google shopping

Google Express: Is This Just Google's Version Of Amazon?

Launched initially 6 years ago Google Express has gone relatively unnoticed. Few have used it, and even less have heard of it. At first glance, it appears to be a lot like Amazon, but there are some distinct differences.

Is Google Trying To Compete With Amazon?

Yes and no. While at first glance Google Express appears to look a lot like Amazon, it is different. For close comparison, it’s more like eBay. With Google Express you can buy products from multiple retailers in one checkout (like Amazon), but once the order is completed the individual retailers you bought from take over the order. The vast majority of items purchased on Amazon ship directly from an Amazon warehouse and are delivery by Amazon. With Google Express, if you are buying an item from Target, you pay Google, but Target packages and ships the item to you.

What is Google Express?

When Google Express launched 6 years ago the eCommerce landscape was completely different than today. Amazon was growing rapidly, and most major brick and mortar stores had not even begun to know how to compete. Google Express initially launched in the San Francisco Bay area only on a free trial basis with plans to become a yearly membership program (like Amazon Prime). Products were picked up directly from stores like Target, Home Depot & Walmart and delivered to your home by Google.

Over the next 4 years, Google Express tested different methods and programs. At this point, more than 90% of the United States could use the program. Google partnered with local retailers and with a $95 membership fee you would get free delivery. At this time Walmart joined forces with Google significantly increasing the number of products you could purchase with Google Express. At the time Walmart was after the voice purchase part of Google Express using Google home devices. Fast forward two years Walmart has finally become someone to compete in eCommerce, and they pulled out of Google Express to focus on their own program.

Today anyone in the United States can order off Google Express, and the program has opened up to more local retailers. See the full list here.

Why Use Google Express?

Google Express offers a clean, simple checkout where you can purchase directly from the retail partners, but in one purchase. No need to place multiple orders at once or create multiple accounts with the various retailers. What’s great for the retailers, unlike Amazon, is that they continue to own the customer once the purchase is completed.

For lesser known retailers, Google is there to back the purchase. Retailers have to adhere to the minimum return policy required by Google Express and shipping times are monitored.

How Does Google Express Integrate With Google Home?

Here’s the answer to Google’s current long term plan with Google Express. As voice purchasing picks up momentum, Amazon can fulfill ,on the Amazon Alexa device, but Google didn’t have an answer for Google Home. As Google Home continues to grow, it will give Alexa real competition in voice search and product purchasing. Last month Walmart even joined forces back with Google to support Google Home voice purchasing.

Can Anyone List Products On Google Express?

In recent months Google has begun to open Google Express up to more retailers with Google Shopping integrations. Through a platform called Shopping Actions you can apply to be a retailer on Google Express. There are more minimum requirements than Google Shopping as Google plans to keep Google Express a separate program.

If you’re interested in joining Google Express, let us know, and we’ll walk you through the application process.

Google Ads Smart Shopping: How Smart Are They?

What are smart shopping campaigns?

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On May 3, 2018 Google Ads announced a new type of shopping campaign, called Smart Shopping. Continuing on their path of releasing new products driven by machine learning, Smart Shopping campaigns allow you to hand over your shopping ad management to the machines. At the root of the product, what separates them the most from traditional shopping campaigns is that the ads don’t just run on Google search, they also run on Youtube, Google display network & gmail. As we continually see in eCommerce product touch points are increasing and this product takes advantage of that.

The second feature that separates Smart Shopping from traditional shopping campaigns is that they are fully automated. While there could have been an option for Google to expand shopping campaigns to enable the advertiser to choose to expand the networks the ads run on, they chose not to. We would love to see this feature added in the future.

The third feature is that because they also run on the display network, Google chose to include remarketing (with no opt out). The intention is that you no longer need to run Shopping and Remarketing campaigns, only Smart Shopping.

That all sounds pretty good doesn’t it?

What are the downsides to smart shopping campaigns?

Smart shopping campaigns are a black box. The advertiser gets no insight into whether the ads ran on search, display network or gmail. All you see is "cross-network” for placement data. There is also no audience data shared. How much of your budget is being spent on remarketing? No idea and no way to find out.

You cannot do any of the following with Smart Shopping campaigns:

  1. Add negative keywords

  2. Change location targeting (feed runs in country targeted in the merchant center)

  3. Adjust bids by device

  4. Change ad scheduling

  5. Do anything with audiences

What can the advertiser control?

The advertiser can still see product level performance data which is great, but there’s nothing you can do with the data. When you setup the campaign you get to choose your shopping feed, a budget and ad text. The default bidding type is maximize conversion value, but you can choose a target ROAS if you please.

Here is what the ad setup looks like:

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Can any advertiser run smart shopping campaigns?

The requirements to run Smart Shopping campaigns are:

  1. You must have conversion tracking installed and passing revenue data

  2. You must have the remarketing global site tag installed

  3. You must have at least 20 conversions over the last 45 days across existing shopping campaigns

  4. You need an audience lists of more than 100 users

How do smart shopping campaigns perform?

This is what we’ve all been waiting for isn’t it?

There are certain clients we have tested this on in the past 6 months. You have to be careful because smart shopping campaigns are shown before traditional shopping campaigns. Even though you technically can have both on at the same time, your traditional shopping campaigns will receive almost no impressions.

What we have seen is that half of the clients we’ve tested smart shopping with, we have continued to run long term. Here is one example:

smart shopping results.png

The results above are over a 30 day period. Traditional shopping campaigns ran for the first 15 and smart shopping for the ladder 15 days. As you can see the cost per conversion dropped from $47.60 to $19.06. What’s interesting is you see similar conversion rates, but the cost per click is dramatically lower on smart shopping. That’s because the Google display network is less expensive to run ads on.

We also have cases where the cost per conversion is almost the same, we have cases where the cost per conversion dropped the same amount, but we lost too much volume and we have cases where the cost per conversion increased. Just like any other advertising products in Google ads: test, test, test.

What else should you know?

The most difficult piece in a real controlled test between traditional shopping and smart shopping is the retargeting portion. At Relay PM, we all but phased out running display retargeting on Google for clients because we’ve seen much better performance with Facbeook ads. It’s difficult to factor that into the campaign performance. The analysis can get complex.

Conclusion

For many advertisers we highly recommend testing this feature. Be aware of all the pros and cons. Be aware it includes retargeting. Understand in most cases you’ll never be able to have a real controlled test. There are too many pieces of data Google doesn’t share.

As we’re able to bring in more data we’ll continue to update this article. Please feel free to message us with any questions.

If you’re looking to test shopping campaigns, let us know.