

When it came to looking at who was taking a lead out of all 132 Google CSS Partners (as of 12th December 2018) in the three markets, Productcaster appears more than any other CSS, topping the board in France and coming a close second in the UK.

Top 3 CSS providers by market
Top 3 CSS providers by market

The UK displays the largest CSS diversity of all three markets, with the top four competitors owning at least 10% of all CSS ads, compared to Germany and France where only three competitors own 10%.
Over in France, Productcaster dominates the market with almost double the amount of CSS ads of its nearest competitor at 29%. “Traditional” price comparison sites such as Kelkoo and Twenga, although present, do not have the same substantial impression share.

Top 10 External CSS Providers
Top 10 external CSS providers

What’s Next for CSS?

Over the last 12 months the most significant change is the number and diversity of CSS appearing in Google Shopping. Productcaster’s own research has shown an increase week on week since our tracking in early July, when only 36 CSS partners were live, in comparison to the 132 live in December today.
However, Google announced this week that, as of the 31st January 2019, the requirements for the CSS program will change. All sites must meet the following criteria to continue to participate in Shopping ads:

The CSS website must offer sorting or filtering options of product search results by price and at least one other dimension that is relevant for consumers (for example brand, merchant, shipping time).

CSS sites must show offers from at least 50 distinct merchant domains for every country in which they target Shopping ads. CSSs will be asked to self-certify by January 31, 2019 that they have offers from at least 50 distinct merchant domains per country on their site (Google will be providing a tool for self-certification in late January). These must be merchants that ship products to the respective country, meaning consumers in that country can buy from them. Google will conduct checks and may ask CSSs to provide evidence that they meet this requirement.

What does this mean for the market as we head into 2019? The market will continue to consolidate, and the CPCs will likely to become more competitive as a result. It is therefore more important now than ever to choose a CSS partner whom focuses on serving the customer first but one that also continuously develops through times of change.

You can read more about the report and download Searchmetrics Google Shopping 2018 on their blog.
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On the 12th December 2018 Google announced there will be changes to the criteria for Comparison Shopping Service (CSS) partners which take effect from 31st January 2019.

At Productcaster, we have already noticed that there is a shake-up in the market, with brands questioning whether their CSS partner will make the grade by the end of January. CSS partners in turn are trying to understand whether they should continue or seek alternative support for their existing clients, due to the ongoing costs in developing and maintaining their solution.

The key requirements that partners need to fulfil include the following:

As a leading Premium Google CSS partner, we are committed to maintaining our CSS partner status. Rest assured, we will not be disappearing as a CSS Premium Partner. We will continue to scale our solution with our dedicated CSS team supporting with onboarding, performance management and the development of our best in class CSS platform.

At Productcaster we offer:

Productcaster has a Feefo 5-star rating, as scored by our customers for service.

Whether you are a brand or an agency, if you are interested in understanding how we can support you through these changing times, please contact our specialist CSS team for more information on +44 (0)203 910 7026 or email cssteam@productcaster.com.

You can also read more about the imminent Google CSS partner changes here: https://support.google.com/merchants/answer/7524491?hl=en-GB

Calling all agencies and retailers! Do you want to know how to maximise ROI from Google Shopping this peak and beyond?

It’s not too late; watch the replay of our 45-minute webinar to find out how you can do exactly that.

Watch the replay here.

The webinar was hosted by Commercial Director of Productcaster, John Readman, and Dave Trolle, Managing Director of Marketing Technology. We were joined by Jeff Mainwood, Head of Performance Marketing at Productcaster client Sigma Sports, and Peter Whitmarsh, Head of Paid Media at Search Laboratory.

Productcaster webinar speakers

Here’s what the webinar will cover.

Google Shopping CSS if for life, not just for Christmas

At Productcaster, we have helped online retailers benefit from and save with our comparison shopping service. Working with established brands such as Argos, Joules, Durex and more, we understand the importance of Google Shopping Comparison Shopping Services (CSS) all year round. Although peak is the prime time to get on board with Google Shopping CSS, it is certainly for life, and not just for Christmas.

We know that peak time is fast approaching, however, it’s not too late to start benefiting from Google Shopping CSS. Watch the webinar replay to learn about how to save and improve your ROI from Google Shopping this Christmas and beyond, as well as how to take advantage of the Google SpendMatch incentive before it ends.

Choosing the right partner to protect your brand or your customer’s brand

With first-hand knowledge from both a retailer and agency side, discover top tips and insight about how to choose the right CSS partner that will protect your band, or your client’s brand.

This is an essential step that you must get right in order to maximise ROI from Google Shopping. In the webinar replay, you’ll be able to understand our top five tips for choosing the perfect CSS partner.

Client and agency success stories revealed

All this talk of CSS and Google Shopping savings is well and good, but where’s the proof?

In our webinar, we pulled back the curtain and shared the stories of how some of our clients have improved their ROI from Google Shopping advertising. Listen to the real-life studies that have helped brands improve their Google Shopping strategy to drive success.

First, Jeff Mainwood, Head of Performance Media at Sigma Sports, shared some key insights and successes that Sigma Sports has seen since partnering with Productcaster.

Peter Whitmarsh, Head of Paid Media at one of our agency partners, Search Laboratory, then talked about why he chose to work with Productcaster over other CSS partners. He also shared some insights and results that Search Laboratory has seen across its client portfolio since migrating campaigns to the Productcaster platform.

Q&A and online debate with peers and industry specialists

At the end of the webinar, we rounded up some of the questions that came in from attendees throughout. These triggered a lively discussion around key CSS and Google Shopping advertising-related themes, including:

Click here to watch the webinar replay.

Productcaster CEO, Hedley Aylott, recently shared his insights around Google comparison shopping service (CSS) partners and shopping feeds on the RetailTechNews podcast.

His expert opinion reveals tips and insight into retailers’ Productcaster feedback, as well as how to take advantage of reduced shopping spend through optimised feed production and management.

Here are some key insights from the interview; you can also listen to the podcast below.

Retailers are saving money on shopping spend and investing it

Since Google proposed new spend incentives for retailers who use a comparison shopping service provider, retailers are now able to use the money they are saving on costs per click (CPCs) spend into their feed quality and content. These reduced CPCs are also allowing retailers and brands to invest more money in generating traffic to their websites.

This is just one of the benefits of using a shopping comparison partner. Partnering up with a comparison partner other than Google is a quick and simple task. With an existing Google Ads account, link up with your shopping comparison partner and within 24 hours a relationship will be made between the ads and the comparison partner. For example, instead of the ads stating “By Google” they would then say “By Productcaster”. According to Aylott, there is no migration needed and absolutely no loss of data.

And he said the feedback from early Productcaster clients has been positive: “The feedback from the merchants or the retailers we work with around Europe is that they’re seeing really reduced CPCs for the auction, and they’re investing that money that they’ve saved either by not spending as much or they’re investing it in generating more traffic. So it’s been very positive from the people using it properly.”

Google wants a fair and positive user experience

For positive shopping comparison results, Google requires a positive experience for its users. Aylott recommended to retailers that page speed is crucial for a successful shopping experience. Once an ad is clicked, users will not wait around to see loading images and content.

Depending on the shopping feed size, it can be difficult to showcase overall consistency because feeds are often automatically produced. However, it is essential to check both the quality and quantity of images within the feed, as well as product descriptions and valid information. The more consistent the feed, the better the result within the SERP (search engine results page).

Mastering the art of feed production is essential for shopping comparison success
Productcaster is now helping retailers enrich their feeds with better content, which can bring benefits for both shopping comparison and in natural search. Since shopping comparison partners such as Productcaster are essentially casting products across the web, and the globe, there is a necessity for an accurate feed. Mistakes or inaccurate information could cost you a sale.

Telecoms as a category has never been particularly well-served by generic Google ads. In this instance, Aylott said that telecoms can be boosted by comparison sites such as Productcaster with relevant and detailed content, allowing consumers to make the right choices.

The importance of quality content

Aylott described how information around product, location, stores, availability, stock are crucial for a successful feed. “How many times have we seen in Google shopping the same fridge freezer, the same picture, the same description?”, he challenged.

He continued: “How can I make my description better than your description? You’re not going to do that by using the stock description that the manufacturer gives you.” Point of difference, accuracy and quality are all important attributes to outstanding feed content and that’s what Productcaster provides.

The difference between a good product feed and a bad product feed is simple; a bad feed will have gaps in its informational content. Aylott said, “In a product feed for Google Shopping, every product should have an EAN number.” Elsewhere, all fields relating to the item should be filled in, including pictures and a short description.

Product images and reviews are the difference between a click and a sale

Similar to producing quality content, high resolution and varied images are essential when producing a shopping feed. If images are missing from your feed, it is likely a user will go elsewhere to purchase their desired product.

As well as images, reviews are deemed more persuasive when making a buying decision. Particularly when buying more expensive products or white goods, reviews are a primordial factor when making a purchase. If your brand or company is willing to share customer reviews of both the product and service, it is more likely to be trusted by future customers.

The introduction of boutique comparison and the future

Aylott also shared his thoughts on the introduction of a “boutique shopping comparison service”. In the past, there has been a stigma surrounding the types of brands that would want to appear next to each other within comparison services with luxury brands being reluctant to be shown alongside budget retailers.

He stated: “I think there’s real space for perhaps providing more boutique comparison between brands that are happy to co-exist with each other.”

The future looks bright for Productcaster and Google Shopping, and upon being asked about future endeavours outside of Europe, Aylott said: “We are testing and trialling it in Europe, and we want to find a format and find the categories that are under-served today… and then we will look at which territories are applicable.”

You can listen to the podcast interview below (the Google CSS discussion begins at 27 minutes and 36 seconds):