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Retail Digital Search

Search shopping ads: 4 experts on how to shape your strategy



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September 29, 2022 | 6 min read

By Catherine Cribbin, head of partnerships, IAB UK

By Catherine Cribbin, head of partnerships, IAB UK

When it comes to share of spend, search advertising leads the digital pack - making up 50% of the digital ad market in 2021, according to IAB UK’s latest Digital Adspend report. The report also breaks out spend on search shopping ads for the first time, showing that advertisers invested £3.5bn in the blossoming ecommerce market last year. So, what do advertisers starting out in the search shopping space need to bear in mind? And what search innovations are getting experts excited? We’ve spoken to Starcom, the7stars, Skai and iCrossing UK to get their views.

What advice do you have for brands who are taking their first steps into search shopping ads?

Eloise Purnell, associate director, Performics @ Starcom
Shopping campaigns are only as strong as the feed that powers them. The very first thing to consider is how well established and maintained your product feed is, that stock levels are up to date, pricing and images are present and correct. Product listing ads won’t appear without a feed with all the requirements in place, and the status of the feed will affect the kind of queries you are eligible to appear against, so this should absolutely be your starting point.

David Sequeira, managing director EMEA, Skai
Ultimately, to dominate search shopping ads, a strong tech platform is required to unlock the true value. These ads are live 24/7/365, and the landscape is constantly in flux due to shifting variables such as seasonality, competitor activity, macro trends, and changes in consumer behavior. Platform automation can regularly adjust bids and move budget to the best-performing products in near real-time to drive performance.

Adam Chugg, head of big tech activations, the7stars
Start by making sure your product landing pages meet all of Google’s requirements. There are lots of issues that can arise from dynamic product pages, where you may have multiple iterations of products represented on the same URL. This can result in plenty of feed disapproval issues, where Google isn’t essentially able to match the information from a single product to what it sees when crawling the landing page. When you’re confident of this, there’s nothing more important than feed integrity. Working with a feed optimization tool is recommended if you have 100s of products and don’t have the time for manual optimization of attributes.

Lottie Namakando, head of paid media & planning, iCrossing UK
Understanding the interplay between the platform interface and the feed itself is the best place to start. A lot of the performance derived through shopping campaigns is optimized through the feed and this is generally the only hands-on method of optimising performance. Depending on the size of the brand and the feed, this optimization can be done either via a third-party provider or, for smaller scale feeds, manually via Google sheets.

Where do you see the most innovation coming from in search?

Adam Chugg, head of big tech activations, the7stars
We must lean into automated targeting and dynamic creative to maximize the opportunity to serve ads to users wherever they may be ready to act; Google, YouTube, Gmail and the open web. In this ecosystem, in which search is just a part, I see the greatest innovations coming from smart uses of enriched first-party data - especially as retailers look to monetise their own through partnerships. I also see innovation happening where we effectively flip the script to focus on content and experience as a targeting mechanic, rather than somewhere we just send the user.

Abbie Dunne, paid search director, iCrossing UK
With the likes of the simplified structure, smart bidding and Google’s Performance Max automating much of the paid search space in the last few years and showing no signs of stopping, the biggest area for innovation in search is how we use and optimise our landing pages. These search and shopping automations are fantastic at finding those important customers, but if the landing pages aren't delivering what your users want, ultimately they won’t convert. If your paid search teams aren’t working with SEO and content teams, as well as CRO services to maximize your website, then this will be your biggest opportunity for success in the coming year.

David Sequeira, managing director EMEA, Skai
What we’re hearing from our biggest search clients is that the next big innovation in the channel will be more strategic than tactical. While improved AI, automation, and ROI optimization are always desired platform features, today’s brands are rethinking how their search investment connects to their holistic digital advertising efforts. By keeping efforts siloed, individual teams can optimize channel metrics but may limit overall performance. An omnichannel approach that best understands search’s role in consumer buying behavior enables the existing search engine marketing budget to work smarter in tandem with other channels to enable more total sales and revenue.

Eloise Purnell, associate director, Performics @ Starcom
Performance Max is a really interesting release from Google, as this will allow advertisers to access all inventory from Google into one campaign including Search, Gmail, YouTube and Maps. Arguably this is not a strict innovation in search since we’re considering wider placements across the Google ecosystem, however it allows us to have more strategic conversations with our search clients around the role of all Google placements in driving value. This more holistic view can help us to mature our clients relatively quickly, considering the level of automation Performance Max offers. As long as we have strong creative and budget, Google’s world-class automation can optimise across all placements and accelerate client’s maturity.

Retail Digital Search


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