Jillian Anderson, Product Development Director at Productcaster reviews Google’s latest changes and the impact this is set to have on marketing strategies in Q1 

Following significant pressure from the EU to be more transparent and open up competition to other media providers, Google has started to roll out significant changes to the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), changing the way customers search for their favourite products and brands. 

According to Google, these experience ‘tweaks’ have been robustly tested across key European markets, including UK, DE, FR, and CZ, and early experimental results demonstrate improvements to consumer engagement and uptake. So what does it mean for consumers and brand advertisers in the coming months?  

Firstly, this is a clear statement of intent from Google to increase the competition and transparency of Comparison Shopping, increasing the value and importance of partner Comparison Shopping Services. Quite rightly, Google should not be a poacher and gamekeeper being responsible for both advertising revenues and price comparison services.  As deemed by the EU, this is a recipe for ‘self-preference’ with the possibility of Google favouring the products and prices that deliver the most advertising revenues.  

Secondly, the new changes highlight the importance and need for brands and agencies to have an informed and considered performance marketing strategy to maximise all channel and advertising platforms. Brands should have a diversified multi-channel plan but specifically in Comparison Shopping - without the right technology stack, some brands are paying 20% extra on Google Shopping Cost Per Click costs, while at the same time seeing 20% fewer conversions and lower ROI.   

It is also commonplace for brands to unwittingly enable technology and partners that actually increase the journey length and reduce their own ability to manage customers and products.  The risk of great inefficiency in this space is large and getting larger.  Placing the right products, in the right channel, at the right advertising ‘Cost Per Click’ price, with the right information for consumers to make purchase decisions is key; thus a Comparison Shopping Premium Partner that provides expertise to better clients campaigns as well as the CPC saving, complemented by a feed management solution, can drive efficiency in the channel by up to 50%. 

Lastly, we’re witnessing the end game for one of the original and oldest digital advertising channels within retail, the text ad. With the meteoric rise of Product Listing Ads (Shopping) and the associated product images, buying information and enhanced creative, we have seen proportional decreases to the value and ad share of text ads. There is better performing, more cost effective media at play and this has resulted in text ads being pushed further and further down the page. This channel within Google is literally already on the floor, down and out within retail.  Hopefully, this won’t happen to the Organic page listings so that there is still real estate on Google that can be won through experience and content, rather than just the biggest media budgets. 

There is definitely more change and disruption to come in this space with friction between the EU, Google and competing media partners. But there are also gains to be had and market share to be won for those agencies and brands who have a clearer view of how to drive retail performance on Google. Inevitably, more substantial changes and Google concessions are to follow with the EU ‘Digital markets Act’ commission set to make further competitive rulings on the Shopping channel in Spring 2024.