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Jul 1, 2012
Google recently upended the ecommerce marketing world with the announcement of upcoming changes to what will now be called Google Shopping. Many retailers and marketers we spoke with are positive about the switch. One might think taking a product from free to paid would cause an outcry, but for many it is an answer to long time concerns about control.
Cindy Starr, vice president of external marketing at VistaPrint, a printing company with more than 65,000 products, says the free Google Product search has been a fantastic source of business, and she believes Google Shopping could perform even better. "It is one of our highest conversion rates, but for our particular use, we are excited about the changes. One thing we have been trying to do is get more volume, with this we can bid and get more volume. We are excited about that possibility," Starr says.
Ryann Scrafford, marketing director of kids clothing retailer Axl's Closet, agrees. "Outside of ensuring we had clean data, there were no levers we could pull to affect the channel's performance," he states. "Replacing Google Product Search with product listing ads (PLAs) allows us to compete against larger players, in categories that we believe we provide a better assortment or experience in, and back off on the ones that we do not through adjusting our bidding strategies."
Besides increasing volume and tweaking settings, there is also hope that reporting will improve now that Google is getting more money to support it. "Frequently we see fluctuations in sales from week to week and are unable to determine what caused the increase or decrease, making it impossible to optimize the channel," says Scrafford. Additionally, there is marketer support for de-cluttering the search engine results pages for ecommerce-oriented queries. "Google has done a lot to monetize the top portion of the search results for retail listings, so that the page has become littered with product listings, product extensions, shopping results, and a few regular organic listings, making it difficult for a retailer to stand out," says Laura Thieme, CEO of Bizwatch Search Analytics.
Even advocates of Google changing to a paid model are concerned about how the change might be implemented. Thieme says she recently learned the keywords a mid-market retailer client's PLAs were showing for. "We were absolutely shocked. They were not relevant and the costs were exorbitant, resulting in a horrible ROAS (return on advertising spent). So, PLAs need to be improved, and I am glad they are choosing to change the model, but not to paid inclusion," Thieme notes. Others are concerned that smaller retailers will suffer, given the money and time required to manage PLAs. Previously, for companies with few changes in their products or pricing, Google Shopping could be nearly "set and forget," but no more. "Companies that relied on Google Shopping for a significant portion of their online revenue now face a daunting challenge of re-assessing their entire marketing mix, and seeing how reduced margins from sales in Google Shopping fit in," says Brian Lewis, vice president at Engine Ready.
Even more distressing is the timing. Google has not given a firm timeline, and if you are an online retailer, the all-important holiday season is right around the corner. "The impact on retail budgets for the 2012 holiday season could be significant. Merchants need time to update their platform and coding requirements. As a result, pricing and new requirements launched after September 1 may not give retailers adequate time to respond to the changes in time for holiday shoppers," says Thieme. "They should have this in place by July 1, no later, to give retailers enough time to budget and programmatically update their feed requirements."
Topic: Web Tech Tips
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