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Google Shopping: Plan for a successful 2019 Holiday Season

Google Shopping: Plan for a successful 2019 Holiday Season

CORY: Happy holidays from
America’s shopping team. Are you ready for the
holiday season this year? We hope to help you be
successful this year with critical tips on shopping. I’m Cory, shopping specialist
out here in Mountain View. And next to me is– ALLIE: I’m Allie, shopping
specialist from New York. TOM: And I’m Tom, a feed
specialist based in Chicago. CORY: We have a
lot to cover today. If it moves too
fast, don’t worry. We will be posting this on
Google Ads YouTube channel for your reference. Be sure to subscribe. Before we jump into
what’s new this year, let’s reflect back on what we
saw from last year’s holiday season. ALLIE: We know that every
holiday is important, but last year was
one for the books. 2018 was a
record-breaking holiday with retail sales totaling
more than $850 billion. This is no small feat. And as we drill down to the
e-commerce side of the house, the performance was
no less impressive. For the first time this
past holiday season, 61% of online purchases
were made on a smartphone. And this meant that even
when consumers were shopping in a store, they used digital
to help them decide what to buy and from whom. For this reason, we found that
over half of US retail sales were impacted by digital. And as a result of this,
we saw the strongest online sales growth
in 10 years, up 19%. CORY: As successful
as things are, keeping up with the consumer
is a constant challenge for retailers. Some of the challenges
you face are 56% shoppers are indifferent
to which brands they purchase from, and 50% will
abandon a site if it takes too long to load. Check out our
tool, Test My Site, on Google to see
how your site rates. So how are retailers
responding to these challenges? Automation and machine learning. 72% of retail marketing execs
believe in these technologies. These could be your competitors. This is important to
consider this holiday. If you’re not using
automated bidding, your competition
probably already is. Well, wait. There’s more. ALLIE: That’s right. One of the season’s
biggest challenges is simply the calendar. With Thanksgiving happening
six days later than last year, retailers will lose
six consumer shopping days between Thanksgiving
and Christmas. CORY: So how does that consumer
react to having six less days? Let’s look at the trends. As you can see in
the red line, we had a similar shortened
season in 2013. As expected, shoppers begin
their shopping earlier, which becomes more pronounced
the first half of Thanksgiving week. With 20% fewer shopping days
after Cyber Monday, shoppers will be spending more throughout
the remainder of the holidays, so you’ll need to make sure
you have a sufficient budget throughout the period. And for those brick
and mortar retailers, don’t forget to lean in on the
post-shopping cut-off period when demand increases and
your store is so important. ALLIE: To assist
with preparation, Google Shopping has developed
a three-pronged strategy to help make the most
of your holiday season and connect consumers on
their shopping journey. The first part of this
strategy is our ability to connect you with consumers
at stages across their shopping journey across all platforms,
from search to YouTube, Google Images, and more. The second is allowing
you to drive action by helping you remove friction
from the buying process. And third– continuing to
give you the data, insights, and tools that help
accelerate everything you do, from marketing,
merchandising, and beyond. The reason for this
strategy is simple. Users are more
curious, demanding, and impatient than ever. Consumers want to
buy from brands that help them discover new
things, find what they need, and help them get things with
the least amount of friction, all in a very personalized
and relevant way. So now let’s talk about
connecting your brand with your customers at
every step of the shopping journey in a way that truly
enables you to stand out from the competition and
drive people to your site and to your stores. When we speak to connecting
you with consumers, we’re talking about
being present when, where, and how the
user is searching. Showcase Shopping Ads
represent a real opportunity to be present during this
stage of the purchase journey, highlight your brand,
connect you with new users as they come to Google to
search for what to buy. To be successful during this
stage of the purchase journey, you should ensure
that you’re not only live on Showcase
across all categories, but also providing meaningful
inputs to truly highlight what makes your brand unique. To launch on Showcase,
we ask that you provide us creative assets,
such as lifestyle imagery, a headline and
description that call out your competitive differentiators
and category-based URLs. We recommend highlighting
what makes you special. Maybe that means calling out
your fast and free shipping, ability to join a loyalty
program, wide selection of latest designs, or
price match guarantees, to name a few. Showcase offers a
unique space to share what makes your brand so great,
so now’s the time to brag. Additionally, consumer appetite
for inspiration is expanding. And because of that, we’re
expanding our presence in this space. We’ve maintained showcase
category coverage across key categories such as
furniture, home and garden, luggage and bags,
apparel and accessories, but are excited to
announce that we’ve seen triple-digit increases in
new categories such as health and beauty and electronics. This new expansion will allow
us to capture the increased demand for inspiration
as well as connect you to users searching for
the products and brands that you sell. Ensuring that you’re
set up for success to capture this
demand early on is pivotal to ensuring that you
are able to drive success this holiday season. Being present is one
thing, but ensuring that you’re delivering the
most relevant experience to consumers who are
researching for what to buy is really important. When you walk into a store
and are looking for something specific, it’s an
ideal experience that that salesperson can escort
you to the specific aisle, and the same level of
service is welcomed online. Rather than sending a consumer
to an overly broad category landing page and asking
them to keep searching, take them to that
precise area that they’re looking for to provide the best
shopping experience possible. And therefore, they’re more
likely to stay awhile, browse, and click. The best way to do this is
through unique URL variations. We’ve found that retailers
who are providing a wide variety of
unique URLs are driving 2x the engagement
rate on Showcase. By providing unique URL
variations across your ads, you’ll allow Google to
do the work for you, using rich signals to match
user query to the most meaningful page on your site. In order to unlock
the value here, we recommend adding at
least 50 unique URLs to your Showcase program. To achieve this, you’ll
need to create ad variations within your Showcase
campaign structure. To begin, we’ll build
out a Showcase campaign followed by individual Showcase
ad groups for top categories. In this example specifically,
you’d build out one for– an ad group for
living room furniture and one for bedroom furniture. We also recommend creating a
catch-all ad group for Showcase that targets your entire
feed with low bids to act as a safety nett. From there, you can leverage
the multiple ads functionality to create variations that
simply provide URL inputs. This empowers Google’s
machine learning to dynamically select the most
relevant ad based on the user query. So once they arrive
at your site, they can seamlessly
browse rather than having to start their
search all over again. The example we’re
looking at here is really a great
example of illustrating how meaningful this can
be, without multiple ads, a user looking for
sofas or tables or chairs or more would be
served that same ad driving to the senior URL regardless
of their specific query. By providing multiple
ads, the user will be served a more relevant
ad that more closely matches their query post-engagement. They’ll also be sent
to a more granular page that allows for a seamless
browsing experience. It’s important to note that URLs
have the most meaningful impact of all showcase inputs to
driving enhanced performance. We find that these variations
can lead to increased CDR, even if all the other
inputs remain unchanged. If updated creative for
things like image, headline, and description
aren’t available, we recommend simply keeping the
generic creative in place while still updating the
URL variations. Now that we’ve spent
some time talking about how you can
supercharge your program to drive a more relevant and
meaningful browsing experience, I want to spend some
time highlighting another key value of Showcase– the ability to
capture new customers. As Showcase is the first
stop for shoppers looking for inspiration,
it offers a vehicle to introduce shoppers to both
your products and our brands. Because of this,
we’ve found that 80% of traffic to your site is
coming from net new customers. This allows you to
not only capture these new customers
in a seamless way, but also re-engage them as
they advance down the funnel. Structural and targeting
updates to your current program can allow for seamlessly– allow you to seamlessly activate
upon these new customers. To start, we’d simply duplicate
your existing campaign structure to create
two new campaigns. The first has the goal of
targeting repeat customers, and the second would
target new customers. For repeat buyers, we’ll
target audience segments such RLSA, all converters,
and customer match all buyers set to targeting. For the new customer
breakout, we’ll exclude those same returning
audience segments by setting a negative 90% bid adjustment. However, we’ll bid up on
new audience segments, such as similar audience
and RLSA non-converters. Depending on your
growth targets, you can set unique
bids, budgets, and goals to engage with both new
and repeat buyers uniquely. We know that new and
returning customer segments bring unique value
to your business. And therefore, it’s
important that you engage with them differently. These changes to
structure and targeting allow you to re-engage
your customers who may not be familiar with the
brand, or exactly all that you have to
offer, while really continuing to allow
you to connect with your most loyal customers. We recommend that you test this
strategy prior to the holiday season so that you’re prepared
to capture new customers early on so you can
leverage the insights learned to drive success
this holiday season. To recap, Showcase
is a pivotal tool in connecting you to users
at the start of your purchase journey. Be present for these moments
by launching or growing your coverage on Showcase
across all categories. Leverage the unique
and browsy format to highlight what’s
unique about your brand and inspire customers
early this season. Connect with both new and
repeat customers looking to browse and discover
new products this holiday and lean into the power of
unique URLs to drive relevancy and provide the best
shopping experience possible. And one more thing– we’re super excited to
share that we’ve recently launched tROAS for Showcase. And tROAS for
Showcase will allow you to connect with more
users in an automated way with the goal of
maximizing conversions. Next, I’ll pass it over
to Cory to tell you a little bit about our second
strategy, drive action. CORY: Thanks, Allie. So Allie covered the
importance of discovery and inspiring the shopper
early in the season. Now let’s talk about getting
deeper into the purchasing funnel to engage with your
potential customers, drive action on your site, in your
store, and across the web all in a way that you’re
in control of the brand experience. Here’s a couple of
stats that drive home the importance of reducing
friction for buyers, particularly on mobile. 8 of 10 US mobile
users between 18 and 34 rely on Google before
buying something new. These moments are key
to getting your products in front of shoppers. For those with brick
and mortar stores, mobile is increasingly
influencing whether shoppers
come to the door, whether purchasing
or picking up. 50% of gen-zers have bought
products online and picked up in store, affectionately
known as BOPUS. Local, while particularly
important with fewer shopping days this year– if you have a store,
take advantage of the period between
shipping cutoffs and Christmas to drive last-minute
shoppers to your store. I’ll be one of them. Also, don’t ignore
Christmas to New Year’s. Sales during that
period are actually higher than they
are during October. Google elves have been busy
since last year enhancing the local inventory
ads experience. Local inventory ads–
for local inventory ads, we’ve introduced more automation
and measurement solutions, such as valuing store visits. Buy online, pick up
in store, or BOPUS, is also something that
we’ve recently enhanced and we see growing use of. We’ve built out the
experience while also simplifying the requirements. Merchant-hosted local storefront
is also a new enhancement since last year. We’ve simplified the process
so you can more easily host the branded experience
and remove friction from the purchasing process. We’ve found that retailers that
host their own local storefront see an increase in conversions. And then annotations–
we’ve introduced more nuanced annotations
to intuitively inform the shopper where and when
they can pick up the product. The goal– raise
awareness of advertiser’s differentiated
omni-channel solutions and provide a great
end-to-end experience for the shopper,
who increasingly is selecting a store or
store pickup as a preferred fulfillment option. TOM: As Cory briefly
touched on, we’ve now made the onboarding process
to the merchant hosted LA experience much easier. With the newer merchant
hosted BASIC experience, your existing omni-channel
product landing pages often already qualify as
is as long as they display in-store availability. As you’ll see in this
slide, the basic version won’t have that store
distance annotation that you do get with
the full experience, but it still has the
in-store call-out and will drive local intent
shoppers to your product’s landing page on first click. While the annotations
are different between the full and
basic experience, both of these
experiences will really help drive those conversion
increases that Cory mentioned. Moving on, we’re going to dive
into the various optimization and automation
levers you can pull to help accelerate
your performance and operate more efficiently. To start, let’s talk feeds. A healthy and
well-maintained feed is essential to a
successful shopping program, so I’ll quickly cover
what to focus on to make sure your feed
is in good shape heading into the holiday season. Policy violations– they can
upend any strong seasonal plan, so make sure to resolve any
existing or recurring policy issues that you see
plague your account often. Check your Diagnostics
tab in Merchant Center to assess where you
stand currently. And while we can’t review
all the policies in detail right now because it would
take up all of our time, take a note of these four
common errors on the slide, and be sure to check out
how to address each of them in our Help Center,
linked here in this slide. And here I wanted to
focus on three tools found in Merchant Center
that will really help you stay on top
of your feed health and address any
item-level disapprovals. First, our offer
drop email alerts– this is a newer
feature that’s going to send you an email
whenever there’s a big spike in disapprovals
or drop in live products so that you’re
notified instantly and can then hop in
the Merchant Center quickly, and address
those disapprovals, and get those items back
live and serving ASAP. So I highly encourage having
all relevant stakeholders enable this feature, which you can
find in Account Preferences. Just check that Product
Data Alerts box. That way, everyone
is in the loop and knows the
status of your feed. So I also highly
encourage taking a look at the Opportunities tab. This will surface
all high-impact SKUs that are currently disapproved
along with estimated click impact for each item so you know
which items to focus on first when fixing issues. So keep an eye on this tab
and ensure your top items are re-approved and
eligible to serve. And finally, keep Merchant
Center’s feed rule capabilities in mind whenever a change is
needed to your product data. With feed rules, you’re able to
edit your product data directly in the Merchant Center without
updating your raw feed file. Think of it as a
Band-Aid or patch on top of your raw feed setup. So if you need to edit
or add certain attributes to get your items live, you
can make the necessary changes quickly and directly in Merchant
Center using feed rules. Now on to some
feed optimizations. As you know, shopping
is not keyword-based. Instead, Google uses
all the products data you’re submitting,
such as product titles, descriptions, et
cetera, to decide when to serve your item to
relevant search queries. So this makes optimizing
your feed super important. So first, make sure you have
accurate GTINs for your items. GTINs are often the UPC
or the product identifier that you’ll see near the
bar code on your product. This will help Google
understand exactly what your item is so we can serve it
to the most relevant queries. In addition, you’re
going to want to fill your titles with
important differentiators such as size,
color, or brand name by adding rich
descriptors in your title. This will not only help with
your item’s quality score, it will also help
shoppers have a better idea of what the
item you’re selling is so they can make a
more informed click. So beef up those titles. Second is an obvious
one– just make sure you’re passing
us up-to-date data throughout the day. Out-of-date prices and
availability are not only a policy risk, but they can also
lead to a poor user experience. A few advanced features
in the feed to think of are you can use custom
labels to match bids with commercial objectives. So for example, if you
have a group of items that you consider high margin
or priority seasonal items that you’d like
to bid higher on, you can add a custom
label in the feed to these items, which
will in turn make it super easy to break them
out in your ad’s campaigns to bid more aggressively on
these high-priority items. And finally, if you’re
running time-sensitive sales, you can set up the sale price
in advance using the Sale Price and Sale Price Effective
Date attributes. This will inform
Google precisely when you need your sale price
turned on, then off. And while we’re on the
topic of sale prices, I wanted to highlight the
importance of properly using the sale price attribute,
as it will often qualify you for the valuable sale badge
and strike-through annotation, as seen here. Not only will this
sale annotation catch the eye of your
shopper, it’s also factored into our algorithm
when determining quality score so that you show more
prominently in relevant queries if you’re offering a sale. All you need to do to get
this annotation to serve is keep your base price
and the price attribute, then enter the sale price in
your sale price attribute. Just note that
this badge is only going to appear if the
original price of the item has been serving for at
least 30 consecutive days. And finally, if
you sell one item with several different
colors, sizes, or fits, make sure to add
all product variants in the feed as individual
items for greater ad density in the carousel. This offers you the
opportunity to own the carousel and really be seen as a
leader in your category. In this example in
the side, you can see that Levi’s and
Revolve are dominating the carousel by showcasing
all of their variations of 501 jeans. CORY: Let’s face
it– you’re going to be busy this holiday season. Use automation to
achieve peak performance. Free up your bandwidth to focus
on the more impactful holiday efforts by automating
bid management tasks. Machine learning rapidly
analyzes millions of signals and proactively sets real time
auction-based adjustments. Catching the right customer at
the right time at the right bid is pivotal for your success. Remember, 72% of
retail marketing execs believe in this technology. These can be your competitors. ALLIE: These insights
and rich signals can have a huge
impact on performance. We find that retailers
leveraging Google Smart Bidding, either target row ads
or smart chopping campaigns, saw a 35% lift in
conversion value as compared to
manual optimizations. That’s 35% greater
value per conversion for simply flipping the
switch to allow automation to supercharge your program. CORY: Wow. 35%. That’s a big impact. So how do you achieve this? Good inputs, good results. That’s what’s required. Keep automation on
through the holiday. Last year, retailers that
followed this approach saw the best results. Number two– take advantage of
the sales price in your feed. Tom had talked about that. It lets consumers and
our bidding models know that you’ve got either a
sale or promotion happening. Adjust ROAS targets
and uncap budgets to capture the increased
demand opportunity. It’s best to
experiment and change your ROAS targets
prior to peak periods so you understand
how it responds. And then lastly, utilize
seasonality adjustments if needed. This is a proven technique. And remember, there’s still time
to test before the holidays. ALLIE: Like all
things, automation isn’t one size fits all. So at Google, we understand
that retailers have unique needs and objectives to
meet, which is why we offer a suite of
automation solutions tailored to fit your goals. I want to highlight three
of these offerings today. The first is Target ROAS. Shopping’s Target ROAS is a
fully automated smart bidding strategy that maximizes
conversion value at a specified ROAS target. This strategy is great for
search-focused advertisers looking to leverage Google’s
auction time signals to drive revenue at a specified target. The second is smart
shopping campaigns, or SSC. This strategy drives simplicity,
performance, and reach by optimizing toward
your business goals through machine learning across
Google’s suite of ad networks. SSC combines shopping, display
remarketing, and prospecting to drive sales across search,
shopping, YouTube, Gmail, the Display Network, and more. Smart shopping
campaigns automatically manage ad creation,
targeting, bidding, and budget allocation
across all of these networks so you don’t have to. And lastly, there’s
maximize clicks. This strategy looks to
maximize traffic to your site at a given budget. If site traffic coming from
search is your main objective, then this is a great
auto-bidding strategy to employ. Next up, Cory is going to
share another key strategy for accelerating your business
through merchandising insights. CORY: A key addition to
our merchandising suite is Price Benchmarks. This shows average
product price compared to merchants that also
have similar products or the same product
in Google Ads. Price Benchmarks allows you
to understand your price competitiveness of your products
and use the data to, first, adjust campaigns or
adopt Google automation to bid on your most
price-competitive products, secondly, price competitively. If you’re overpriced
on an item, it gives you an opportunity
to get that insight and adjust the
price accordingly. Analyze how changes in price
can influence ads performance– you can use that insight
to adjust your pricing and see what the results are. And then, of course,
share insights across your organization. Let your merchandising or
catalog teams or merchandising teams know where you
might have some gaps in your portfolio from
a pricing standpoint to see what you can do to
become more competitive. ALLIE: We’ve covered a
lot today, so let’s recap. When you think about the holiday
season and your strategy, aim to connect with users
throughout their purchase journey. Drive action by
removing friction and accelerate your business
with the insights learned. So let’s start with connect. Start early to
ignite inspiration with showcase shopping ads. Highlight what makes
your brand unique and build out coverage
across categories early on to capture demand. Drive 2x engagement by adding
relevant, unique URL variance. And lastly, capture new
and repeating customers by updating your
campaign structure to allow to seamlessly
target new and repeat customers with distinct
bids, budgets, and goals. CORY: Drive action. Stay engaged throughout
the holiday season. This year in particular
is going to be critical because we have six
fewer shopping days, so maintain strong
local budgets. Once you’ve hit your shipping
cutoffs in particular, this allows you to continue to
engage shoppers, and drive them into your store,
and take advantage of that competitive
asset you have there. Offer shoppers delivery
options as they want. So this is really providing
them an omni-channel experience of buy online, puck up in store. TOM: And finally, accelerate. Reinforce your brand
and reduce friction by implementing merchant-hosted
local storefront pages. Sorry. The screen cut out. To accelerate,
you’re going to want to deliver a policy
compliant feed and get all products live
as well as utilize sale annotations for stronger
CTA and add all product variants to your carousel
for greater ad density. You’re going to also want to
activate automated bidding strategies to just be
more efficient in general. And finally, stay price
competitive with price benchmark. My eyes are pretty bad today. So I think that does it
for us all today here. But from Google, we want
to wish you happy holidays. And thanks for tuning in. CORY: Thanks for your time. ALLIE: Thanks.

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