Comparison Shopping Services: when Google opens itself up to the competitionMedia Consulting 15 October 2018
Created in 2012, Google Shopping is a price comparison service that allows advertisers to promote their products visually by displaying them directly among the Google search results. The service generates visual ads which are based on a combination of paid ad bids and targeting criteria (such as keyword searches or browsing history).
Following sanctions from the European Union, Google has modified its Google Shopping service
After it was landed with a record-breaking €2.4bn fine from the EU for abusing its dominance in search engine results, Google was forced to change its Google Shopping platform access conditions in October 2017 and comply with EU competition policy. The key modification made to Google’s Shopping service is that it now openly shows adverts from other price comparison websites.
Search results example which includes an advert from an external price comparison service (here, Kelkoo).
However, almost a year later, the results were not deemed satisfactory enough by the European Commission, as too few adverts came from external comparison websites. In early 2018, Kelkoo, one of the biggest European price comparison services, stated that Google made up 99% of the generated results. In order to avoid further sanctions, Google has recently implemented several new measures to improve the situation for a list of partner price comparison services (which are now called CSS for Comparison Shopping Services.)
There is no real difference between a partner CSS and Google Shopping in terms of how things work. Both types of adverts are shown in the same space in the search results and the advert format is exactly the same. In terms of data feeds, there is yet again no difference; both types pass through existing GMC accounts (Google Merchant Centre).
Google introduces an extra 20% margin for the bids made using its Google Shopping service
This first new measure penalises the Mountain View giant itself. Google has decided to increase its own bids by 20% in order to boost alternative CSS. This means that using an external CSS can save advertisers 20% on the CPC (cost per click).
A new investment voucher system for advertisers
There is also a second advantage for brands who choose to use an external CSS to promote their products. These companies are rewarded for their investment with a Google Ads credit, which is directly added to their manager account (MCC). In order to benefit from this offer, brands must meet the following investment conditions:
Advertisers can hope to save up to 50% on their investments. This should encourage brands to make the leap of faith and switch to a partner CSS rather than Google itself, therefore increasing the visibility of alternative CSS on the Google Shopping service.
So should companies switch their campaigns to a partner CSS?
The advantages attached to using a partner CSS are certainly tempting! However, it is important to remain prudent as Google reserves the right to change its conditions at any moment. Bear in mind that the offer is incredibly recent and could hypothetically be short-lived. There is always the possibility that once the EU is satisfied with the level of CSS visibility/traffic on Google Shopping, Google could take away all of these new advantages.
Have you decided to switch? In order to make the most of the benefits on offer, you will need to transfer your shopping traffic via a partner CSS. When it comes to choosing which CSS to go with, it is important to choose a trusted CSS (NexTag, PriceGrabber or Shopzilla in the UK for example). This will avoid jeopardising your shopping activity with an unreliable intermediary. Getting your shopping ads right can be a tricky business and it requires a lot of work from advertisers, agencies and CSS. All the more reason to choose a recognised CSS!