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Keeping Up With Google: What Are Smart Shopping Campaigns?

Steve Costanza

One of the newest additions to the Google Ads wheelhouse, Smart Shopping Campaigns promise retailers a seamless introduction to the advertising platform. Retailers must set a budget and link their Merchant Center account to the Smart Shopping Campaign. From there, Google does the rest.

It’s unclear, though, if full automation gives retailers the flexibility and insight they need to achieve their marketing goals. Because Google fully manages the campaign, with limited reporting on performance, retailers are unable to refine the strategy as new products or marketing initiatives emerge.

In this installment of the Keeping Up With Google series, your source for the latest updates and tools rolling out to Google Ads, we explore what Smart Shopping Campaigns are and how they can impact your business.

Release Date: Smart Shopping Campaigns originally launched as Universal Shopping campaigns in 2018. Google announced the new name as well as its general availability at the Marketing Live event in July 2018.

What It Does: Like Smart Campaigns, Smart Shopping Campaigns leverage Google’s data across channels like Youtube, Gmail, and the Search Network to automate campaigns and determine when and where a retailer’s ad should appear and how much they should pay for it. Smart Shopping Campaigns incorporate Google Shopping ads and display ads for remarketing.

In order to create a Smart Shopping Campaign, retailers need to link their Merchant Center account to the campaign, set a budget, upload assets for display ads, and select the country where products are being sold. Using product feed data, as well as the assets retailers provide, Google tests different combinations of text and images across channels to deliver relevant ads to the right audiences.

Google optimizes bids so that retailers receive the highest conversion value from their ads. Retailers can set further goals for their Smart Campaigns, like target ROAS, which will influence how Google sets bids and delivers ads.

Which Channels: Smart Shopping Campaigns are available for Shopping ads and are delivered across the Search Network, Youtube, and Gmail.

What It Means for Your Business: Smart Shopping Campaigns are a set-it-and-forget-it approach to Google Shopping, which is ideal for retailers who are new to the channel or have limited bandwidth to manage their own campaigns and strategy. This feature is not recommended for retailers who are already active in Google Shopping and have identified granular goals for their campaigns.

By implementing Smart Shopping Campaigns, retailers allow Google to guide campaign strategy. While this frees up time for the retailer, it can also lead to missed opportunities.

For example, if retailers have a new product launch and want to increase exposure for that product, there is no way to do that within Smart Shopping Campaigns. Google will simply continue optimizing to the original goal the retailer set. Other changes in the business that occur outside of Google’s network, like inventory shifts or product seasonality, are not taken into account by Google’s machine learning solution.

When using Smart Shopping Campaigns, retailers also lose insight into campaign performance. They cannot see what search terms attracted consumers to their ads and led to a conversion. Without this data, retailers are unable to fully understand who their customers are and why they converted. This can significantly impede retailers’ ability to build strategies for the future and continue to grow their business.

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