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Dress to Impress in Google Shopping: 6 Tips for Apparel Retailers

Phil Turicik

The apparel business is competitive. Fast fashion rules. Styles are on-trend one day and shelved the next, making catalog churn nearly constant. With razor-thin margins and customers now accustomed to perks like free shipping and returns, apparel retailers can feel squeezed when it comes to e-commerce.

But by using Google Shopping smarter than the competition, you can gain the edge. With seasons changing and holiday around the corner, now is the perfect time to outfit your Google Shopping campaigns for success. Here are a few tips you can use to get started.

1. Ride Seasonal Trends

Along with the cooler temperatures, cider, and football that autumn brings us, the transition from summer to fall triggers shoppers to seek new styles. Seasonal change of any kind presents opportunity to bid up different parts of your catalog. When the cool fall breeze has shoppers swapping their sandals for boots, you want to be front and center in Google Shopping. Raising bids for items that will be used during the upcoming season will help secure your place.

It’s great to get a head start on the next season’s sales, but getting too far ahead of the game won’t score you any extra points in Google Shopping.

Some apparel items are purchased during the time they are used, while others start to sell before their prime season hits. This means you shouldn’t bid up your entire summer catalog while there’s still snow on the ground, but chances are some tank tops and swimwear will start selling well before the temperature actually warms up.

Just remember that your prime revenue time is during the peak seasons, not before. It’s great to get a head start on the next season’s sales, but getting too far ahead of the game won’t score you any extra points in Google Shopping.

2. Geotarget by Climate and Local Happenings

A light jacket may be perfect for March in New Orleans, but early spring is a much different experience in Minneapolis, where shedding that winter coat is still unthinkable.

If you sell sports team gear, get to know the loyalties of your customers in different regions. Capitalize on that loyalty and bid up the gear of the strong local performers in the spotlight.

Shoppers in different regions need different items of clothing to match their local climates. Use location targeting to reach users across various parts of the country as the seasons shift. Spring arrives earlier in the southern United States than it does elsewhere, so target those warmer climes first with your spring catalog.

To sell your goods year-round, target places where the temperatures hold steady throughout the year. As examples, Phoenix could be a target for warm weather wear, and San Francisco a place to target for spring and fall staples.

If you sell sports team gear, get to know the loyalties of your customers in different regions. When the Philadelphia Eagles make the Super Bowl in 2017 (hey, it could happen…), you can bet that fans in and around Philly will be buying up the Birds’ team swag like crazy. The same goes for any local team. Capitalize on that loyalty and bid up the gear of the strong local performers in the spotlight.

3. Optimize Your Titles

Clear titles and descriptions with relevant keywords are the foundation of a strong Google Shopping campaign. Consider appending keywords to titles that match terms shoppers use in their queries.

For example, you might sell jean jackets or fleece that shoppers find by searching for “fall jackets” in Google Shopping. Adding the word “fall” to the product title can help get that product more views during the seasonal shift.

Optimizing descriptions by detailing the brand, color, and material (“suede shoes” or “leather jacket”) will surface your product for shoppers looking for those attributes. On a coat, for instance, even including details like the number of pockets, zip or button closure, and style (vintage, bomber, etc.) can give your product an edge.

4. Align Campaigns to Margins

Generally speaking, apparel margins are tight, but you might have house-branded items with ample margins. If Google Shopping is a large enough share of your site revenue, consider segmenting your campaigns by margin. From there, you can bid more aggressively on higher-margin items, and cut back on products that are less profitable.

With high margin items, review impression share of your products to determine whether your ads could reach more shoppers with a higher bid.

How to do this? Start by segmenting your campaigns by margin—it can be as basic as high, medium, and low, or as intricate as the margin percentage at the SKU level. With high margin items, review impression share of your products to determine whether your ads could reach more shoppers with a higher bid. Then bid up on the items that show strong potential.

Spending more on higher margin items may require you to adjust your budget and your bids on other catalog items in the medium- and low-margin categories.

5. Bring Your ID

The item group ID in Google Shopping is an optional feed field that can be a valuable tool for structuring and managing your campaigns. We recommend including group ID in your feeds whenever possible.

By adding item group ID to your feed, you can manage an entire lot of product variants at once.

Courtesy of Google, here’s what group ID looks like in a product feed:

Google Item Group ID

How does it come into play? Say you have a pair of basketball sneakers, in five colors and 10 sizes. That’s 50 different variants of the same item. Each variant will have its own SKU — which is pain to track amid all the other products you sell. But by adding the group ID to your feed, you can manage the entire lot at once.  

It’s usually a good idea to assign the same bid to every product in a group at the start—and the group ID field makes this simple to do. You’ll also be able to stay on top of your inventory in Google Shopping: When the best-selling variant (maybe: red, size 11) goes out of stock, another shoe from the group will take its place in Google’s Shopping results without missing a step. Finally, you can always break out overperforming or underperforming SKUs from the group and adjust their bids when needed.

6. Play to Your Strengths in Specialty

Smaller specialty retailers, this tip is for you. Shoppers coming to you know what they want and are especially discerning about product features.

To get in front of these demanding customers in Google Shopping, identify inventory advantages you’ve got over the larger retailers, and bid up those items.

Take waterproof winter gloves, for example. A specialized outdoor apparel retailer might stock technical ski gloves, worthy of adventurers summiting Mt. Everest or skiing the Alps. Larger retailers, on the other hand, likely will stock gloves that appeal to shoppers looking to protect their hands while shovelling snow or taking their kids sledding. When specialty gear is what shoppers want, this is your chance to deliver.

To get in front of these demanding customers in Google Shopping, identify inventory advantages you’ve got over the larger retailers, and bid up those items.

While apparel is a competitive vertical that demands retailers to stay on their toes all year long, these tips will help keep your campaigns ahead of the curve. To drive growth during upcoming seasonal trends and holiday, check out our e-book, 10 Moves to Master Seasonality in Google Shopping.

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