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Social Bulldog’s Newsletter — Incrementality of Google Smart Shopping

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By now, you have probably tested a Google Smart Shopping campaign and been pleasantly surprised by the quick turnaround in efficiency. Google Smart Shopping combines Google Search Network, Google Display Network, Youtube, and Gmail into a single ad campaign. It displays a mix of product feed ads, static display ads, and dynamic copy and claims to use machine learning to select and show the most relevant ads to the most relevant users. 

Sounds great! But there’s certainly a catch – the advertiser has virtually no control over which users see their ads and when and where those users see them. It becomes a bit of a black box. You’ll find yourself asking, “How much of this is retargeting?” or “How much of this is driven from branded search terms?”

Here at Social Bulldog, our biggest question about the black box has been, “Is this even incremental?” Sure, performance looks fabulous on-platform, but why aren’t we feeling this massively efficient ROAS on the back end? We have observed a huge missing piece of Google Smart Shopping, which is that top-line revenue does not show a corresponding lift when Smart Shopping is displaying big returns on-platform. 

We ran several tests that involved increasing and decreasing Smart Shopping budgets over significant periods of time and we have drawn a few conclusions. However, because Google Smart Shopping gives the advertiser no information (except for what products are performing in the Shopping piece of the campaign), these are merely Social Bulldog observations. 

  • Google Smart Shopping overlaps with Facebook Ads. Smart Shopping claims the purchase on last-click, and Facebook claims the same purchase on post-click.
    • Because you cannot exclude any audiences from Smart Shopping, there is really no way to avoid this. Retargeting Facebook clickers is the lowest hanging fruit for Google Smart Shopping.
  • Branded Search volume decreases when Google Smart Shopping increases. Smart Shopping efficiency is most-likely very driven by Branded Search. 
    • But since you cannot see keyword search data on the Google Smart Shopping campaign, we cannot know for sure. 
  • A portion of Google Smart Shopping volume is dedicated to returning customers and there is no way to avoid this. 

Our biggest recommendation to you as the advertiser is to be skeptical about these radically efficient numbers you are seeing on Google Smart Shopping. Run an incrementality test behind the campaign and determine if Google Smart Shopping is essentially just claiming purchases from customers that would have converted anyways.